How to help a family member whos spouse died after 71 years?

  • melloyello

    Posts: 149

    Mar 31, 2013 6:46 AM GMT
    My grandfather passed away last week at 93. He was one of the greatest men I've ever met, he was sharp as a tack till the end. He'd been sick over the weekend and didn't look good but was when I saw him the day before. He drove himself to work that day but started feeling bad after dinner and his heart just gave out that evening.

    My concern is my grandmother. She has plenty of support but she blames herself for not making him to go the hospital earlier (there was very little that could be done regardless) and has literally never been alone in her entire life (shes 90). He always took care of her, paid the bills, pumped her gas etc. I've been asked by the family (as the only single grandchild) to move in and help her out. But shes not taking it well. Its only been a week I realize but when you think that these people spent every moment together and even held hands at night when they went to sleep, its unfathomable to sustain a loss like that to me.

    My family believes that removing his belongings will help her get over it. She has not returned to her house since this happened as its still too raw and painful. I'm not sure how to help so any insights might be helpful. This on top of my own regret of planning to go see him that day, but being too tired from going to the gym and working on my own house and literally just sitting on the couch for a few hours.
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    Mar 31, 2013 12:06 PM GMT
    Sorry for your lost. My cousin's wife same boat to yours. After she buried her middle son, five day her husband died heartache. She blames herself because she didn't see it coming. She had enough support from family members. Be there for her
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    Mar 31, 2013 12:24 PM GMT
    Sorry for your loss, and for your grandmother's loss. She sounds like a great lady. I too was very close to my grandparents - and great grandparents. They all raised me and I'm very grateful for all the countless things they did for me, and taught me. In the situation of how to best help your grandmother get though this loss, I'd just suggest being with her. Sit by her -- even hold her hand, if she'd like that. Spend quality time with her. Share memories of what a great guy your grandfather was. I've been through this before and it just seems to be a comfort to the surviving grandparent to have me just being there - reminiscing, helping do things, eating together - just letting her know you're there and you love her might be the best thing you can do.
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    Mar 31, 2013 12:40 PM GMT
    I'm sorry for your loss...my condolences...
    I don't know how to react to this kinda situation because my grand parents from both sided passes away long long ago...

    But I suggest, as Turin said 'Be there for her!'
    and Jockbod48 above me, gave best advice...

    When someone close to us passes away, it feels very very lonely.
    So, try to make her feel as less lonely as possible.
    When she blames on herself, try to convince her that she is not responsible...It may make her feel less guilty.
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    Mar 31, 2013 12:42 PM GMT
    Sorry to hear.
    Death is as much as part of life's cycle as life, as sure as the sun rises in the morning, it must also set in the evening.

    You grandma needs time...to grieve, to accept and to adjust....after so long it will be particularly hard. You can help by being there to comfort her and help look after her, there will be times when she will be very lonely and afraid.
    Also be patient.
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    Mar 31, 2013 1:34 PM GMT
    So sorry for your loss..

    Not a good idea removing her belongings...
    There is no erasing 71 years of memories by simply removing belongings..
    Actually... This will upset her even more!!...Each piece has sentiment, memories, a story..Your family should respect this.

    ..I hope you pull through.
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    Mar 31, 2013 2:26 PM GMT
    When my grandfather died in 1947 my grandmother wasn't doing well living alone. So my parents, who had married that same year, moved in with her not long after to look after her. My grandmother was only 51 and not infirm, but her emotional condition was a concern, having suffered the loss of her only son 3 years earlier in WWII. In fact, she reburied him the same year as her husband died, when his remains were "repatriated" to the US from France.

    I believe my grandmother resisted the idea at first (my own entry into their lives was still a year away, so I only know the stories), but the house actually belonged to my mother, who had bought it in 1939 for her parents. But Mom had her own name on the deed, not theirs, so she kinda did an intervention on her mother to do what she felt was best.

    The real loser in this was my Father, who, like most husbands, didn't want to live under the same roof as his mother-in-law. He had already gotten them a wedding home and didn't want to leave it.

    I also knew another case in Alabama, with a girl I dated for a time. Her mid-80s grandmother became widowed and lived alone in a house, and my GF's parents decided she would live with her grandmother and become her caretaker. She was the youngest female child, 27, and though she had younger brothers who were also single, it was felt a woman was better suited to care for another woman.

