The death of a parent is an inherent part of life, but that fact doesn't make it any easier to process. Watching your boyfriend go through the myriad of emotions that typically follow a parent's death can leave you confused as to what you can do for him. To help your boyfriend and his family feel better as the pain of the initial loss wanes, offer your support by letting them know that you're available to help out in any way that you can. Also provide a listening ear and a shoulder on which to cry if your boyfriend needs to talk and/or express what he's feeling.
Reach out to your boyfriend as soon as you learn of the death. This is a way to offer support at a time when your boyfriend might be feeling a sense of shock. However, understand that a feeling of disbelief is a normal part of the grieving process, which can include emotional numbing, as noted in an article on the PubMed Health website. As a result of the initial shock, your boyfriend might not reach out. Let him know that you're there to support him, but don't make assumptions as to what kind of support he might need. Take your cues from him.
Attend the services associated with the deceased such as a wake and funeral. Grief is a process that is as unique as the individual, but there are expected reactions to the death of a loved one. According to the Harvard Medical School website, these reactions might include distress, anger, guilt and confusion. Providing emotional as well as physical support by accompanying your boyfriend to the services can help him feel less isolated. Keep in mind that family members are often very organized in planning a funeral and associated events, as this can be a way of coping. If your boyfriend seems organized and in control, it might mean that he will let his emotions take hold once the services are over.
Listen with empathy. One of the most helpful things you can do for your grieving boyfriend, advises the Better Health Channel website, is to listen. Just keep in mind that your boyfriend might not feel like talking. If this is the case, a gentle touch and a quiet hug can show support without demanding that he talk to you. If he does speak about his loss, it's important to listen without offering solutions, as there really isn't a solution to his grief. He will benefit just from having the opportunity to speak to someone willing to listen. Even if you haven't gone through the loss of parent that doesn't mean that you can't show empathy by letting your boyfriend know that you understand the depth of his loss and the strong emotions that he's feeling.
Help your boyfriend acknowledge his father's memory while also creating new traditions in the future. It's important for him to remember his father in ways that are beneficial to him. He can do this by sharing memories of his father with you or looking through photos of him and his father. As holidays and family milestones approach expect an escalation of emotions. At these times, it can help to work with your boyfriend and his family to start new traditions that include remembering his father. For example, at a holiday dinner table, everyone might take a few minutes to share some of their favorite past holiday memories.
Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.
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