Listening is key to helping others with grief

Life-changing events can happen at any age. This includes things such as the death of a loved one, newly diagnosed health problems and job loss. As people age, these events become more common.
Grief is a normal, healthy response to loss. Over time it can take a toll on emotional and mental health. It can even lead to depression. If you’re a caregiver or if you spend time with an older adult, you can expand your capacity to support them by helping your loved one cope with loss.

Path to improved well being

Understand the grieving process:
• There are common physical and emotional symptoms of grief. The grief and loss process is different for everyone. There is no “right” way to grieve. Each loss is different, too. Allow your loved one the time and space to grieve his or her own way.
• Listening is the most important thing you can do for a loved one. If you don’t know what to say, just listening to them makes a big impact. Your loved one may need to express his or her feelings. The daily act of processing loss can be overwhelming. Small tasks may seem exhausting. That‘s why an offer to help makes such an important difference. Don’t wait for your loved one to ask for help. Offer to do things like make dinner, pick up groceries or a prescription, do laundry or clean.

Things to consider

The symptoms of grief and the symptoms of depression are similar. It’s normal for a person to feel sad after a loss. That is temporary. Your loved one may be depressed if:
• He or she doesn’t feel better as time passes.
• His or her emotions get in the way of daily life.
• He or she no longer takes pleasure in the things they used to love doing.
• He or she mentions or has thoughts of suicide.
What you can do to help a loved one who has depression:
• Don’t be afraid to remember the person who passed in fond conversations. This may help your loved one feel less alone.
• Avoid saying “I know how you feel” or he or she is “in a better place.” This minimizes your loved one’s feelings. Instead, say things like, “I know this must be difficult,” or “You don’t have to be so strong.” This helps draw out your loved one’s feelings.
• Just sit with your loved one. This can be comforting, even if he or she doesn’t want to talk.
If you notice any of these signs, you can contact the Senior Reach program for assistance. Therapists on the team can help treat the depression so your loved one can start to feel better.

Here for you

This column was contributed by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. It is important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance.

Around the clock

Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.