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Feelings of loneliness are one of the hardest things to bear following a bereavement, and the older you are, the longer they last.

That is just one finding from a new survey of more than 2,000 bereaved adults over 65 commissioned by UK charity Independent Age. It also found that almost twice as many women in the survey (30%) said they struggled with loneliness than men (17%) following a bereavement, and a fifth of those surveyed still felt lonely three or more years after a bereavement.

Independent Age, a leading older people’s charity, is using the survey results to launch a new and free advice guide, called “Coping with bereavement: Living with grief and loss”. Packed with helpful advice and information on how and where to find support, the guide has been compiled through speaking to people who have been through bereavement themselves. You can download it or order paper copies for free from the Independent Age website by clicking here.

More than half (54%) of those who took part in the Independent Age survey said they experienced feelings of loneliness after being bereaved. For people aged 65 and over, those feelings lasted an average of eight months before starting to ease, but for those aged 81 to 85 they lasted for an average of a year.

More than a quarter (27%) of all those surveyed did not turn to anyone for emotional or practical support following a bereavement, but that number was higher among men (32%) than women (18%). This was one of several results which pointed to stark differences in the ways that men and women deal with feelings of loss and loneliness.

Men appeared less likely to speak with friends about their grief, with only 35% saying they found it helped, compared to more than half (53%) of the women in the survey. Similarly, 60% of women said they found solace by talking to someone else about their deceased loved one as a way of remembering them, while only 38% of men said they had tried this.

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: “The poll shows the stark difference in the way that men and women deal with grief. Although women talk more to friends and family about how they’re feeling, they still report greater feelings of loneliness. We know that it’s really important to open up about the death of a loved one and not keep things bottled up or try to remain stoic.”

Independent Age has also asked bereaved people what their best advice would be for someone currently dealing with a bereavement. The top five tips are:

1.       Stay in touch with friends and family (75%)

2.       Share your feelings openly with someone you trust (55%)

3.       Recognise that there’s no ‘one way’ or set time to grieve (54%)

4.       Find your own way to remember the person who died (48%)

5.       Understand that, although it will take time, things will get better (42%)

Janet Morrison added: “Everyone deals with grief in their own way and for some people feelings of grief will never completely go away. There’s no one way or set amount of time to grieve, but we would urge older people to reach out for help and support if they need it. Independent Age’s new, free advice guide is a great place to start when you don’t know where to turn.”

For help, support and information on a wide range of issues affecting older people, visit the Independent Age website by clicking here or call the charity’s free helpline on 0800 319 6789.

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