How to support your support person through grief
I am a sufferer of depression and anxiety (GAD). I am very well now, after a long journey through many treatments and like to think I live a very fulfilling, happy life and keep my wellbeing in check. I absolutely credit my great place to my partner who has been nothing but amazing for the entire time, and been right there by my side where others have not throughout my mental health challenges.
Recently, my partner lost his father suddenly to cancer. I have found myself in a position where I now need to be the absolute rock for my partner as he goes through this, whilst also dealing with the grief and processing the situation myself. I have found this especially hard on my mental health, where before I have felt like I can call out a bad day- considering everything he is going through I don't want to pile anything else on him.
I wanted to see if anyone else who has mental health challenges has been in a similar situation and has any advice on how best to manage not only the wellbeing of my best friend and partner, but myself?
Hello and welcome to Beyond Blue. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your friends' father. The death of anyone in our family circle or our friends is always a shock and I understand how hard this period in both your lives.
It is difficult to know what to do or say, especially when you are also sad. For me the most important thing is to be there whenever your partner needs a shoulder or to talk about his dad. Often friends do not want to talk about the person who has passed on because they are afraid of further upsetting the bereaved person, and sometimes this true. Generally your partner will want to talk about his dad and about the past. Just listen and add a few comments if you are part of the reminiscence. Talking about the events of the past helps to heal the wound of loss and does bring comfort, so let your partner talk if he wishes.
Saying, "Let's not talk about this now." is depriving your partner of the opportunity to grieve and remember at the same time. It's good for both of you. I understand how hard this may be for you having to manage your own grief and feeling fragile because of your mental health difficulties. I have found that when you concentrate on another person such as your partner, your own problems take a back seat for a while.
Please remember you cannot take away your partner's pain. We all wish we could but this is not possible. So taking care of the day to day chores and keeping a comfortable place for your partner to be is one of the best things, however mundane it seems. Being sensitive to his moods and understanding that grief comes in waves will help both of you. The pain of loss comes then goes for a while and we think it's over. But then it returns and we go through it again. But each time it gets a little less intense and the waves get further apart.
There is no magic cure. Reassure your partner it's OK to to be upset and cry. Encourage him to talk but as I said, be sensitive to his needs.
I hope you will be closer together through this time until you both feel the grief has been acknowledged.
Hi there. N & S. Please accept my heart felt condolences at this sad time. I fully endorse everything Mary has said. Let your partner grieve, it's important for his healing as grieving is part of healing. There are various stages of grieving. There may be times your partner will lash out at you because of guilt attached to why he couldn't stop his dad from dying. Let him know his anger is quite natural, as is his feelings of total loss. Trying to come to terms with losing anyone, especially a parent is hard, we're never ready to say 'goodbye' to our parents. If your partner lashes out, he may follow this with uncontrollable crying and apologising for lashing out. When this happens try to let him know you understand his moods and why he feels so mixed up. Was his father elderly? Sometimes when the person who passes is elderly, it makes it easier to let go. When the person is relatively young and has led a full life, understanding the death (even though we may have been told), becomes harder. Was your partner able to say 'goodbye', it may have been a small comfort if he did. If he wasn't able to, perhaps encourage him to say 'goodbye' anyway he wants to. In time, encourage your partner to get some photos of his dad in healthier days so he can 'talk' to him. He will get through it, in his own time and way.
Again - I'm so sorry for your loss.