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4 min read

How To Support a Grieving Partner: Tips for Couples

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s natural to want to help you partner when they are grieving.
  • There are a number of things you can do to help you partner through this period effectively
  • There are also certain things to keep in mind so that you don’t make things harder than they need to be.

Humans are, for the most part, hardwired with empathy.

Relating to your fellow humans was a protective behavior during prehistoric periods: cavepeople needed to bond with each other to be as effective against predators as possible and collaborate on hunting and child-rearing.

That instinct is still in all of us (with the exception of those with certain mental illnesses), which is why you feel pain when you see someone else feeling pain.

This effect is amplified when the person feeling pain is your chosen partner. As the person with whom you likely spend the most time and to whom you may have devoted a significant portion of yourself, seeing your partner go through loss can be extremely painful.

For most couples, if one partner is experiencing grief, the only thing the other partner wants to do is help it go away. Of course, everyone processes grief differently, and experiencing pain is often a crucial part of the process.

Let’s explore ways you can help your partner navigate their grief.

A quick note: only a licensed therapist can determine the best evidence-based recommendations for you. Use this article as a starting point, but don't be afraid to get real help from a professional.

Partner Grief Resources on This Page:

Tip #1: Offer - But Don't Push - To Be Their Support

Tip #2: Don't Pressure a Timeline

Tip#3: Acts of Service Can Go a Long Way, But Don't Smother

Tip #4: If Possible, Softly Relate To Them

Tip #5: Take Care Of Your Own Grief

Tip #1: Offer - But Don't Push - To Be Their Support

Because everyone's grieving process is different, the amount they lean on their significant other also varies.

Your partner may lean entirely on you to help them navigate their loss. Or, they may need to rely more on family members or platonic friends.

Any of these are totally valid. If you're trying to support your partner through their grief, your job is to find where you fit into the process.

Offer to be there to talk if they want to. Be available to help them process their thoughts or, at the very least, not be alone when they're in pain.

Make sure they know you mean it and that they can come to you to talk about their loss, memories of the person they lost, or any other feelings they're having. While you're not their therapist, you can at least validate some of their feelings and help them feel loved.

One important caveat: don't force your way in. You care about your partner, so it's natural to want to address everything during their grief. But make sure you don't cause more emotional strain by pressuring them into talking when they aren't ready.

If they decide they want to talk to, for example, their parents about some things, you can support them by respecting that decision and reminding them that you're available for anything they're ready to talk about with you.

offering to be your partner's support

Tip #2: Don't Pressure a Timeline

Some grief fades in weeks, and some lasts forever. Both are okay.

Addressing and processing grief is important, but so long as your partner isn't totally avoiding their feelings (in which case you should recommend therapy), they should be free to go at their own pace.

Pushing a timeline on someone experiencing grief can lead to a sense of guilt or failure, which only serves to make their pain worse.

It's good to want to help them, but make sure you're not setting unrealistic expectations for a return to "normal."

Book a Couples Therapy Session in Austin Today

Tip#3: Acts of Service Can Go a Long Way, But Don't Smother

Another instinct we have when our partners are experiencing grief is to make their lives easy.

Try doing little things for them, like folding their laundry or washing their car. Grief can make it more difficult to do small, menial, necessary tasks. Doing those for them can be hugely helpful.

Try taking some of the burden off your partner by doing household chores. Make sure they understand that you're doing it out of care and concern - that way, they don't need to worry about some of their chores, and they know you are on their side and supporting them.

One caveat: going overboard with acts of service can make your partner feel weak or guilty. It's important that they be given the chance to be their most effective selves, and an important part of the grieving process can be learning to live and work with grief. If you do everything for them, they can't try to get there.

Tip #4: If Possible, Softly Relate To Them

For those going through grief, it can help to know that others generally understand what they are going through.

If you have experienced a loss similar in nature to your partner's loss and have processed it or are processing it in a healthy way, let them know that you have been through something akin their situation before and can, in some ways, relate to their pain.

Just don't try to compare your loss to theirs: it's not productive, and in some cases, it may even seem like their own grief is being cheapened. Caveat anything you say to relate to them with the notion that, while you can relate, you certainly don't know exactly how the loss has affected them and that their pain is their own.

Tip #5: Take Care Of Your Own Grief

When your partner loses someone, there's a chance you were also close with the person who is now gone.

Make sure you are taking care of your own mental health and processing your own grief,

It's very easy to ignore one's own grief by trying to fix another's, but it's not sustainable and can cause mental scars.

Take a few moments right now to acknowledge your own feelings about the loss and, if you find that grief is a strain on your relationship, reach out to a couples therapist.

Book a Couples Therapy Session in Austin Today

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