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Helping your girlfriend cope with the loss of her father can be taxing for everyone involved. You may also struggle with finding the right words to comfort her -- and trying to avoid those that may bring your girlfriend pain. Though only time can help her process her grief, there are several comforting things you can say during this time.
Words to Avoid
Seeing your girlfriend in pain may be difficult, which can leave you feeling inclined to say things such as, "It will get better," "Everything's OK," or "Life can get back to normal after the funeral." These phrases can be hurtful to a grieving person, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the publication "Helping Others Cope With Grief." In general, don't dwell on how her father died, make assumptions about his or your girlfriend's beliefs about the afterlife or put a positive "spin" on the death by saying, "At least the death was quick."
Things to Say
First and foremost, let your girlfriend know you care about and love her, according to the Everplans.com article "How to Express Sympathy: What to Say and What Not to Say." Offering to help her with things that need to be done, such as writing the eulogy for her dad, can also be beneficial. Talking about her father's positive traits, such as emphasizing his kindness or sharing a humorous story about him, can also bring much-needed levity to the situation. If you find yourself stumped about what to say, you might try, "Is there anything I can do to help?" or "I'm here for you if you need me."
After the Funeral
Once the memorial or funeral has ended, you may find yourself omitting her father from conversations. While this may seem like it would be the best thing to do, it actually can be hurtful to the grieving person who may feel that she too is now expected to remain silent about her pain, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Acknowledge her father's birthday and ask her how she would like to celebrate it, or let her know you are willing to adopt some of the traditions she shared with her father for the holidays. Grief can last for months or years -- it is appropriate to periodically ask if she would like to talk about her dad.
While grief usually lifts with the passage of time, it may continue or grow worse in other cases. If you notice that your girlfriend's eating or sleeping habits have changed for the worse, or if she discusses a desire to be with her father, encourage her to see a doctor. Giving advice gently by saying, "Would you like to get lunch?" instead of, "You need to eat something," can also be a friendly reminder for your girlfriend to look after her well-being during this time.
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