Mind & Soul > Emotional Health > Comforting Your Boyfriend When a Family Member Dies

Comforting Your Boyfriend When a Family Member Dies

Don’t be surprised or hurt if your boyfriend withdraws or pushes you away in his grief. This is a natural reaction to death and 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. The more you learn about your boyfriend’s grieving process, the more helpful you will 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.

How to Comfort and Console Your Grieving Boyfriend
Comforting Your Boyfriend in Grief

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

grieving boyfriend what do I do
How to Comfort Your Boyfriend When He 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.

How to Comfort a Grieving Boyfriend
How to Comfort a Grieving Boyfriend

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.

sympathy gift comfort grieving boyfriend

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.

In peace and passion,

Laurie

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62 thoughts on “Comforting Your Boyfriend When a Family Member Dies”

  1. Thanks so much Laurie for mentioning my book. I would add that it’s good to keep in mind that men and young men will tend to grieve via action, that is, they will connect the story of their loss to some sort of action rather than talking. Importantly, the actions almost always honor the loss or the person who has died. Keeping this in mind may bring you ideas like the following:

    Your boyfriend’s father died. They both loved the local sports team. You then offer to take him to a game in honor of his father. No demands for talking, no demands for tears, just a shared activity where you acknowledge and honor his dad. If he had a good relationship with his dad he will deeply appreciate this. If his relationship was rocky that is a different story and a bit more complicated.

    There are so many other opportunities…maybe a favorite restaurant, maybe serve the dad’s favorite food, maybe tell his favorite joke, who knows? The important thing is to do some joint action to honor his father. Simple. Trust me, he will be surprised and appreciate it.

  2. My boyfriend and I had been together for a year and a half (very very happily) when his dad quite suddenly died. His health rapidly deteriorated and he had to go abroad to see him and was by his bedside in hospital all the time until he passed away. I offered to fly out for the funeral (12 hour flight) but he said all was ok. He remained in contact with me the following weeks or so then started to hardly message me. By text (as i couldn’t call) I tried asking how he was feeling, or taking his mind of things, or telling amusing anecdotes of my day, or talking about what i was up to etc, and all i got were “how was your day?” and never actual conversations or responses from him. I eventually spoke up and offered to give him space if he wanted as the rejection was getting very hard for me. He didn’t reply so I did this anyway, all the while insisting i was always there when he needed. I checked in every 3 days with a simple heart or hug emoji, just to let him know i was there. I just waited as patiently as possible for his return, hoping I’d done the right thing.

    When he returned 2,5 months later, he didn’t get hold of me all weekend. I was very upset and felt rejected, having had to quiet those sad thoughts of rejection for over two months and having just longed to hug him and support him.
    I reached out on the 3rd day to which he said he was upset that i hadn’t come to see him (how could i have known when i told him i was leaving him space and left the ball in his court). I went over there and after a long conversation he broke up with me, saying he couldn’t handle the pressure of a relationship (yet he was the one who wanted us to live together). I was heartbroken and shocked.
    He said he wasn’t the boyfriend that I deserved and the person I needed him to be, that he felt empty, that he didn’t want to hold me back from living my life. I asked him if he still loved me to which he couldn’t reply.
    We broke up for 2 months, but remained in contact. He checked in on me (I was suffering from anxiety and depression due to this loss, as well as losing my job at the same time) by message maybe once a week or less, and I had numerous outbursts of sad texts towards him where i insisted that i just loved him so much and wanted to be there with him through this and that how could all this be happening to us.(after reading about grief i realise i shouldn’t have done that but i was so so heartbroken and clueless).

    Eventually, I approached the situation like a breakup should be and tried to not message at all until i was healed (i usually stay friends with my exes), but found it hard not to send the odd “I miss us” and eventually he started to say that he did too and wanted to see me. By this time my trust in him was really broken and i was so afraid to get my hopes up to be just rejected again.

    2 months later we saw each other and have been seeing each other since then about once a week. It has now been a month and a half since we started seeing each other again, and i do not dare bring up the “are we together or not” chat.
    I regularly have to hold back tears, and am in a constant state of anxiety for fear of being left. I also tread on egg shells about how i message him, i try to never ask about his emotions as he seems to never want to talk about them or shuts me out.
    He threw himself into working ridiculous hours as he now has debts to pay off due to the travel/funeral and is himself entirely supporting his family where he comes from. I think he feels guilt as he believes he should have been able to save his dad since he was the “monyemaker and strong one” of the family. He is highly stressed for sure and has told me so.
    We used to have such open communication and speak about how we feel, now his messages are cold and rare.
    Sometimes he reaches out to give me a “cold” hug, sometimes he doesn’t even touch me at all. I am never sure if i should hug him or not but i do anyway. It hurts every time i take his hand or attempt to love him and he just doesn’t react.
    I’ve tried to give him space too, by messaging less and also leaving it at one point for 2,5 weeks until i saw him. He still goes about his usual work routine and cooks when i go around but it’s all void of emotion and dettached.

