Family Matters
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Helping H deal with his loss

My H lost his mother to cancer 10 years ago this month. He is open about how hard this is for him (especially right now) but his grieving is something he does by himself when he's alone. I want to help him in some way but I'm not sure how. I have asked if there is anything I can do or say and, so far, he has said that I can't do anything. I respect this completely but I can't help but feel like I SHOULD know what to do and I don't want him to feel alone in this. We were not a couple when she passed away but we have known eachother since we were 9 years old so I was around in that sense when his mom passed.(our families are friends) I'm at a loss right now and as "the day"  is coming up I guess I'm looking for advice from people who have been in this circumstance. I am worried that I may not do or say the right things to be supportive. I  would also like to incorporate our DD in this, if possible, because I want her to grow up knowing her grandmother, whether or not she is a physical part of her life. (DD is18 months old) 

Re: Helping H deal with his loss

  • I should also mention that his main support system other than me (my FIL and BIL) are not as strong as they could be, or as strong as they were 10 years ago so I feel like I should compinsate (sp?) for this aswell....
  • There's not much you can do. Presumably he has a normal life most of the time, and the anniverary of her death (or near that time) is a bit hard for him, but he still goes to work, etc.? If he's otherwise functioning normally, I would not interfere with his grief.

  • Honestly, you have done the best thing you could have...asking him what you can do for him.  He has to take the lead on this.  As it gets closer to the day, you can remind him that you are here for him and if he needs anything, to let you know. 

    And if you guys have good communication skills, it might be worth talking about this after the fact...that you are worried that you will say something wrong or not be supportive enough, or talk about how you would like your DD to have knowledge of her grandmother & ask him how he thinks that might happen.  Right now is not the time to discuss it as it will sound like YOU need help instead of you giving help.

  • My husband lost his father approximately one year ago. His father's death was pretty sudden- he was 49 years old, got diagnosed with cancer, and was gone within a couple months. My husband considered his dad his best friend. He often brings up his dad, and I know it is hard for him. I think that in this case, all you can really do is ask him how you can help, and let him know that, if he needs anything, or wants to talk about it, he can come to you. Other than that, let him grieve by himself. If you two have a strong relationship with good communication, he will come to you if he needs support. He may just want to grieve in his own way, by himself. That's ok too. It does not mean that he doesn't value your support, or that you are not there for him. Some people grieve privately. It doesn't mean that he doesn't appreciate your willingness to be there for him, he most likely just needs to grieve this in his own way. 

    You have offered your support, and from your OP it sounds like you have conveyed to him that you are more than willing to be his shoulder to cry on, or his sounding board if he wants to talk about it. If he is saying he does not need anything from you, believe him. If he wants to grieve alone, you are not failing by not doing anything about this. You stated that you don't want him to feel alone, but he knows that if he needs you, you are there. I've learned that some people would prefer to be "alone" in the grieving process. Play it by ear. He knows that you are available for support, if he needs something from you he will come to you. If he just needs to process this by himself, let him. By doing so, you are not failing him, you are letting him do what he needs to get through this tough time. 

    ETA: In regards to DD, you could do something like make of photobook of her grandma through Snapfish for her to see and own when she gets older, or something of that effect. My advice, though, would be to pay attention to your H's cues. You know him better than anyone on this message board, obviously. If you do something involving your DD, figure out if it would be better to let him know on the day, or to save it for a less emotionally stressing day for him. I would imagine that he would be very grateful to have something passed on from Grandma to his little one, but I would play it by ear whether or not you do this gesture on the anniversary- it might be a lot of emotion to handle. My heart goes out for your H :( 

  • I agree with everyone on this - let him take the lead...

    But I wanted to add I lost my dad not too long ago and he was my best friend.  My dd spend one day a month doing something my dad would have liked and chat about him.  My dad was very outdoorsy so we'll go on a hike or rent a canoe and just enjoy nature.  It makes me feel that it keeps him with us and allows my dd to still "have" him in her life.

  • If you belong to a religious institution, you could request a mass/service said in her name (my church does this, others may/many not) and then invite everyone to attend that mass as a family. It's quite simple and repectful.

    My darling daughter just turned 4 years old.
  • Thanks everyone for your advice and suggestions. And thank you especially to those of you who shared your stories. I'm so glad I posted this because I've read great ideas and I intend on putting these into action!

    Thanks again sooo much.  


  •    Last Wednesday was the 7 year anniversary of my fathers death and every year it's not "the day" that is the worst, it's the days leading up to it. For me anyway, it's like there's this anticipation that it is going to be so horrible on that day, and then it comes and it goes. I have always grieved privately, but I think it would be helpful to just hear from my loved ones that they are there for me if I need it. There's nothing that you can do to make that awful situation ok. It's never going to change and there is never going to be the right thing to say, but just offering your support is probably the best thing you can do.
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