    So my dates with her often consisted of sitting in an old-fashioned parlor with granny rocking away, a scene right out of a movie. Or sometimes the 3 of us would go out to dinner together. But truth be told she was great company, and a fascinating conversationalist. I learned a lot about the history & culture of turn-of-the-century rural Alabama from her, being a schoolgirl in 1900.

    I don't think an older person should live alone, especially one this old and who appears to be so dependent for her care. But it's also preferable, if health permits it, for them to remain in the home environment they've always known, essentially unchanged in all aspects. I'm not sure what options the OP's family have in that regards. but I believe that should be the goal.
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    Mar 31, 2013 2:30 PM GMT

    Ask them not to remove any belongings!

    What's your relationship with her like?


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    Mar 31, 2013 3:35 PM GMT
    Sorry to hear this.

    I agree that you should not remove his belongings. That is HER decision to make and only HER decision and it would only create an extreme emptiness for her.

    I would not move in with her. If you feel she shouldn't be alone, then just spend 2 or 3 nights each week at her house and taper off. She will need to learn to be independent to a point.

    She may not want to go back to her home and that's okay, too. She can always go to senior housing, maybe not assisted living, but one that can transition.

    One important thing. The only time family should interfere is if she tries to make any major life altering decisions. Stress the importance to her of waiting at least one full year before making a major decision, such as selling the house, etc.

    When my father died, my mother found very soon that being in the house without him was the hardest thing in the world. She said the longest part of the day was the evenings when they would sit together until bedtime. She wanted to move soon after his death. We all encouraged her to wait. We rearranged the furniture so she didn't always have to see his empty recliner when she would sit in hers of an evening. We had her hold off and finally, after 3 years, she made the decision to move. She's now in assisted living and happier than she's ever been.

    Your grandmother needs time to adjust. At her age, she may never stop grieving. Just spend a lot of time with her. NO one can do anything to lessen her pain. No matter what you do, even moving in with her, she will still be lonely and alone.

    Other than major life altering decisions, she needs to be the one to make her own decisions, not her family.
  • metta

    Posts: 39108

    Mar 31, 2013 3:39 PM GMT
    It is going to be painful, no matter what. I would have been angry if people came into my home and got rid of my best friends clothes right after he died. I was not ready for that. Give her time and let her grieve in the way that she wants to. On the other hand, if she asks you to help her get rid of those clothes, then I would do that.
  • AMoonHawk

    Posts: 11406

    Mar 31, 2013 4:14 PM GMT
    Usually when people have been together that long, the partner follows soon after. It's the circle of life. Be well, be at peace.
  • monet

    Posts: 1093

    Mar 31, 2013 4:29 PM GMT
    Don't throw out grandpa's stuff. It could break grandma's heart. It will be her decision to make should she ever go back to their home.

    The one thing that will probably give grandma the most comfort is having her children and grandchildren around her. Just be there for her and let her talk if she wants to. If there are any great-grandchildren bring them around granny too.
  • Medjai

    Posts: 2671

    Mar 31, 2013 4:30 PM GMT
    If you figure this out, let me know. After losing my grandfather, my grandmother has been unfunctionally grieving for five years. She is literally doing nothing, and will fight tooth and nail to avoid enjoying anything in life anymore.

    My whole family is at a loss. We want her to be happy, but she seems to want to spend her final years in misery, smoking and drinking herself to death.
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    Mar 31, 2013 4:42 PM GMT
    I think staying with her for a week to see how she's doing and then tapering off is a good idea.

    My family was lucky in that for awhile my 93 year old grandmother was very independent after her husband of 74 years, a mathematical genius also sharp as a tack through the end (he did calculus instead of crossword puzzles) died at 96.

    She stayed in her 800sf 2br 2bth Florida condo in an over 55 community for a year afterward but complained to my aunt in Brooklyn that things were getting hard for her so my aunt grudgingly retired to Florida. My aunt, a city gal, never learned to drive and true to obstinate form when asked by her friends "Who's going to drive you when your husband isn't around?" she'd reply (then over 70) "My mother!" And that came to pass - grandma drove my aunt until she retired her driver's license at 96. Interestingly, I was visiting when she and my grandmother were clearing out her condo but not before grandma had thrown out the lion's share of old family photos. By that point for her, it was about moving on, not sentimentality. Since I'm still sentimental, I salvaged what I could.

