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When your boyfriend's grandfather dies, you might be uncertain as to what you should do and say. Keep in mind that it's not only important to be there for him emotionally, but also to say the right things as he tries to process the news. Offer your support, choosing your words carefully to help him move forward at his own pace.
Mentioning His Grandfather
It's important to acknowledge the death outright. For example, you might say, “I’m so sorry about your grandfather’s death.” Even if you are hesitant to bring up the deceased because the feelings of loss are fresh, the Life Care website stresses the importance of doing so. If you avoid saying anything about his grandfather, your boyfriend may feel alone and unable to talk about the death with you. It's not only acceptable, but also helpful to say how much you miss his grandfather and appreciate knowing him for the time that you did. If you didn’t know his grandfather, you could tell your boyfriend that when he feels ready to talk, you'd like to hear more about his grandfather.
Offering Emotional Support
You should also make it clear to your boyfriend that you are there for him in any way that he needs. Simply saying, "I care" and touching his hand conveys your support. However, allow him to dictate the level of emotional support you provide because everyone grieves in his own way. Avoid telling him that you understand exactly how he feels because since everyone grieves in his own way, you don't really know how he's feeling -- and saying this, can minimize his loss. If you feel it's appropriate, you might indicate how you felt if you experienced a similar loss, such as by saying, “I know how helpless I felt when my grandmother died.” This way, you're not inferring that your boyfriend is feeling the same way you felt, but instead, you are letting him know that you understand that he's going through a difficult time. In addition, reassure your boyfriend that he did everything he could to make his grandfather's life good because, according to Helpguide.org, survivors can feel guilty after the death of a loved one. Also avoid telling him that you understand
Offering Additional Help
Offer to provide additional assistance with errands or other practical matter as he needs it. After the news of his grandfather's death, he may be busy planning a funeral and mourning with his family. While you may not be able to help with that process, saying that you will run to the grocery store or notify his friends about the passing will assist your boyfriend. If your boyfriend or his family asks you for help with funeral arrangements, avoid trying to tell them what is best to do, particularly if they are in disagreement with you. Because you are not family, ensure that you do not overstep your boundaries when offering your opinions and help.
As you determine the best things to say during this difficult time, take a few other things into consideration. Avoid religious statements unless you are sure of your boyfriend's beliefs about death and dying. Not every religion believes in an afterlife or views death in the same manner and you don't want to say something you might later regret. In addition, never use the phrase, "It's going to be alright." Instead, only say things that you can promise like, "I will be there for you throughout this process."
Based in Texas, Lucie Westminster has been a writer and researcher since 1975. Her work has been published in journals such as "Psychological Reports" and "Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior." Westminster's interests include developmental psychology, children, pets and crafting. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Miami University.