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How To Be There for an Older Loved One After a Major Loss

Updated: May 5, 2023


Getting older is a fact of life, but it can be difficult, especially if you’re grieving and trying to figure out life after losing a spouse. If one of your loved ones is facing this situation there are ways you can assist. You can help them navigate difficult legal, financial, and emotional decisions by being a resource and a source of comfort.


Emotional Support Comes First

The primary way you can help a grieving older friend or relative is by simply being there for them. Grieving the loss of a spouse or dealing with the reality of putting them in a nursing home or a memory care community can be challenging mentally and emotionally. You can be a supportive presence to help them get through the difficulty of it all and enjoy a fulfilling life.


Handle Business

Various financial concerns are left over when the senior you care about loses their partner. The joint property will (most likely) be passed down to the surviving partner, debts may be resolved, and questions may arise about what to do with joint investments or business ventures they shared. Income streams that require more maintenance, such as businesses, can become complicated to manage.


If your loved one decides to sell a family business, you can help them make sure they’re making sound legal decisions. It’s crucial to get a professional valuation done on the business by a third-party expert so they know what their business is truly worth and don’t undermine themselves in negotiations.


A business valuation considers real estate holdings, remaining inventory, and other assets, such as equipment or company vehicles. Familiarize yourself with the process of ownership transfers. If the business has an operating agreement, it will dictate the terms of potential ownership changes.


Help Them Prepare

One thing brought into perspective by the loss of a spouse is the need to plan. While they may have received things from their spouse by default, the process might be more complicated when they pass on. If they don’t have a will, trust, or advanced directive in place, help them work with an estate attorney to create these documents. Doing so simplifies the entire process and protects their financial and medical interests.


When planning, prepare for a potential quit claim deed to transfer a loved one’s assets if necessary. It’s also wise to look into local housing market conditions if you anticipate the need for your loved one to sell their home. This can become important if the proceeds from a home sale are needed for nursing care. You can use information about the housing market to help your loved one best determine if it is a good time to sell.


Recruit Professionals

While you may want to be there for the senior you care about, you can only do so much. Being a pillar of emotional and professional help may be beyond your capacities after a certain point, and even if you’re a big help, it never hurts to speak with a professional. Encourage your older loved one to speak with an estate attorney as well as a professional therapist who has experience with grief. Professionals not only offer advice beyond the scope of what you likely can provide, but they can corroborate your advice if your loved one is resistant to tips that can truly help them.


Recruit Professionals

While doing all these things can make a huge difference when a person is grieving, don’t forget that the little things also matter. Even a small gesture can let them know that they’re not alone. Something as simple as buying flowers or sending a card can let the person know that they’re in your thoughts. These little acts of kindness can go a long way in helping someone through a difficult time.


Be Patient

Losing a spouse they’ve likely known for decades is an emotionally tumultuous experience, and the financial realities are also difficult. Help your loved one navigate financial and emotional strife the best you can, and don’t hesitate to bring in those more knowledgeable and qualified than yourself.

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