    Last weekend though, he was his bright chirpy fun self and even mentioned my xmas present (I don’t expect a hug now so that shocked me!) and was very cuddly and I offered him to come to have xmas with my family abroad as i didn’t want him to be alone and sad during the festive season, to which he said why not.
    Then, before flying out for Christmas, i went over to be with him one last time and he was so cold i nearly had a panic attack from repressing all my hurt and rejected emotions.

    Since then, he has barely messaged me and when i stopped messaging i got nothing at all. It has now been 3 days without contact. I am very sad and worried about him. I also told him i was going to turn my phone off, and apologised for this. I did this as the anxiety of waiting for responses and getting nothing was making me cry every day.
    The last 5 months have been very hard. Everyone says I should cut my losses but I have read so much about grief that I am determined that his strange hurtful behaviour is due to grief. I cannot turn a cold shoulder, especially for Christmas.

    I feel very hurt, rejected, feel unloved, unappreciated, ignored and even talked down to. He keeps saying he’s ok, but I don’t think he is. Every day the hardest thing for me is to fight with my anxiety and also the insecurities about being unloved, and the relationship not working, or even if this even is a relationship anymore. I am determined to see this through but I don’t know how to stay strong and not let my fears get the better of me. I have to be strong for him, he needs me, even though he doesn’t think so (he NEVER asks or accepts help). How can I be a better girlfriend?
    I want to ask him what he wants me to do or how to support him but he just doesn’t talk these days. I am worried of being too loving, too distant, too compassionate, too cheerful, too motherly, too emotional, too present etc. I simply have no idea as he doesn’t talk at all.
    Am i going crazy? Does this sound like he wants me in his life or should i just chose to be there for him as a friend only?
    I have summarised this as much as possible but I really am hurting a lot and feel so guilty for this as the one who is grieving is him, not me. I saw myself spending the rest of my life with him and this sudden change has thrown me into depression and fear and it is even harder for me to support him when i have to also fight my own thoughts AND hide them from him.
    Does anyone have any advice???
    Thank you and Merry Christmas to you all.

    1. This is very similar to what Im dealing with. My boyfriend of yr and half lost his mother unexpectedly back in Aoril of 2019. Before this things were great. He was even sending pics of engagement rings asking me what I liked. We talked about marriage all time. Couple months after her death he stated that he hasnt cried. I replied it would hit him within the next few months after he realized she was really gone. Come August he totally completely shut down. He told he needed time alone. Keep in mind when I asked if he needed time before he always said, are you crazy? I love u. We went right about 6 weeks without communication. We live 2 hours apart. I prayed on this then out of nowhere i received text that he missed me. We started everything up again but he’s still not the same. Its been like a roller coaster. We go few weeks where he seems ok then all of a sudden he shuts down for few days even weeks. Hes asked me to be patient and I trust him completely.This is not easy, he still goes to work and communicates with people. I feel rejected, unloved and stupid for trying so hard sometimes. I love him and I’m really trying to understand. Oh while he’s grieving the loss of his mother his father is very ill. This is not easy for me so reading other peoples stories help. I pray everyday and hope that God will guide us both in the right path.

    2. I don’t know if I can offer a unique perspective but, as a guy, I think it’s important for you to simply let him control the flow of everything. He’s going to have good and bad days, weeks, and months for a few years to come. When my former best friend lost her father and mother to rapidly-progressing cancer, both within the same year, it took her a good 4-5 years to even start talking to me somewhat normal again. Now she’s finally like her old self again (she’s in her mid 30’s), going out to concerts, dates, drinking, etc. You cannot rush this at all. You’re talking a lot about how you feel, but it’s possible he can’t even feel anything for himself, let alone how he’s making you feel. When you saw tremendous value and hope in the hug, for example, you don’t know what he was thinking, or not thinking, at that moment. My best friend reminds me a lot of the guy you were/are dating. He doesn’t like to overly express his emotions and you essentially have to trust what he tells you. So my main advice: don’t read too much into his behavior. He has several years of healing left, and his emotions will be all over the place. If he’s truly meant to be yours, and he wants you in his life, he will return. But in his mind, he can barely process what he wants and needs right now, let alone what anyone else in his life wants and needs. You have to respect that and let him control practically every aspect of stuff between you guys until he can rebalance his emotions and mental health, otherwise you’re just going to scare him away. And although this is easier said than done (as I suffer from generalized anxiety and have for years), you have to tell yourself OVER AND OVER to not stress about if you’re doing too much or not enough. “Walking on eggshells” shouldn’t be something you feel. Just be yourself the best you can, while letting him control the pace of everything. If he keeps coming around, even just sporadically, it’s clear he cares about you and enjoys spending time with you. Focus on that thought every time your anxiety or depression takes you somewhere dark, and don’t read so much into every little thing, because chances are his mind isn’t even capable right now of processing it to 1/10th of the depth you are, and probably won’t be for at least another year or few years. Good luck.

