Facing the death of a parent is hard, regardless of whether it was expected or not. Your wife may be experiencing an array of emotions from anger, disbelief, sadness, regret to guilt as she comes to terms with the death of her father. However, your presence, kindness and compassion can be comforting for your wife as she grieves the loss of her parent.
Listen to Your Wife
An important part of comforting a grieving person is the ability to listen, says Beth Patterson, a licensed therapist and author of "How to Be With Someone Who is Grieving" on the website, GoodTherapy.org. Don't offer advice or try to "fix" your wife's pain. Set aside all distractions and give your wife your undivided attention. For example, shut off the television and your phone, set aside the newspaper and be completely present. Encourage your wife to talk about how she feels and listen without interrupting or judging her. "There is nothing more healing than feeling truly heard and understood" says Patterson. If your wife doesn't feel like talking, don't pressure her. She may find it comforting just to have you near her while she cries.
Be sensitive of your wife's feelings. Don't say, "His death was for the best," "He's in a better place now," or "I know how you feel." Remember that while you did lose a father-in-law, both you and your wife will grieve the loss differently. While you are probably saddened, you and your wife are not going through the same experience. Also, keep in mind that holidays and special days, such as your wife's father's birthday or her birthday might be especially difficult days for your wife. Regardless of how well someone seems to be handling a death, there will be painful times ahead, says Melissa Wright, a licensed counselor and author of "Grief: Helping Loved Ones" on the website, GoodTherapy.org.
Go out of your way to help your wife with day-to-day chores and activities. For example, take the initiative and buy groceries, make dinner or clean the house. If you have a dog, feed the dog and walk him. Ask your wife if there is anything that you can do to help. For example, she may want help making funeral arrangements or sorting through important papers.
Give Her Time to Grieve
Be patient with your wife as she goes through the grieving process. Don't pressure her to move on with her life or try to rush the grieving process. She will heal in her own time. On average, the grieving process lasts between 18 and 24 months, but can take a shorter or longer duration of time, according to HelpGuide.org in "Supporting a Grieving Person." Complicated grief may take longer. Encourage your wife to join a bereavement support group. She may find it beneficial to talk with others who also grieving the loss of a parent.
Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.
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