I'm a new RN whose grandmother died about 6 months ago. Although he's in good health, my grandfather frequently calls me at work, asking me about various minor ailments or inviting me to come over for a meal or to play cards with him. When I visit, though, he's often irritable and argumentative. He seems lonely, but he won't socialize with his friends or take the trips he used to enjoy. My husband's grandfather died last year and his grandmother is coping well. Do you think older men have more trouble than women coping with loss?-L.W., S.C.
It's been said that grief is a demanding guest in an old man's home. Because some women are more vocal about expressing emotions, especially when distraught, they may have an advantage in coping with bereavement. Many men keep their emotions to themselves but act out their feelings, snapping at loved ones or becoming argumentative. Your grandfather's in pain and the one who comforted him is gone. He's literally at a loss.
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Family members who try to provide diversions may do so too elaborately. Right now, your grandfather doesn't need to take a cruise or a trip to St. Andrews for golf. He's asking simply for quiet companionship.
Promise a specific day and time when you'll go to his home. Prepare his favorite meal, then pull out the photo albums and help him recall good memories. Ask him to tell you about the pictures and to explain their importance. Be fully present and listen.
Common to mourners of both sexes is an all-consuming longing, an intense yearning, for the return of something lost. Your grandfather's loss is still fresh. I'll wager that his demands on you will lessen with time. Offering him meaningful, attentive companionship, even when his behavior is difficult, will help ease the transition for him.