    3. I’m going through exactly the same situation. My boyfriend and I had only been together a few months and he broke it off with me while his dad was dying – he died a few weeks later in September 2019. Since then we stepped back from each other for a while with very little contact. Recently we have started to talk more and now message once a week (instigated mostly by me) and we do meet up some times.
      He’s a different person now, and going through hell. I worry so much about him and I do want us to be a couple again when the time is right.
      I feel helpless most of the time and don’t know what to say or do. I worry how long he will feel this way and wish I could make it better.
      This thread is so helpful, and I read a lot on grief to gain perspective, although I’ve never lost a parent so can’t understand how difficult this must be for him.
      He seems to open up when I see him, but shuts down as soon as I leave and communication is very clipped. Olivia, a little time has passed since your post, have things got better?

  3. OMG this article has blessed me so much today. My boyfriend lost his brother on Oct 27 2019 and nothing has been the same since. I’m so scared that we will not make it thru this season. We are only 7months in and he has been nothing but perfect before this. I’m asking for your prayers and please leave anything you think that will help..

  4. Hi I really need this right now coz my boyfriend’s grandma passed away. I actually don’t know what to do coz he’s very different right now. I understand that he’s in a grieving situation but Im just worried coz he only message me once a day and never call me he also doesn’t want to see anyone right now but I sent him a message I told him that Im always here for him and also I gave space and time for him coz I understand but what keeps me bothering right now is Im scared that he doesn’t love me anymore and also what if one day he will for a break up, Im a kind of a person that if you didn’t text or call me first I will not text and call you too but Im trying to text him and ask him if hes okay or how was his day going on. Im really worried right now I don’t understand Im acting like weird also because Im really scared that one day he will ask for a break up. yesterday he message me and he said he really missed me but sometimes I don’t believe coz he only message once and yesterday he called me and that’s it. I don’t know what to do any advices? thank you

  5. My boyfriend lost his sister very suddenly a few days after Christmas of 2018. We had been talking and flirting for a while and I was there for him when his sister first got sick. I ended up making a detailed card for Bella (his sister) and got our entire improv team to sign it, I dropped it off at his home with baked cookies while they were at the hospital. Four weeks after her death we got together officially and are still going strong, he’s a remarkable person even at the age of 17 and even with his grief he can talk to me openly and we have a healthy relationship. Yet recently he has been more and more depressed, feeling as if he stuck and has issues with how he looks, I have been quiet and just listened as well as said small but heartfelt comments throughout the process, but I feel the urge to be able to say more. I am growing tired and aggravated that all I can say is, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m listening and I’m here for you.” I know that is a good response but to say it again and again without a more helpful one is getting to me, I want to be able to say more for him. We’re both juniors in high school but we’re thankfully a more mature couple, we work great together and I want to help him more, I feel as if most of the articles I read are never for your boyfriend losing a sibling, much less for teenage relationships. Any feedback is insanely appreciated.

  6. I found some lovely quotes on how to comfort your boyfriend when a family member dies:

    “Maybe I can’t stop the downpour, but I will always join you for a walk in the rain.” —​ Unknown

    “There is nothing I can say to take away your hurt but you have my shoulder to cry on and my loving hugs. Know that I will be here for you when you need me.” —​ Unknown

    “It’s okay. It’s okay to miss them. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to breathe deeply. It’s okay to smile when you think of them. It’s okay to function. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be thankful. It’s okay to love again. It’s okay to remember. It’s okay to hope. It’s okay, to be honest. It’s okay to trust again. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.” — Scribbles & Crumbs

    “A grief blessing:
    May the sun bring you new energy every day, bringing light into the darkness of your soul.
    May the moon softly restore you by night bathing you in the glow of restful sleep and peaceful dreams.
    May the rain wash away your worries and cleanse the hurt that sits in your heart.
    May the breeze blow new strength into your being, and
    May you believe in the courage of yourself may you walk gently through the world, keeping your loved one with you,
    Always knowing that you are never parted in the beating of your heart.”
    — Native Apache Blessing