Even in happy and healthy relationships, when one person experiences a loss, it can take a toll. If your partner has lost someone close to them, you might find yourself struggling with what to do and how best to support them, which is totally understandable. If you're wondering how to support your partner when they experience loss, you're not alone. Grief is a very complicated emotional experience, but there are some expert-approved tips that can help you know how to proceed.
First of all, know that there might be times when you just don't know what to do — and that's completely normal. "If there are moments when you feel useless, know that your presence means everything," Laurie Davis Edwards, Love coach and founder of The Worthy One, tells Elite Daily. "And if your partner needs space rather than your presence, take time to ground yourself. The more centered you are when they do return, the more supportive you'll be." Edwards maintains that just being there, even if you're not physically there, is very important.
"When your partner loses someone close to them, focus on support and empathy," Edwards adds. "For support, being there for them and listening is one of the best gifts you can do. And for empathy, remember that this is not taking on someone else's emotion but rather being there with them in the emotion and saying, 'I see you and I get it.'" Yes, the most important thing is to practice empathy as your partner experiences extreme pain, even if you begin to feel overwhelmed. Grief is powerful, and whatever your partner is feeling is valid, so just try to be there for them.
"Grief is a unique process that every human experiences differently," as Heather Kristian Strang, author and love mentor, tells Elite Daily. "Your role as their partner is to love them, to support them in feeling whatever it is that they're feeling (without making them wrong or trying to talk them out of it or paint it in another light) and to care for them in all of the ways that will allow them to feel comforted and loved." As nice as that may sound, how do you actually do that?
"Do all the things for them that you know they love, whether it's fresh flowers or doing the laundry or inviting them to let you hold them," Strang explains. "Be present when they are sharing their feelings about their grief and what is happening for them — don't check your phone or interrupt with questions about something off topic. Consistently ask them what they need if you don't know so that you can show up for them in a way that supports their grieving process."
There are little things you can do in theory, Strang says, such as bringing them flowers or cleaning up around your place. But in practice, they aren't actually that little. In fact, being there for them is the most important thing you can do for a partner who is experiencing loss. More, "You shouldn't try to rationalize the situation," Anita A. Chlipala, dating and relationships expert and licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Elite Daily. "Don't say things like 'They're in a better place' or 'Time will help you heal.' It's unhelpful and your partner can feel like you are minimizing their feelings."
Be there for your partner, on their terms, no matter what that looks like. Losing someone is hard, and there's no real way to know exactly what your partner is feeling. Take care of yourself, remember to practice empathy, and don't forget about the little things — which actually aren't so little after all. This is a difficult time, but if you're unconditionally there for you partner as they grieve in the moment, it will mean the world to both of you in the long-run.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.