Five Tips to Help Your Partner Overcome Grief
Helping someone overcome grief is never easy but it’s always worth trying because, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, you can really help. Perhaps your partner is suffering and you want to know how to help them. In this article, we tell you how to do it. However, firstly we want to explain very briefly what grief is and how it can manifest itself.
Grief is the emotional and natural reaction to the loss of a significant person, animal, or object. It’s a behavior in the form of suffering and an affliction resulting from the breakdown of an emotional bond. This reaction includes psychological, physical, and social components with an intensity and duration proportional to the meaning of the loss (Dávalos et al., 2008).
Grief can manifest itself through physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that allow the person to process or express the pain and grief they’re experiencing.
- Among the physical sensations are symptoms like emptiness in the stomach, pressure in the chest and throat, hypersensitivity to noise, depersonalization, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, lack of energy, and dry mouth (Worden, 2004).
- Emotions are the protagonists of all grief, as you may have noticed in your partner. Among them are depression, anger, anguish, loneliness, relief, nostalgia, jealousy, and helplessness (Muñiz, 2010). Feelings of guilt or hopelessness are also experienced in the face of loss.
- Thoughts also play a central role during grief. In fact, they may increase the intensity of the emotions. Among these are obsessive thoughts about the event, nightmares, and an active search for strategies to avoid thinking about what happened (Casado et al., 2001).
- Finally, at the behavioral level are the manifestations of sighing, crying, sleep or eating disorders, hyper or hypoactivity, social isolation, and distracted behavior (Worden, 2004).
Five tips to help your partner overcome grief
To help your partner overcome grief, you must first try to understand them and what they’re going through by putting yourself in their place. In other words, you need to empathize with them. Empathy will help you connect with what they’re feeling and genuinely approach their pain.
1. Help them accept their loss
Feelings of unreality in the face of grief or loss are extremely common. As a matter of fact, in many cases, the sufferer opts for denial. Indeed, they carry on as if the loss hadn’t occurred. This is only a mental strategy in order to assimilate the fact gradually, in an attempt to cushion the emotional blow that total and immediate acceptance would entail.
It isn’t recommended that you go along with the pretense. However, neither should you confront them with reality. Give them space.
Nevertheless, if your partner continues to deny the facts, consult a professional. Don’t try to make them face reality on your own, as this may not only cause them enormous pain but it could also push them away from you and then you’d be unable to help them at all.
2. Be there
Being there for your partner will also help them to overcome their grief. The simple fact that they know they’re not going through it alone will help them enormously.
Make sure you’re available for them at any time in case they need to talk. A hug, and an “I’m here for you” can make a huge difference at these times.
3. Help them live through their emotions
To help your partner overcome grief, it’s important that you don’t get tempted to invalidate their emotions. For instance, a piece of paper may not mean anything to you, but it might mean a lot to them. Or, one throwaway comment you make may seem silly to you, but it might really hurt your partner. It’s important that they recognize they have the right to feel the way they do.
On the other hand, letting them express their emotions doesn’t mean that you should let them break things or hurt themselves or others. Feelings are one thing and behavior is another. Accepting their emotions and their pain doesn’t mean that you should accept or allow them to act destructively.
4. Take care of your partner
In the midst of the pain of grief, it’s normal for people to stop looking after themselves. Therefore, it’s essential that you’re able to provide support to your partner so that the healing process can progress, and they’re able to fully regain their autonomy.
As you know, when you’re feeling hurt, you tend to abandon certain self-care habits. For example, you might stop going to the hairdresser, shave less regularly, and say no to many plans. They could be the kinds that don’t seem to be important to you at the time but could end up being both enjoyable and unforgettable. Those that take you out of your comfort zone and somehow remind you that you’re still alive. In this sense, you can play a really helpful role for your partner.
5. Allow them to grieve
To overcome their grief, it’s necessary for your partner to live through it. That’s because they can’t overcome what they haven’t lived through. Therefore, allow your partner to feel their pain and go through their different stages of grief. Try not to push or pressure them, just try to be with them and support them emotionally.
Grief is a normal process. However, it can sometimes become pathological. If this happens, your partner should seek help from a health professional.
Getting through grief takes time as well as the willingness to move on. In this process, being there for your partner is extremely important. Indeed, giving your social support will always help. At the end of the day, the fight against grief is a difficult one that’s always made more bearable by being in the company of loved ones.