How to Support Your Spouse Through a Loss

By on August 19, 2013
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By Barbara Peters –

In life, loss is inevitable. How people navigate through a loss is unique and different for everyone. Although no two people grieve the same, it is normal to hurt after a loss—perhaps so deeply that the pain cannot be described. If your partner has had a loss, how do you offer support and comfort?

Death and time bring losses to everyone. It matters not what the loss is; it only matters that it hurts. Maybe your partner has been laid off. The loss of a job is significant. Or maybe there has been a death of a relative or pet. When your partner suffers a loss, what is crucial to your relationship is what you do to be of help.

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Author Judith Viorst wrote a book called Necessary Losses. She explains that we change each time we face loss. Within this change can be growth, adding to our ability to be thoughtful and connected to others:

“There is plenty we have to give up in order to grow. For we cannot deeply love anything without becoming vulnerable to loss.  And we cannot become separate people, responsible people, connected people, reflective people, without some losing and leaving and letting go.”

Mourning after a loss is  normal and allows us time to adapt to what has happened. With time, we can let go and the pain dissipates. Recovery requires time. Allow your spouse to grieve on his or her own timeline, not when you think it should be done. So much about our lives today is in the fast lane. It seems that if someone is not back up to speed quickly, that something must be wrong. But grief need not be rushed. Give the person space and an interval to process the loss.

In the Victorian period, for example, people were given ample time to grieve, allowing a month for distant relatives and much more for close relatives. During mourning, you were not expected to have to attend social events. You could outwardly show your grief by wearing black clothes or jewelry lockets with the hair of the deceased. Many religions have rituals specifying ways and times to grieve a death of a loved one, but not everyone chooses to follow the guidelines. However, religious rituals and societal customs do offer a bereaved person a public way to express sorrow, and the time in which to do that.

Being supportive means letting your partner have these feelings. If there has been a death, let your spouse talk about the loss and share memories of the departed. If your partner asks, offer your assistance. Sometimes even small tasks seem insurmountable when a person is grieving. For example, if your spouse seems to want a counselor, you could offer to call and make an appointment.

Be close to your partner, and provide a caring environment. Avoid judging his or her feelings, which may include guilt or anger. Remember that your partner’s reality might be different from yours. Your partner may be having trouble facing the fact that a loved one can no longer be talked to or touched. This unsettling feeling may be intensely difficult to accept. Talking about the departed person may be the only way that your partner can cope. Describing the details of the person’s last day of life, to validate that person’s existence and significance may be comforting.

Know that the process may be a roller coaster of emotions; some days will be better than others. Just say that you are willing to help. In time, the tables may turn; you, too, may need the support of your spouse. So try not to feel burdened by the process and the temporary loss of your spouse’s enthusiasm and attention. Of course, be aware of the signs of long-term depression. Do not overlook self-destructive behavior. In such cases, seek professional guidance.

If your partner has had a loss, your role is to be nurturing, loving, and encouraging. A relationship is meant to endure through good times and bad.

“For good times and bad times

I’ll be on your side forever more”

Dionne Warwick – That’s What Friends Are For Lyrics

About Barbara J. Peters

Barbara Peters, RN, LPC, is a gifted communicator with a laser beam ability to cut through the tangle of personal drama to get results and relationships that last a lifetime. A Long Island native, Barbara has made Georgia her home for the last twenty-four years; her private counseling practice is in Cumming, GA. She is devoted to her family of two grown daughters, four grandchildren, and a Shih Tzu named Gingerlily who often accompanies her to work. Her books are available at all major online booksellers and on her website, in soft cover and ebook editions. If you want more information on Barbara J. Peters visit her website

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How to Support Your Spouse Through a Loss