It’s a terrible thing to prepare for, but it is inevitable: death is a part of life. For the devastating occasion that it affects your partner directly, there are ways to support them that ease their suffering during this traumatic time (ways that don’t include gallons and gallons of chocolate ice cream… which we also wholeheartedly recommend):
There is no formula to follow nor any schedule for navigating grief.
Just Be There
Although you might feel compelled to offer a constant stream of encouraging words - realize that sometimes all you need to do is be physically present with them. Whether it’s enveloping your partner in a warm hug, resting your hand on their arm, or just sitting next to each other in silence, showing them that you’re always there is profoundly comforting.
Let Them Cry
There are probably few things more painful than sitting by while your partner is in pain. Your natural instinct will be to soothe them, with the intention of stopping their hurt. But this is a big mistake. If you shorten their natural urges to grieve, they will be left with unresolved emotions. Let them let it all out.
Be Okay With Not Knowing The Answers
You don’t have the cure to expediting healing. That’s fine, you’re not supposed to. But don’t mislead your partner at this traumatic time. Instead of telling them, “It’s all going to be okay,” tell them the more honest version, which is: “I don’t know how to make it better for you. But I’m going to be by your side through all of this.”
Offer Practical (Specific) Help
When people are grieving, they’re in tunnel vision. They find it challenging to think of anything that doesn’t directly relate to their loss. So if you tell your partner “Let me know if you need anything,” they probably won’t be able to think of anything that you can do for them. But do the work for them, and offer: “Can I pick up your dry cleaning? Can I make dinner? Do you need me to schedule that appointment?” You’ll take the burden off of them and make life easier.
Be The Point Person
After a loved one passes, there will be tons of people who resurface to offer condolences. Hundreds of messages will pour in offering love and support or inquiring about the memorial. While these are beautiful gestures, they’re incredibly overwhelming. Take on the role and respond to all the well-wishers on behalf of your partner.
Remember That Grief Doesn’t Have An Expiration Date
Everyone grieves differently, and for different periods of time. There is no formula to follow nor any schedule for navigating grief. Even years later, there may be unresolved grief or triggers or reminders that will feel as fresh and painful to your partner as if their loss was yesterday. Staying sensitive to this fact will keep you prepared to jump back in the role of nurturer, whenever necessary.