We all wish we didn’t have to prepare for it, but one horrible day, the your partner will lose someone close to them; a parent, sibling, relative, or friend. As you two journey through time together, your partner will experience financial stress, self-doubt, job loss, depression, anxiety, etc. It is your responsibility to be there for them.
When romantic partners grow together, it becomes inevitable that they will see each other through life’s most tumultuous and traumatic experiences: death, loss, illness, failures, the list goes on. Often, you will be the first person that your partner turns to in times of trouble. It is a beautiful aspect of a strong partnership, but it can also be incredibly overwhelming for one person to handle. You want to do what is best for your partner, so knowing how to help a partner grieve is key.
Here are 10 specific ways that you can help your partner cope during tragic and stressful times:
- Let Them Cry
No one likes to watch the person they love break down. You feel powerless and desperate to ease the pain. But if your response to your partner’s tears is “don’t cry,” even if it is meant in a comforting way, you are essentially telling them not to feel their emotions. First of all, the act of crying can be extremely cathartic. Secondly, if your partner’s grief is causing tears, then crying is a part of their grieving process. It is something they have to go through. Let your partner know that it is safe to cry in front of you. You will support them and let them do whatever they have to do — your possible feelings of discomfort or powerlessness are irrelevant.
- Be Honest
Your partner needs genuine support. Saying “It will be OK” doesn’t help anybody because it isn’t OK now. Be real. Tell your partner, “I don’t know what to say, but I am so sorry and I’m here to help you in any way you need.” Your partner will be surrounded by well-intentioned but ineffectual sympathy; you need to be their source of honesty.
- Give Them Room To Grieve In Unique Ways
There is no right or wrong way to grieve after a loss. Don’t tell your partner that they should be over it by now. Don’t tell your partner that their grieving process is incorrect because it is different from yours. Don’t shame your partner for not crying or for crying too much. Again, you are your partner’s safe space. You need to give them room to experience mourning in their own personal way.
- Be Comfortable With Silence
Sometimes there truly are no words. Don’t feel like you have to fill the silence while your significant other grieves. Your partner just needs to know that you are there. Spend hours together with each other, saying nothing.
- Offer Practical Help
The only thing that your partner really wants is for their loved one to come back to life. You can’t make that happen, as much as you may want to. But you can help plan the funeral, buy your partner’s groceries, do their laundry, give them a massage, spend an afternoon watching TV, etc. Let your significant other know that you will take on all responsibilities, and suggest specific ways to help. Or just do things on your own, if you know what has to be done. Your partner can’t think in specifics about anything right now, other than what they have lost.
- Don’t Say Any Of These Things
“They’re in a better place.” “God works in mysterious ways.” “Look on the bright side.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “When my [insert loved one] died, I…”Maybe your partner doesn’t believe in an afterlife or a higher power. Maybe they do, but that still doesn’t justify their loved one’s death. “The bright side” doesn’t matter right now — what matters is that an important person is dead. Also, it doesn’t matter what you did when someone died. This isn’t about your experience, which is completely different from your partner’s. Make it about them, not you.
- Let Them Talk About Things Over And Over
One of the most important roles that you will take on during this difficult time is that of a listener. Your partner may initially react to the loss by not wanting to open up at all. Let them know that you are ready to listen whenever they are ready to talk. Once that moment comes, your partner may need to vocalize the same emotions or memories over and over. That’s extremely beneficial for the mourning process. Let them do that. Don’t tell your partner that you have already heard the story. Just listen again and again.
- Be A Spokesperson
Following the loss of a loved one, multiple people reach out to those in mourning. Their sympathy is usually beautiful and appreciated, but also extremely overwhelming. Take on the role of a spokesperson. Your partner does not have the energy or peace of mind to respond to countless phone calls, emails, or messages. Doing so may even be triggering; people who mean no harm may ask invasive questions. Instead, you can acknowledge and thank those people for your partner.
- Remember That Grief Doesn’t Have An End Date
Your partner will eventually stop crying. Their routines will return to normal. They’ll laugh again. It will be easier. But grief doesn’t really ever end. If you are in the relationship, you have to be there for your partner for the rest of your journey together.
You should employ similar methods when helping a partner cope with stress, especially making yourself available to take on practical responsibilities and comfortably sharing silent moments together.
- Be A Stress Reliever
Most of the times, comfort Is more important than anything else. Your instinct may be to help your partner find a solution to the stress. However, their brain is already overworked and anxiety-ridden. They have brainstormed and over-analyzed enough on their own. What they really need from you is relief: a long hug, a good laugh, etc. Sometimes, simply reminding your partner that you are there is the solution that they need.