If your boyfriend is grieving and pushing you away, he is normal. This is a natural response to grief – especially if your boyfriend’s family member died unexpectedly. These ideas for comforting your grieving boyfriend will help you understand what he’s going through and show you how to console him through his grief. The more you learn about your boyfriend’s grieving process, the more helpful you can be.
In The Way Men Heal Tom Golden describes how men grieve when a family member dies. 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. Knowing how men grieve will help you comfort your boyfriend when a family member dies.
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.
It’s important to let your boyfriend grieve in his own way. Learn how men experience grief and healing, get information about the grief cycle and stages of grief, but give your boyfriend space and time. He’s moving through the stages of his grieving process his way.
These tips on how to comfort your boyfriend after the death of a family member are inspired by readers who are facing the same grief. On Helping Your Boyfriend Cope With Death, the most common comment from readers is “my boyfriend’s mom died and he is pushing me away.”
There aren’t any solid answers on comforting a grieving boyfriend 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 accept his natural way to deal with loss. Maybe he’s action-oriented, like the men in Tom Golden’s book, and he needs to hike and run and swim. Maybe he needs to withdraw from all relationships and be alone. If you truly want to comfort your boyfriend after a family member dies, put your own wishes and ego aside. Let him go through the grieving process in his own way.
Your boyfriend may not want to talk through the grieving process – 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.
How to Comfort Your Grieving Boyfriend
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 any man who is going through the grief process is to be sensitive to what he needs from you.
If you think your boyfriend is struggling with extreme or complicated grief, you might start learning how to help your boyfriend deal with depression.
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 grief therapist who specialized in mens’ grieving processes. “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.”
Let go of your insecurities and fears
If your boyfriend is pushing you away after a family member dies, his grief may alarm you. You may feel scared that he doesn’t love you anymore, or that he’ll break up with you. Your insecurities and fears may stop you from giving your boyfriend time and space to grieve loss in his own way. Take time to look at your own response to death and grief. How do you deal with grief, and how would you want to be comforted if a family member dies? Don’t treat your boyfriend’s grief the way you would treat yours. Simply be aware of how you yourself process grief. This will help you see if you’re letting your own fears and insecurities get in the way of truly comforting your boyfriend after a family member dies.
Don’t allow your expectations or insecurities affect your ability to comfort your boyfriend. For example, on What to Do When Grief Feels Scary and Overwhelming a She Blossoms 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.
Helping Your Boyfriend Through Grief
One of the best ways to help your boyfriend through the grieving process is to give him time and space to heal. And, learn how grief can create a deeper, more meaningful life. Grieving is healthy and healing – especially if your boyfriend has hope that he’ll heal and that he won’t always feel so terrible.
In More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us, Steve Leder says “Pain cracks us open. It breaks us. But in the breaking, there is a new kind of wholeness that emerges.” If you believe that a new season will emerge from this time of grief, you can help your boyfriend through the pain. Exactly what this means is different for everyone. A great place to start is by learning how men grieve and how you can help your boyfriend through grief without being overly emotional.
You might also help your boyfriend stay healthy and strong. Some men stop eating or lose their appetite after losing someone they love. So, dropping off a basket of healthy homemade muffins or cookies at his door is a good 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 type of gift or gesture of love would he most appreciate? What is his “love language”? There are no right or wrong answers. The best answers are the “this just feels right” ones.
For more ideas, read How to Help Your Boyfriend When His Parent Dies.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me! Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.