How to Navigate Your Relationship When Your Partner Is Grieving

The majority of marriages and committed partnerships eventually have to deal with one or both partners’ grief following a death.The most typical losses that you and your partner could experience are the passing of a pet, parent, sibling, or close friend. It may appear as though your relationship—and your life together—is put on hold while your partner is grieving. Both you and your partner may feel as though there is no end to the shock of losing someone and the subsequent feelings.

Despite your intense sympathy, you might finally give in to your partner’s grief, lack of availability, indifference, rage, impatience, or general lack of involvement in the relationship following their death. At this point, you should lean into the relationship rather than run away from it. Here’s how to do it:

Recognize that for your relationship to repair, your partner needs it.

True, the word “need” is not very common these days, yet long-term relationships require dependency because it is ingrained in our biological makeup and helps us cope with loss. For thousands of years, humans have survived starvation, war, and natural disasters by relying on their relationships. Therefore, it makes sense that we would have an emotional response to this survival strategy: in difficult times, we want to rely on the stability of our relationships. Having a stable connection will eventually allow your partner the fortitude to integrate their loss into wisdom that may unexpectedly inform your relationship, even if some partners may distance themselves after a terrible loss.

It is sometimes necessary for you to be the one who is “strong” when your lover passes away. This is not to suggest that your spouse is weak in the midst of their grief, but you might need to be the one to maintain the framework of your partnership—the larger purpose of your relationship—as your partner makes their way through the perplexing labyrinth of grieving.

Recognize that your spouse must experience complete grief.

Don’t take over the procedure. Grief needs time to process, so don’t try to minimize or alter your partner’s experience. Effortless attempts to “get over it,” “move on,” or “cheer up” will only make your partner and your relationship more dysfunctional. It is normal for animals to experience grief; ignoring or repressing it will damage your relationship.

Everyone must process their loss in their own time, and grieving is a complicated process. Though it’s common to think of grief as sadness, sorrow, or melancholy, there are actually a variety of ways that it can appear. Healthy grieving actually manifests as a wide range of feelings and actions. Yes, it typically involves intense sadness, but it can also involve other emotions including laughing, depression, worry, avoidance tactics, and occasionally even intense moments of delight.

Consider your partner’s possible profound confusion at losing something they thought would last forever to gain a deeper understanding of them. The friend, brother, or parent who has supported them for the majority of their lives is no longer there; they have truly vanished. The rational portion of our brain may be able to accept this, but our emotional memories of a loved one who was always dependable and “there” make no sense at all. Not to add to the confusion, but if the relationship was challenging or traumatic, it can become much more complicated; this frequently leads to complex bereavement, postponed grieving, and self-discoveries.

Recognize that this is not permanent.

It is certain that the relationship will end if your spouse has had time to grieve. When faced with a crisis, we tend to think that it will never end unless we find a solution; yet, a crisis of loss cannot be solved. It takes time for your partner to recover.

Events in each of your lives will take precedence in the relationship during the course of a long-term partnership. It’s possible that you’ve already gone through a period of change or loss, or that time is still to come. In each of these situations, keep in mind that now is the moment for your unwavering presence. You can facilitate your partner’s grieving process by being more attentive to their needs.

If you remember these three things—that your spouse needs you after they’ve lost someone, that your partner needs time to grieve, and that this won’t last forever—your relationship will probably not only endure, but it will also grow stronger, more resilient, and trusting between you.