    It all didn't run smoothly - a year after installing my grandmother in her new house my grandmother decided to move into an assisted living facility. Literally, you couldn't have two cooks in one kitchen. (They're both Type A.) Once she moved to the ALF Grandma got a new boyfriend. Now a cougar (he was 93), he died within two years and grandma was alone again. Like all of the women in my family two men were enough - she has no interest in meeting a third. At 99, she looks at least 20 years younger. I take after her in that regard, and we share the same birthday, though hers is much cooler - 11/12/13. For about three hours this coming November I'll be 50 and she'll be 100.



  • monet

    Posts: 1093

    Mar 31, 2013 4:55 PM GMT
    eagermuscle said ... I take after her in that regard, and we share the same birthday, though hers is much cooler - 11/12/13. For about three hours this coming November I'll be 50 and she'll be 100.





    Cool story about a cool granny. i hope you're able to visit granny on her birthday this year and get a photograph with her on that special day!
  • melloyello

    Posts: 149

    Mar 31, 2013 4:55 PM GMT
    Thanks for the responses guys. My grandfather was an amazing man, he was injured in WWII and came home, married his sweetheart and was a graduating class of 1 mid year (and the only to date) of his law school. He later went on to be the first district attorney of our parish, raise 5 kids and continued to consult till the day he died. His life was full of love and accomplishment. There are no regrets there.

    We are considering she may not want the house after 30+ years there. The memories in every corner will be too much. We flew in the youngest grandchildren to hopefully remind her of the people who need her. She's planning now to join us in Europe in August to see my sister who's going to college over there and seems excited, so were hoping even if she doesn't end up going, that she's forecasting out a few months and looking forward to that. However it's the moments between that are tough; she's neither eating not sleeping. So were monitoring her closely. After 71 years, thankfully she is in good health, otherwise the stress of such a major loss and change in life would literally kill someone.

    I am sad also, we lived with them until I was 13. He taught me how to woodwork and play cards and took me hunting for the first time. But I have to look on the side that he went quickly and painlessly, with no quality of life deterioration. He could remember both what he had for breakfast last week and tell stories about the crazy things he did as a youth. I also thank god that she didn't have to make end of life decisions; he took care of her until the end.
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    Mar 31, 2013 7:00 PM GMT
    melloyello saidThanks for the responses guys. My grandfather was an amazing man, he was injured in WWII and came home, married his sweetheart and was a graduating class of 1 mid year (and the only to date) of his law school. He later went on to be the first district attorney of our parish, raise 5 kids and continued to consult till the day he died. His life was full of love and accomplishment. There are no regrets there.

    We are considering she may not want the house after 30+ years there. The memories in every corner will be too much. We flew in the youngest grandchildren to hopefully remind her of the people who need her. She's planning now to join us in Europe in August to see my sister who's going to college over there and seems excited, so were hoping even if she doesn't end up going, that she's forecasting out a few months and looking forward to that. However it's the moments between that are tough; she's neither eating not sleeping. So were monitoring her closely. After 71 years, thankfully she is in good health, otherwise the stress of such a major loss and change in life would literally kill someone.

    I am sad also, we lived with them until I was 13. He taught me how to woodwork and play cards and took me hunting for the first time. But I have to look on the side that he went quickly and painlessly, with no quality of life deterioration. He could remember both what he had for breakfast last week and tell stories about the crazy things he did as a youth. I also thank god that she didn't have to make end of life decisions; he took care of her until the end.


    My mom said to me at my dad funeral, "That is not your father in that coffin". It was a shocking thing to say but it was exactly what I was thinking and it was spot on . My dad's life with us was over and he had gone on to bigger, better adventures and it was silly and selfish to wish he was still with us.
  • jo2hotbod

    Posts: 3603

    Mar 31, 2013 7:34 PM GMT
    I am truly sorry for your loss.

    The first thing is don't try making decisions for your grand mother, she can still think and function and is not a kid. This is still her home and these are still her belongings so don't go making any huge adjustments to things without consulting her.

    Give her the time she needs to adjust and allow her to do it on her terms, consider how you feel for the loss of your grand father and multiply it by 1,000,000 this was your grand mothers companion for 71+ years that should give a little perspective on how she feels.

    Just because she's 90 doesn't mean she can't make decisions for herself and doesn't know what she wants. Being there for her is just that being around and there when she needs you and letting her have her space when she needs that, if you do that she will be more great full for you/to you than you will ever know.