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Losing a parent can be incredibly traumatic, no matter how old you are when they pass away. We assume that it will get easier as we get older, but this isn’t always the case. It doesn’t matter if you are very close with your parents or rarely see them. There is something about the death of a parent that is incredibly traumatic.
If your partner is dealing with the death of a parent, you need to be ready to be supportive and resilient. You might feel that you are also grieving their loss, but you have to remember that your loss should be secondary to theirs. You can expect them to need a lot more support as they navigate this next stage in their life.
Understand the grieving process
The first step in the grieving process is to understand exactly what they are going through. While the process will be different for everyone, you can expect similar themes to arise. This can include the common stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Remember that they might not pass through in a linear manner and might skip some steps entirely, but when you think of their emotions in the context of these stages, it becomes easier to offer meaningful support.
Help make arrangements
Planning the minor details of a funeral or memorial can be awful when you’re coping with grief. Some people are able to power through and focus on the task at hand, but others need additional support to help bring everything together.
You can also help by planning small memorial things like arranging for the ashes to be added to an ashes ring. An ashes ring may be a good idea because it removes some of the stress of deciding what to do with the ashes. It’s not uncommon for individuals to choose to scatter the ashes before they have really thought about what they want. They might later regret not keeping a small portion of the ashes for a memorial keepsake.
Give them space
Everyone processes grief differently, and they don’t need you there to manage their grief. They just need to know that you’ll be there when they need you. Your partner might retreat at times and then feel they cannot be alone at other times. Give them the space and the freedom to be able to do whatever feels right.
They might also want to spend more time alone with family members of their siblings. Being around other people in the same boat of dealing with the death of a parent can help to bring some perspective to their grief.
Encourage them to talk
Talking about their grief is one of the best ways to help them to move forward. You don’t have to be a grief counsellor, and you don’t have to have all of the answers. You just need to be there and willing to listen when they are ready to open up.
If you don’t feel comfortable assuming this role, it’s important to help them to find someone they can talk to. Bottling up their emotions will not help anyone in the long term, even if it does make things temporarily easier in your relationship. Talking is one of the best ways to move through their emotions and start to find a place of acceptance.
Remember that they may also have lost the person that they were accustomed to talking to about everything, so something will need to fill this gap in their life. If you cannot step into this role, encourage your partner to find someone they can talk to.
Get comfortable with silence
While talking can be helpful, sometimes your partner won’t have any words to express their grief. Your relationship might suffer in the meantime, but remember that it isn’t permanent. You should expect to go through periods when your partner doesn’t want to talk about it and may just want to be left alone.
Likewise, they might also run over the same thoughts and feelings over and over when dealing with a death of a parent. Repetition is common as they are asking questions they might never know the answers to. Give them the freedom to repeat things they have already said and avoid getting frustrated if this becomes a regular occurrence.