These suggestions for comforting your grieving boyfriend will help you understand what he is going through and how you can help your boyfriend in his grief. The more you learn about the grieving process for men, the better you can understand and comfort your boyfriend.
In The Way Men Heal, Tom Golden describes how men grieve. He uses real-life examples, such as how Eric Clapton healed after the death of his young son Conor and how Michael Jordan healed after his father’s murder. This book describes how these and other men use action as a way to process grief; this information will help you learn how to comfort a grieving boyfriend.
Golden says men are pulled to the future and use honoring as a means to heal, rather than the expected interactive “talking about the past” modes. This way of processing grief isn’t easily detected – it’s basically invisible. This means that your boyfriend may be dealing with grief in a healthy way that is natural for him…even if you feel like he’s not grieving the way you might expect him to.
These tips on how to comfort a grieving boyfriend are inspired by readers who want to help the men they love.
On Helping Your Boyfriend Cope With Death, the most common comment from readers is “I don’t know how to comfort my boyfriend who is grieving.” There aren’t any solid answers, because everyone deals with grief in different ways. For example, I slept a lot after my grandma died. I didn’t want to be around people, I didn’t want to talk about my loss, and I wasn’t interested in grief counseling.
The best way to comfort your grieving boyfriend is to learn his natural method of mourning. Maybe he’s action-oriented, like the men in Tom Golden’s book. Your boyfriend may not want to talk through his grief – but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you or won’t heal. It just means his grieving process is different than yours might be.
When your boyfriend is grieving, it’s important to let him process his loss in his own way. He may withdraw, ask for time alone, text you less, email you less, hug you less. The best way to comfort a man who is going through the grief process is to be sensitive to what he needs from you.
Here are a few ways to learn how your boyfriend deals with grief and what you can do to support him…
How to Comfort a Grieving Boyfriend
If you think your boyfriend is struggling with extreme or complicated grief, you might start learning how to deal with boyfriends who are depressed.
Learn what grief is – and is not
“Grief can be likened to a beast: it comes in many shapes and sizes,” says Tom Golden (a therapist who specialized in mens’ grieving process). “Micro-grief might look like a small beast, a bird or an insect perhaps, in keeping with a loss related to a small desire of some sort. Then there are larger varieties of grief that could be compared to dragons. Their size is unreal to us, and they are so powerful that they appear to be from another world.”
The “dragon-sized grief” is what your boyfriend may be experiencing as he is grieving his loss. Major grief draws men out of their normal functioning and thrusts them into a world and a part of themselves that is very unfamiliar. The grief has become the dragon of myth – a beast your boyfriend may have heard about, but never experienced himself.
“By approaching and confronting this dragon, we open ourselves to an inner quest that has all of the trappings of a distant land – danger and unknown landscapes,” writes Golden in A Man’s Grief. “We can choose not to fight the dragon, but if we do so there is certainly a price for that. The price is that we always have a dragon on our heels, breathing fire down our necks. We find ourselves unable to engage in life, and always having to look over our shoulder to check on the dragon.”
Give your boyfriend time to process his grief
Whether your boyfriend lost a loved one due to a sudden death or prolonged illness, he’ll be in shock for some time. How long he needs to overcome the shock and grief depends on his personality, spirituality, and perspective on life.
Some of us deal with grief quickly, while others take months or years to mourn a loss. Often we never fully “get over it”, and we always carry a shadow of grief in our hearts. It can be difficult to give your boyfriend time and space to deal with his grief, but the best tip on how to comfort a grieving boyfriend is to let him work through his grief in his own way.
Learn what to say to a guy who is grieving
“From personal experience, I did learn that time does ease the daily heartache of a death,” writes Anne Roderique-Jones in 7 Things You Should Never Say To Someone Who’s Grieving, “but you never completely heal. Show that you’ll be there for the person that day and for years down the road. Don’t assume that after the first four weeks or six months or even first year that your grieving boyfriend no longer needs your support. The road is long and it’s often later in the grieving process when people need the most support from friends and family.”
Emphasize you’ll be there down the road, no matter what. Offer simple, yet heartfelt words – or don’t say anything. Listen deeply, and show silent support.
