Preparing for Loss in Middle Adulthood

Middle adulthood (between the ages of 45 and 65) is an interesting time; you’re not young anymore, but you’re not yet an older adult, either. In this stage, many people experience the loss of loved ones to death. Most people lose their parents in this stage, but some may experience other losses too, including the premature death of siblings, partners, or friends.

Why Is This Important?

  • Grief is important to talk about because it can lead to other symptoms like emotional numbness, irritability, social withdrawal, sleep problems, and loss of appetite.
  • The more we talk about and normalize grief, the more people will realize that whatever they’re going through is a normal human reaction.
  • If you don’t grieve properly at the time of a loss (also known as delayed grief or complicated grief), you can risk developing more serious and long-term mental health concerns down the line.

How to deal with loss in middle adulthood

  • Understand that grief is a lifelong and personal process. There is no “right” amount of time to grieve a loss, especially of someone who was so dear to you.
  • Think about grief as moving forward with a loss rather than moving on from it. Your lost loved one will always be a part of you. You’ll never forget them or stop missing them – and that’s okay.
  • The famous “stages of grief” were never meant to be a linear process. Understand that you will feel every emotion imaginable while you’re processing a loss, often all at the same time. There is no right or wrong way to feel while grieving.
  • Be patient and loving with yourself when you’re processing this loss. Grief can be complicated, especially when the relationship was complicated. What do you need right now? Maybe you need a solo vacation away from everyone. Maybe you want to be constantly surrounded with friends and family. Whatever you need is okay.
  • Try not to engage in unhealthy behaviours, like heavy drug or alcohol use, while you’re grieving. It may feel comforting in the moment, but it can lead to the development of other major health concerns.
  • While your loved one is still alive, spend as much time as possible with them. Whether it’s in this life stage or another one, we will all lose someone we love someday. All we can do is appreciate them while they’re still here.
  • Don’t be ashamed to get professional help. Going to therapy doesn’t mean that you’re “mentally ill” or even that your grief process isn’t completely normal and healthy. It can help to have a nonjudgmental place to talk it out. Support groups can also help in navigating grief and loss.

 

Click here to download this tip sheet in PDF format.

References

Hayslip, B., Jr, Pruett, J. H., & Caballero, D. M. (2015). The "How" and "When" of Parental Loss in Adulthood: Effects on Grief and Adjustment. Omega, 71(1), 3–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/0030222814568274 

National Institutes of Health (2017). Coping With Grief: Life After Loss. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/10/coping-grief. 

Accessed April 26, 2021. 

Shear M. K. (2012). Grief and mourning gone awry: pathway and course of complicated grief. Dialogues in clinical 

neuroscience, 14(2), 119–128. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2012.14.2/mshear

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