HELPING EACH OTHER THROUGH GRIEF
an individual going through bereavement, you may feel the bottom
has fallen out of your world; as part of a couple, you have to
work out how to support your partner while struggling with your
Patterns of grief
There's a recognised pattern of grief. It starts with shock
and disbelief, moves into a period of yearning and anxiety. Then
follows a time of anger and protest before sadness and moving
course, this pattern is only a generalisation - the intensity
and length of each phase can vary hugely from person to person.
There's no right or wrong way to grieve: how we mourn is as unique
as we are.
couples, these differences can cause additional distress. At a
time when you desperately need to share your grief and feel close
to someone, it can be difficult to understand why your partner
isn't reacting in the same way as you.
of these differences are down to personality: some people naturally
become more introverted and introspective, while others are more
expressive and reach out. Further differences can result from
childhood experiences of loss, and family messages about how grief
should be managed.
Different bereavements bring their own challenges.
parent - our relationship with our parents is unique, and
partners can struggle to comprehend all that has been lost. Since
the person who has lost the parent is likely to be struggling
more, their partner is in a stronger position to provide support.
Being there to listen and being aware of any anniversaries that
might reawaken feelings of loss can help.
pregnancy - wanted pregnancies are met with joy and expectations
but, unfortunately, things don't always go to plan. Genetic difficulties
may mean couples have to make difficult decisions about termination,
while others experience inexplicable miscarriages. The nature
of pregnancy means the mother may feel this loss more intensely
than her partner; in turn, the partner may struggle to understand
the depth of emotion. However, often fathers feel adrift in the
mourning process, with little support or understanding of the
loss they've also experienced.
baby - if a baby is stillborn or lost in the first few months,
the mother may be particularly absorbed by self-blame and reproach,
wondering what she might have done wrong. Partners often try to
offer rational support, but they too have to struggle with unanswered
child - most people agree this is the greatest and most shocking
bereavement any of us can face. With both parents sharing the
grief so equally, it can be particularly difficult to accept differences
in the mourning process. It's not uncommon for one partner to
be in the anger stage, for example, while the other's stuck in
sadness. Understanding that both are a natural part of the grieving
process is essential. It's also common for one partner to take
the coping role and be responsible for holding life together.
It's important that you encourage each other to share such roles.
Helping each other
Although every grief situation and individual reaction is
unique, you may find the following guidelines helpful for your
* Remember, you're both different and there's no right or wrong
way to cope with loss.
* Make time to be together, both to share your feelings and talk
about the future.
* Help and encourage each other to keep as many routines going
* Create opportunities to do pleasurable things together, such
as going for a walk or watching a film.
* Encourage each other to take time for yourselves.
* Don't make any major changes in your life for at least 12 months.
* Allow yourselves to be upset or angry together, without feeling
that one of you must lift the other.
* Remember to give each other plenty of physical affection.