When you’re grieving it can be difficult to both handle your own feelings and help your partner deal with grief, too. You are not alone in your pain; your partner needs to know this, too, especially when the loved one is their parent. Together, you can begin to understand the impact of the loss and help your partner take steps towards recovery. Three years ago my father-in-law passed away, suddenly. It was an extremely difficult time for us. Though we are much better today, it was a long journey getting to this point. We work on it every day. Below are 7 actions that work for us. I hope these suggestions will also serve as your tools to help your partner deal with grief.
1. Cry with Them
My father-in-law had the best jokes! When he passed away, it felt as if all the fun left the world; all we wanted to do was cry. Losing a loved one, even if expected, can trigger waves of overwhelming emotion. If your partner feels the need to cry, let them. Don’t interject with statements of a brighter future - not right away. We know things will eventually get better but right now it hurts, badly. Let them cry and if you feel the need to do so, cry with them. Don’t hold back your tears. This is one of the best tips to help your partner deal with grief that worked (and continues) for us.
2. Be That Shoulder to Lean on
As your partner navigates their feelings, be the shoulder they need. Hug them when they need that too. Sometimes just your presence is more helpful more than words. There is comfort in company. My partner and I would sit, in silence, for hours. This was helpful because we each felt emotions that neither of us could express but through hugs and thoughtful silence.
3. Give Them Space
Sometimes one of the best things you can do for your partner is give them a bit of space. Try to not hover too much or ask questions each time you see them. Allow them to have time alone to process their thoughts and emotions. There will be plenty opportunities to express your condolences and commiserate on your feelings. The time my partner and I spent alone helped us begin to understand our emotions and communicate better when we were together.
4. Talk with Them
When your partner is ready, talk about your loved one. Remember the time you spent together, good and bad. Let your partner talk as much as they feel comfortable. My partner and I found that talking helped open the road to healing. For some time we couldn’t even look at photos of my father-in-law without crying, so talking was not realistic. But in time, when my partner was ready, we talked and shared words of support.
5. Find Grief Counseling
Talk together as much as you will, but be sure to consider visiting a grief counselor. Talking together and commiserating on your feelings and memories is incredibly helpful. Sharing our emotions together was comforting for each of us and helpful for my partner to know he wasn’t alone. Another important step that helped my partner was grief counseling.
6. Remember Together
The first year after my father-in-law’s passing, we framed a new photo of him. Displaying that photo was a big step forward for us. Last year, we wrote positive words of remembrance on three white balloons and released them outside. Releasing those balloons into the air felt like we were sending our thoughts to him. We knew they were just balloons and would eventually deflate, but the exercise and execution of remembrance left the greatest impact.
7. Practice Patience
No measure of reassurance, empathy, or remembrance will work unless you understand that recovery takes loads of time. Have patience. As two people used to moving at our own speed this was a difficult lesson for us to learn and accept. One of, if not the, most important things we learned about dealing with grief is that you never quite get over it. You can begin to understand the loss and learn to adjust to a changed life.
There are no words to aptly capture the feeling of losing a loved one; nothing compares to it. No matter what steps you take to begin your recovery, I wish you the best of luck and send positive thoughts to you. Do you have any suggestions on how to help your partner deal with grief? Please, share.