“Every widow wakes one morning, perhaps after years of pure and unwavering grieving, to realize she slept a good night’s sleep, and will be able to eat breakfast, and doesn’t hear her husband’s ghost all the time, but only some of the time. Her grief is replaced with a useful sadness. Every parent who loses a child finds a way to laugh again. The timbre begins to fade. The edge dulls. The hurt lessens. Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great- grandchildren’s will be. But we learn to live in that love.” —Jonathan Safran Foer

As a Chaplin and Healthcare Administrator, few things in life are more stressful than the loss of a spouse. Becoming a widow or widower can lead to depression and chronic stress that shortens lifespans. Loneliness can be particularly strong in bereaved seniors, activating depressive symptoms, according to a recent study. This downward spiral can be hard to stop. Loneliness and depression in seniors who have lost a spouse can lead to major health risks, including suicide. Risky behavior such as smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, failure to care for their-self or becoming inactive may increase. The risk of dementia also rises.

Mental Health Professionals need to realize that loneliness and depression related to bereavement can have negative health consequences. Social support alone is often not enough to do the trick. Behavioral therapy can usually do more to curb negative thinking and help spouses cope. Not everyone needs intervention. There are many differences in individual loss, such as whether it was sudden or occurred over many years. However, professionals may be able to predict the surviving spouse’s response based on the relationship the spouses had.

Research shows that a widow who was highly dependent on her spouse is more likely to develop problems with anxiety after that person’s death. Strong closeness during a marriage often leads to greater loneliness for the surviving spouse. Medication cannot solve or replace this loss in your life! We must encourage social engagement, that might come from a church group, hunting club, cards, walking, hiking…whatever the action! My Grandfather was a Widow for 25+ years, and he said a stream not moving grows stagnant! Smart advice from an Elder!!

-Kendall Brune, PhD, MBA, LNHA, FACHCA – Anthem USA, Chief Executive Officer