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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: When a Partner Mourns…

January 21, 2023

One of the most traumatic events in life is the loss of a loved one. Growing up, one becomes familiar with the idea of death, learns to say “everything has an end,” or “the only certainty is death” without actually preparing for the event itself, nor for the feelings that result. However, when the loss of a loved one occurs, it is extremely difficult to manage the mourning and grief that follow.

The grieving person struggles with various emotions. He may feel a great void, have a sense of injustice, or feel angry and guilty that he did something wrong. He may even have physical symptoms, experience panic attacks, have trouble sleeping, feel tired and weak, confused and hopeless.

Next is when one’s bereavement strongly affects the people around him and especially his partner. The couple’s social life changes, joint activities are limited, and even communication between them can be reduced to a minimum. Very often the relationship itself can go through a crisis.

So how can one help their grieving partner?

The first thing to keep in mind is that grieving is a painful but normal process that needs to be experienced, to be dealt with. The grieving person needs to accept his feelings, because that way it is easier to manage and overcome them. That is why it will help a great deal to give the grieving partner the time and space to regain balance in this difficult situation. The partner’s role is to be present when the other person wants it, to listen and offer support, without trying to make the other person feel better with advice like “try to feel better” or “you are strong.” Most of the time a hug, a token of love or an “I’m here for you” can work much more effectively.

But when the partner finds that the feelings of the person who is grieving do not diminish with the passage of time, that he is trapped in a continuous and intense mourning, that his daily life has changed to a degree of dysfunction, when there are signs that the mourning has evolved into a serious problem for his physical or mental health, then it is necessary to seek the help of a specialist. And here the partner’s role is decisive in being able to convince his partner that he needs help, even in guiding him to find and ask for this help.
In addition to psychological help, there are also various practical ways of supporting the grieving partner.

It is very important to help the grieving person cope more effectively in their daily life. He may need to take on more responsibilities around the house or help the other person with practical matters, shopping, cooking, paying bills, until he feels better, until he can take care of himself again.

He can suggest that he joins groups of people who have gone through similar bereavement. The feeling that there are others who feel similarly can be comforting and healing.
In many cases, contact with nature and artistic expression can be therapeutic. The partner can suggest activities or even create the conditions for their grieving partner to do something that might help them find themselves again. The cycle of life as experienced through gardening, or expressing themselves through writing or painting can soothe and calm the aching soul.
Finally, when time passes and one feels that their bereaved partner is able to resume a social life, it could be helpful to help him reconnect with friends and acquaintances and organize activities that the couple loved doing such as traveling.

Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional Life Coach, ICF ACC, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor and Trainer, and Certified Points of You Practitioner.

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