Helping a Spouse Deal with Death

How does a husband console a wife who’s lost her mother? How does a wife comfort a husband who’s aching from the unexpected death of his brother or sister?

The usual advice is to be there and be there more. For instance, a wife can always be there for her husband, physically and emotionally, when the husband’s father was dying of cancer. They can even travel together so they could be at his bedside. During a difficult time, a wife can coax her husband into taking time out for a daily walk. Often, grieving spouses can be really tired and stressed out, especially after funeral or cremation services.

Remember though, spouses can’t protect their partners from the anguish of losing a loved one, but they can support them as they grieve. They can listen, hold, and empathize. It’s also important for spouses not to bottle up their own grief as they console their partners.

It’s wrong to try to look strong for a partner. In fact, it’s better to let the tears fall. Spouses of the bereaved, though, do sometimes unconsciously hold back their own sadness. A wife may postpone her grief just to keep things going during a direct cremation service.

Be there with your spouse as much as possible without hovering. Stay in the moment, with no pressure to leave and rush to do something else.

Remember also that people grieve in different ways. Some people like to talk about the person who died. Other people struggle to shut the door on it. Grieving spouses who want to talk about their loss might benefit from sharing memories of the departed.

There comes a time when the reality hits that the loved one who died really is gone from this earth. They need to make their loved one real, in the sense that they really did live and cared about them. They need to tell, over and over, the story of the loved one’s last days on earth, especially the last day.

Spouses should be prepared that their partners will need support some days more than others. With women, the path will most likely resemble a roller coaster ride where one day she appears to be feeling fine over the loss. The next day she can barely get out of bed because she is so sad.

Lastly, never set a timeline for a spouse to be “over it and move on.” Be patient.