“One of the kindest things that a person did for me after my father’s death was to drop off a basket of homemade muffins at my door – without knocking,” says Jack. “My friend Olivia also expressed great appreciation for a neighbor who mowed her lawn – without notification – after her brother died. Whether you don’t know what to say or just want to give your grieving boyfriend time to be alone, these gestures are appreciated beyond words.”
Take a deep breath, and let go of your insecurities and fears
Are you having trouble giving your boyfriend time and space to deal with his grief? Do you think he is grieving in unhealthy or even wrong ways? Are you scared your boyfriend might be withdrawing emotionally from you, or even considering breaking up with you? Take time to examine your own thoughts, beliefs, and experiences about grief.
Don’t allow your expectations or insecurities affect your ability to comfort your boyfriend. For example, on 5 Tips for Helping a Grieving Friend a reader said she panicked when she didn’t hear from her boyfriend for three days. Another reader said she can’t convince her boyfriend to talk about how he’s dealing with grief after his mom died. She feels like she doesn’t know how to comfort a grieving boyfriend because he won’t talk to her…but she doesn’t understand that he may not be ready to talk about his mom’s death yet.
If you find yourself resisting your boyfriend’s need to deal with his grief in his own way, then it might help you to figure out why. Are you scared he’ll leave you? Insecure about his love for you? Afraid your relationship won’t be the same as it was before? Those are legitimate fears when your boyfriend is dealing with grief. But, if you let them affect your relationship, you may push your boyfriend away.
Trust that you are enough
Don’t fall into the trap of trying too hard to be something you’re not. You are enough, just the way you are.
You are his girlfriend. He loves you. Your boyfriend especially loves all your flaws and weaknesses and fears because they are charming and endearing!
Know that you will comfort your grieving boyfriend by simply staying beside him. You don’t need to talk, or ask him to talk. You don’t need to hold your boyfriend while he cries or sleeps. All you need to do is be present and available, without expecting your boyfriend to grieve a specific way.
Your presence is the most important thing you can offer a man who is coping with death and dealing with grief. No matter how inept or uncomfortable you feel, you are enough.
Let go of your expectations about your boyfriend’s grief
You may not feel 100% comfortable with these tips on how to help a grieving boyfriend because of your own expectations. Maybe he grieves differently than you. Perhaps you expect him to act a certain way or you expect your relationship to be a certain way.
Remember that not only do all people grieve differently, but men experience and express grief in different ways than women do. Take your hands off the wheel, and let your boyfriend grieve his own way. Sometimes you lean on your friends, and sometimes it’s good just knowing they are there.
Take a deep breath, and trust that God and healing will work through you. You need only show up and reach out to your boyfriend once every couple of days. Send him a text or email regularly, but don’t expect a response right away; don’t push him to give more than he can. That’s how you help when your boyfriend is dealing with grief. Just be there. Be there. Have faith that even though you have no answers, your presence is enough.
I welcome your thoughts on how to comfort a grieving boyfriend in the comments section below. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but you may find it helpful to share your story.
Comforting Gift Ideas for a Grieving Boyfriend
A tin of Freshly Baked David’s Cookies is a cheerful, practical sympathy gift. Instead of focusing on your boyfriend’s grief and grieving process, I encourage you to help him eat regularly. Ideally, you want to eat nutritious comfort foods with him, but cookies are the “go to” food when we need comfort and love!
Dropping off a basket of homemade muffins at his door is a fantastic sympathy gift for a grieving boyfriend – but don’t stick around. Give him space, time, and room to heal.
A Pavilion Gift Company “In Memory” Sympathy Comfort Candle is a warm, touching way to help your boyfriend remember his lost loved one.
Whether you give your boyfriend cookies or candles, the sympathy gift must reflect his personality. Don’t give him a gift that doesn’t suit his life or home, his style or hobbies. If your boyfriend has a bookcase, he might really appreciate the “In Memory” comfort candle. If he’s more of a sporty athletic type, the cookies might be a better sympathy gift for a grieving boyfriend.
You know your boyfriend better than most people…what sort of gift would he appreciate, that would help him remember the loved one he lost? There are no right or wrong answers. The best answers are the “this just feels right” ones.
For more tips on dealing with grief, read 5 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.