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How to support a grieving partner

The loss of a parent is one of the most profound and difficult experiences that a person can go through. When your spouse loses a parent, it's not only a difficult time for them, but it can also impact you as their partner. You may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to best support your spouse during this time of grief. It's normal to feel unsure of how to proceed, and it's essential to know that everyone grieves differently.

It's important to remember that grief can be a complex and long process, and your spouse may experience a range of emotions, from shock to anger to sadness. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and the process can take weeks, months, or even years. There are no rules to grief and it may be a lifelong companion to your relationship. Your role as a partner is to provide a safe and supportive environment for them to grieve in their way. This means providing support, empathy, and patience, while being mindful of your own needs as well. It's a delicate balance, but by showing up and being present, you can make a meaningful difference in your spouse's healing journey.

Listen to Them

The first step in supporting your spouse is to listen to them. Your spouse will likely have many feelings, thoughts, and memories to share about their parent. Provide a safe space where they can open up and share their emotions. Practice active listening by giving them your full attention and letting them know that you're there for them. Try to avoid dismissing their feelings or trying to find a solution to their pain. Instead, focus on listening and empathizing with their emotions.

Be There for Them

It's important to offer your support in practical ways. Your spouse may be feeling overwhelmed and preoccupied with arrangements related to their parent's death. Offer to accompany them to appointments or events, such as the funeral or memorial service. Help with any practical tasks that need to be done, such as making arrangements or running errands. Your support will alleviate their burden and give them some breathing space to process their grief.

Help with Practical Tasks

In addition to accompanying them to appointments, it's essential to take care of practical tasks to ease the burden on your spouse. Offer to take care of errands or household tasks to help them cope with their emotions. Simple tasks such as grocery shopping or cooking can be a great help. Let them know that you're there to help in any way that you can.

Give Them Space

While it's important to be there for your spouse, it's also essential to give them space. Respect their need for privacy and alone time, and let them know that you're available when they need you. Sometimes, they may just need some time to be alone with their thoughts and feelings. Remember that grief is a personal journey, and your spouse needs time and space to navigate it.

Encourage Self-Care

Encouraging self-care is another way to support your spouse. It's important to remind them to take care of themselves both physically and emotionally. Encourage them to exercise, eat well, and get enough rest. You might suggest activities that can help them cope with their loss, such as journaling, mindfulness meditation, or yoga. These activities can help them manage stress and anxiety and provide a sense of comfort during a difficult time.

Seek Professional Help If Needed

Sometimes, the emotional burden of grief can be overwhelming, and professional support can be beneficial. Encourage your spouse to seek out a therapist or counselor if they feel they need it. Talking with a professional can help your spouse to process their emotions in a healthy way and find healthy coping mechanisms. If your spouse is struggling to cope, you can be there to help them find the support they need.

Losing a parent is one of the most challenging experiences that a person can face, and it's essential to support your spouse during this difficult time. Remember that everyone grieves differently, and there's no "right" way to grieve. Listening, offering practical help, giving space, encouraging self-care, and seeking professional help are some ways that you can support your spouse. Remember to be patient, empathetic, and kind, and let your spouse know that you care. By providing love and support, you can help your spouse navigate this difficult time and emerge stronger on the other side.

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Breena Fain
Breena Fain

Breena is a writer, certified death doula, and co-founder at Addio based in San Francisco. She leads Addio's content efforts and helps families navigate their end-of-life plan. In her free time, you can find her at the piano, on the beach with her dog, eating her weight in sourdough bread, and volunteering at a local SF hospice facility. (She's also who runs all our social media accounts so be sure to say hello!)

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If you're weighing the pros and cons of doing it online versus going through an attorney, let us break it down.

Take the quiz