The Impact of Grief in Old Age: What Can I Do About So Many Losses?

Grief is the way our body reacts to a loss. In old age, grief becomes a silent companion with whom we must live. As we age, we face an almost inevitable reality: the gradual loss of loved ones. These losses can be of various types:

  • Loss of life partners: The death of our partner can be devastating and often leaves a deep void and a sense of disorientation. It is a really hard and complex grief.
  • Loss of friends or colleagues: At this stage of life, it is natural for the social network to shrink and for us to frequently face different losses. Saying goodbye to a friend or colleague can be very difficult and bitter.
  • Loss of family members: The death of siblings, cousins, and other relatives can also occur to us as old age comes to everyone. Additionally, when we face a new loss, it is common to remember previous losses, so previous griefs, such as that of a parent, may be reactivated.
  • Loss of neighbors we were used to seeing daily and with whom we have shared life’s journey.
  • Animals or pets: Animals are part of the family, another member, and their departure can leave a huge gap in the house and in our hearts.

These successive losses make us feel that the grieving process is endless. It’s as if, when you are getting up from a fall, another blow comes that delays your recovery. It is completely natural for such losses to deeply impact us and influence our emotional well-being, increasing the feeling of loneliness. Furthermore, being exposed to so many losses can be a visible reminder that life is coming to an end.


The Loneliness of the One Left Behind:

Loneliness is one of the most visible consequences of living with so many griefs. The feeling of being one of the last “survivors” of a generation or of your environment can be overwhelming. The absence of those with whom memories and experiences were shared for decades leaves a void that is very difficult to fill.

o However:

▪ Nothing and no one will replace those people, at the same time, try to honor them with your life and not with your pain; remembering with more love than pain will be a way to express your gratitude for having had that person in your life.

▪ Remember them every day, but when loneliness overwhelms you, focus on the presences and not the absences: who are the people that matter to me and are still with me in the earthly realm?

The Bitter Sensation of Witnessing Life’s End:

Each loss acts as a mirror and reflects our own mortality. This visible demonstration of our own finitude can generate a mix of feelings:

◼  Guilt: feeling that I am the one who remains enjoying life while others can no longer do so can generate a feeling of guilt.

o However: if you weren’t here, would you like your loved ones to enjoy life again? If the answer is yes, those who are gone would most likely wish the same for you. After a loss, the one who loves more is not the one who allows himself the least enjoyment.

◼  Fear and anxiety: uncertainty about one’s own end of life can generate a lot of anguish.

o However: feeling fear at these moments is natural. Accept your vulnerability and share your fears with others. Fear is part of life and being human.

◼  Indifference: a part of you may seek to protect you from such a harsh reality and try to deactivate unpleasant feelings in you.

o However: while this indifference can protect you from future losses, it is very likely that just as unpleasant emotions are deactivated, so too will pleasant ones.

What Can I Do If I Find Myself Constantly Saying Goodbye to Loved Ones? Tools for Coping with Grief:

The word “grief” comes from the Latin “dolus” meaning pain and challenge. Mourning also comes from the Latin “lugere” meaning to cry. Therefore, there is an inevitable part in every significant loss that involves feeling pain. The more love, the more pain; that is, it is natural that the more connected we felt to that person, the harder it is for us to say goodbye to them. Keeping this in mind, it is important to be clear about the following: everything we try to repress ends up becoming chronic and entrenched. Therefore, the healthiest thing is to let out the emotions generated by the grief you are going through. And to make this transition lighter, we propose the following:


◼  Maintain routines: establishing and maintaining daily routines can provide structure and give us order amidst the internal chaos we are experiencing. It’s okay if you feel less energetic, that’s normal. What’s important is that you adapt your habits to the moment you are in and don’t abandon them.

◼  Recreational activities: engaging in activities that provide pleasure and distraction such as reading, board games, movies, or football matches can ease your feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

◼  Physical self-care: maintaining good physical health as much as you can will help you feel more energetic in your daily life. Remember that you deserve to take care of yourself even though others are no longer there

◼  Connection with other people: fostering and maintaining connections with friends and family is essential to ease feelings of loneliness. Considering your physical condition, you can adapt social plans; if your body and energy allow it, you can participate in community centers, or if you face physical difficulties, today’s technologies allow us to feel close to people without always needing to be physically present (calls, group video calls, etc.).

◼  Spirituality and reflection: practicing spirituality and/or religion or personal reflection can provide comfort and a broader perspective on life and death.

◼  Accepting help: you don’t have to face your grief alone. The support of others makes us feel accompanied and benefits us physically and psychologically. If you have loved ones who want to help you, accept their help. They are probably eager to do so and want to feel useful to you. You are not a burden.

o Needing support is not a weakness, it is healthy.

o Guide others on what and how you need them. They don’t have to get it right the first time, and you deserve to receive the help you really need.

◼  Professional help: whether you have other support or not, remember that there are professionals specialized in accompanying people going through the same thing as you. This help can come from:

o Individual therapy: therapy with a professional specialized in grief can help process complex emotions and find healthy ways to cope with the loss.

o Support groups: participating in support groups for grieving people can provide a sense of community and mutual understanding. They are safe spaces where you can listen and share what you need.


Grief in old age is a complicated, personal, and painful experience, but remember that it is never too late to find a purpose to live for. You are not alone in your pain.


Natalia Balaguer (Psicologa)

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