How To Support A Grieving Spouse
Your husband or wife has experienced a death or significant loss and you have no idea what to do. There is no rule book for grieving so people grieve in different ways for different periods of time. These are waters you need to tread lightly and with love, but the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. Here are 5 tips for what not to do and 5 for what to do.
What not to do:
1. Say nothing. Do nothing.
• It can easily be interpreted as you don’t care.
• Your lack of response may be seen as disapproval.
2. Say something really cliched or insensitive.
• “You are so dramatic.”
• “You aren’t crying. You must not even care.”
• “I understand exactly what you are going through.”
• “It’s time to move on.”
• “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
• “Time heals everything.”
3. Expect your spouse to grieve the same way you do.
• Some people grieve while doing.
• Other people grieve while talking.
4. Try to fix your spouse. Be full of advice.
• Husbands, especially, are prone to diagnose and fix.
• Often, if a husband can’t fix it himself, he will suggest going to a friend or minister.
• It is easily seen as hefting her off on someone else—that you don’t care.
5. Focus on your own grief story and make it all about you.
• Yes, it can help to show some understanding by sharing you have had loss too.
• Making it about you and the emotions accompanying your loss leads the other
person to have to comfort you rather than getting support for their grief.
What To Do:
1. Invite your spouse to share, but be ok if your spouse chooses not to.
• Check on how the other person is doing.
• Ask what you can do.
• Gently prod but don’t push what they are not ready to share.
2. Listen with your heart.
• You may not know what to do, but listening from your heart will say, “I care”.
• Some people fully lean into their grief and want to talk.
• Be available and fully present.
• Put away distractions.
3. Show interest.
• Ask questions.
• Follow up on previous conversations.
• Validate with words like, “This must be so hard for you. I am sorry.”
4. Show empathy.
• Give a reaction to what you are hearing.
• Show affection and concern.
5. Show extra understanding and patience.
• The grief process may take a long time depending on the person and the loss.
• Understand that your spouse may be less attentive to your needs.
• Understanding and patience build trust. It says you will be there for your partner.
• Showing support will strengthen the bond of marriage.
My wife and I have grieved through several losses together. It has made us stronger and has bonded us together even more. Don’t be an island of grief. Do it together!