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How to Support a Grieving Spouse

by Sierra Koester

Has your spouse recently lost someone close to her? Whether she's dealing with the death of a family member or friend, she will naturally grieve the loss of her loved one. Though it is difficult to watch your partner struggle with grief, there are several things you can do to help her through the process.

Listen

Oftentimes, someone who is grieving just wants you to listen. Listen as your spouse shares stories and memories of his loved one. He may experience sadness, anger and joy in a matter of minutes, which is normal during the grieving process. Encourage your spouse to talk to you, his family and friends about how he's feeling, but don't push him to do so. You may also want to encourage him to see a therapist who can help him work through his grief.

Find a Support Group

If your spouse is interested in joining one, help her find a grief support group. Support groups offer several benefits, including giving your spouse an opportunity to share stories with others who have experienced similar losses in a nonjudgmental environment. Your spouse can learn coping strategies to deal with grief and ways to keep her loved one's memory alive. Not only will a support group give your spouse permission to grieve, but it will also give her permission to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Offer Practical Help

While many couples share household responsibilities, your spouse may not feel up to doing everyday tasks while he's grieving. Take on more than your share of the household chores and errand running. Elicit help from family and friends if there's too much for you to do alone. During the grieving process, you might also want to pamper your spouse a little. For instance, cook him his favorite dinner or arrange a special outing.

Understand the Grieving Process

Understanding the grieving process will help you support your spouse better when she's going through it. Initially, your partner will experience shock and denial; her loss may not feel real to her. Next, your partner will experience anger; it is normal for grieving individuals to be angry at themselves or others. Your spouse may even become angry at you. In the bargaining stage of grief, your spouse may wonder what could have been done differently to prevent the loss. Depression is the stage in the grieving process where a person's loss truly begins to sink in. Your spouse may experience one or more signs of depression, such as appetite loss, sleeping difficulties, crying spells and feelings of guilt, sadness and anxiety. Finally, acceptance is the stage where your spouse can begin to move forward with her life. She may begin to have more good days than bad ones, though her loss will always be a part of her.

About the Author

Sierra Koester has been writing professionally since 2006, contributing to several websites and blogs. She received her B.A. in psychology from DePauw University in 2004.

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