The past week has been a roller coaster. A roller coaster of emotion, of grief and of sadness as my darling Mum took her last breath. The death of a parent, though something we all know is inevitable at some point, is something we can never prepare for. As we laid my beautiful Mum to rest and said our goodbyes for the final time I looked around and thought long and hard about how we all process grief. This made me think further about dealing with grief within a relationship.
Grief comes in many forms and it’s not just limited to the loss of a loved one. Grief is how one reacts to a loss. Losses can range from loss of employment, pets, status, a sense of safety, order, possessions, to the loss of the people nearest to us, and even to symbolic loss. All loss involves the absence of someone loved or something that fulfills a significant need in one’s life.
Grief in a Relationship
Grief in a relationship can cause havoc if not handled well so it’s important to understand the grieving process and how it can affect a person, especially your partner or a loved one.
It’s true that men and women generally deal with grief quite differently. Men think they need to be strong and stoic. They don’t usually want to talk about their feelings and if they want a good cry they will generally do it in private. You may be astounded that your man wants to go to work or keep busy when he is grieving but don’t be because that’s his coping mechanism. Being active makes a man feel like he’s in control and of course we all understand that in high grief situations that feeling of control is whipped away from us. It’s not unusual too for male grief to exhibit as anger. It might be something stupid like an appliance not working properly that triggers an angry outburst. Anger is a response to feeling powerless, frustrated or even abandoned.
Women on the other hand need to process their grief through talking and expressing how they are feeling. Nothing has to be solved but the process must be allowed to happen. Of course, there will be tears too and probably plenty. It’s normal for a man to want to protect his loved one, take away her hurt and make her feel better, most often by distraction or trying to lighten her mood. In an attempt to remove her pain, he may however be denying her the ability to express her feelings and emotions in a safe way. So, just go with the flow.
Whichever way you deal with grief, try to nurture and support each other during such an extremely difficult time:
♥Be near – in physical and emotional closeness, sexual or otherwise
♥ Refrain from offering solutions or becoming judgmental
♥ Listen without interrupting
♥ A silent comforting hug heals much
♥ Remember significant difficult days – birthdays, anniversaries
♥ Understand that grief never ends, the individual person simply adapts over time
♥ Invest in your relationship – take the time for what’s important
♥ Value talking
♥ Love generously
Fortunately my five brothers and one sister grieved quite openly. We cried with each other, talked endlessly and still are and were a huge support to each other. Like a man I buried myself in work along with another brother but what really thrilled me was watching all our partners stand beside us all in loving concern throughout the whole process. It’s still early days and we understand that grief will creep up and tap us on the shoulder when we least expect it but knowing our support system is strong makes things so much more bearable.
There’s no time frame when it comes to grief but for some it can be completely destroying. If you are in that situation I recommend the help of a professional. If however that’s not your thing then you may like to take a look at Coping With Grief. Finding a mechanism that works for you and will help you get stronger is vital. It will never take away your loss but at least learning to cope with the grief will give you your life back.