People always feel grief when their loved one passes away. Yet many people fail to acknowledge the occurrence of grief during the aging process. People may grieve as they age for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s due to the loss of independence or needing to use a walker. Or perhaps a cherished role, such as cooking holiday dinners is no longer possible for you. Whatever the case may be, grieving while aging is far more common than we realize. It is normal and needs to be discussed.

In this USA Today article, we learn about this part of aging that nobody talks about. Grief is defined in the dictionary as “a deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death”. However, it commonly happens long before death. Grief is typically a secondary emotion. It often occurs following the loss of independence, rituals, and social events that have been a part of life for many years. This leads to feelings of anguish and sadness, followed by grieving.

Even long before the end of life, people often feel anxiety and dread around what might happen to them as they age. This complex emotion is known as anticipatory loss. They often fear for the future and what they may not be able to do anymore. Depression, anxiety and grief all are common. Yet dealing with them is not built in to our health care system. According to Dr. John Rolland, professor of psychiatry, there are several ways to cope with the grief and slew of other emotions that arise throughout the aging process.

Talking openly is so important. When a serious illness or disability strikes, keeping your feelings about it bottled up does more harm than good. You may worry about your family’s emotional state. However, talking openly is a healthy outlet for all involved. The next tip suggests to communicate sensitively. While putting your statements gently, you can still be honest with the aging person, and vice versa.

Finally, reach out for support. Do not confront grief alone. It is a painful emotion that needs the support of others. Both families and aging individuals face grief during the aging process. Seek help and connection. It can be family, friends, caregivers, and/or support groups.