It’s hard to deal with the death of a parent, even as an adult. Whether your wife was very close to her mom or not, she’ll probably have lots of emotions when her mom dies, including sadness, maybe anger and even some guilt. People handle grief in different ways and find different things comforting. There are some general guidelines you can follow when comforting your wife, however.
Tell her that you’re sorry for her loss. It sounds simple, but it’s a good place to start.
Avoid trying to make her feel better by saying things like, “She’s in a better place now,” or “It was God’s will.” Don’t tell her you know just how she feels, either. Even if you lost your mother, your relationship with your mom was not the same as your wife’s relationship with her mom, so she might not feel the same way you felt. If you’re not sure what to say, then just tell her that. Say, “I’m not sure what to say, but I’m here for you.”
Listen. Allow your wife to express her feelings and listen without judgment. Don’t try to tell her how she should feel. If she wants to talk about her mom, listen. If she doesn’t, don’t push her to do so.
Provide physical contact. Many women find hugs, hand holding, back rubs and other forms of physical contact very comforting. You don’t need to say anything, just be there with her.
Take care of your wife by doing things she finds comforting. For instance, prepare and serve a meal she likes, draw her a hot bath, or snuggle up on the couch with her and watch her favorite movie.
Lighten her load if you can. Take over some of the household chores your wife usually handles, make dinner and clean up afterwards, or take the kids out for the afternoon so your wife can get some rest. Offer to assist her with making funeral arrangements and taking care of her mom’s estate, too, if those tasks fall to her.
Ask your wife what else she would like you to do.
- Understand that grieving takes time. Comforting your wife doesn’t mean taking away her sadness. It means, however, that she’ll feel loved and supported in her time of sadness. Don’t expect her to get over her loss in a hurry.
- The American Cancer Society advises seeking professional help if your wife shows signs of serious depression, like neglecting her personal hygiene, sleeping a lot less or a lot more than normal, showing changes in appetite that result in unwanted weight gain or weight loss or expressing feelings of extreme hopelessness or guilt, especially if these symptoms last more than two weeks. Get professional help right away if your wife feels suicidal.
Kelly Morris has been making a living as a writer since 2004. She attended the College of Mount St. Joseph with a major in social work and minor in women's studies. Her work has appeared in a number of print publications including Caregivers Home Companion, Midwifery Today and Guide.
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