I received a call from a friend regarding breaking the news about demise of the spouse to an elderly lady who got recently discharged after recovery from COVID. The spouse passed away due to COVID complications one week ago but she was herself in hospital and isolated and hence the family only kept mentioning that the spouse was in ICU but managing. The family is very disturbed and anxious about how to let her know. How do I help in this situation?
This must be a difficult time for the family members when they are also grieving this unexpected loss in the challenging COVID-19 context. You could help by supporting the family in the process of breaking the news to the elderly lady who is unaware of the loss of her spouse. Sharing such information is difficult but needs to be done in a direct but supportive and compassionate manner in a private space. The lady may respond with a variety of emotions such as intense sadness or anger, towards medical practitioners, her family members or even towards herself. She might also deny the reality of her loss to protect herself. It is important to facilitate the expression of her emotions and try and answer the questions she has. The family members can support the grieving process by talking about the memories of the deceased person and involving the elderly lady in any grieving rituals. It is important to remember that grieving is an ongoing process and the support may be required over a period of time. It would also be important to be watchful for any sign of complicated grief and wellbeing of the elderly lady.
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