It’s hard to know what to say and do after a family member’s death – but when your boyfriend’s mom or dad dies, it’s especially painful. You want to be comforting and helpful, but you don’t know how to “be there” for your boyfriend. A parent dying – no matter how close your boyfriend was to his mom or dad before their death – is one of the biggest and most devastating losses in life.
I wrote this article to help a She Blossoms reader after her boyfriend’s mom died. “My boyfriend just lost his mother, we are in a long distance relationship,” says Brittany on How to Comfort and Console Your Grieving Boyfriend. “Sending a sympathy care package seems like a great idea. I try to be available as much as possible, but my schedule is crazy. His siblings aren’t doing well at all, his sister is the hospital sick with cancer. I’m not sure if she knows her mother passed away. I don’t know his sisters well, we meet years ago. What can I do to help my boyfriend get through his mom’s death?”
The most important thing to remember is that your boyfriend’s grieving process isn’t the same as yours. He may need to withdraw and be alone. Your boyfriend is dealing with many different emotions and thoughts about life after his mom or dad dies. What you do and say isn’t as important as your willingness to simply “be there” for him.
Not only do you and your boyfriend grieve in different ways, you may also experience quite different emotions after a parent’s death. For example, if your boyfriend’s mom died unexpectedly he’ll feel differently than if his dad passed away after a long terminal illness. If you haven’t grieved the loss of your own mom or dad, you may not understand the nature of grief the way your boyfriend does.
“My Boyfriend’s Dad or Mom Died – What Do I Do?”
The best way to be there for your boyfriend after his mom or dad dies is to simply give him time. Let him withdraw if he needs to, give him space to feel shock, helplessness, confusion and even anger after his mom or dad dies. The grieving process is confusing and scary. You may not know what to say or do for your boyfriend when his mom or dad dies, and that’s okay. Grief brings unpredictable and powerful emotions, which aren’t easy to handle or express. Be gentle with yourself and your boyfriend.
Be honest with your boyfriend
What do you want your boyfriend to know? Tell him. Write him a card – a print one, on paper, with a pen. You might even tell your boyfriend that you don’t know what to do or say, but that you’re so sorry his mom or dad died. Remember that you can’t take away your boyfriend’s pain and grief. In fact, your boyfriend needs to grieve his mom or dad’s death. The grieving process is painful, but it’s an important, healthy and natural way to cope with a parent’s death.
Your boyfriend may not even be openly or visibly going through the grieving process. This is okay. Let him grieve his way. Give your boyfriend space and time to process his mom or dad’s death in his own way, at his own pace.
Talk to guys who have grieved a mom or dad’s death
You might not want to talk to your boyfriend’s friends or family members, but you could ask other guys how they coped with death. How do men grieve, what do they feel, and what do they want their girlfriends to say or do? Ask for help, ideas, support. Your boyfriend’s grief over his mom or dad’s death is personal, but not completely different than other mens’ grieving process. Be honest with a guy you trust – especially if you know a male grief counselor or therapist! “My boyfriend’s dad or mom died, what do I say? What do I do?” Learn about the variety of experiences and reactions. This will help ease your own discomfort, your own feelings of “my boyfriend’s dad died and I don’t know what to do” or “my boyfriend’s mom is sick and dying.”
Here’s what a She Blossoms reader said on Dealing With Guilty Feelings When Your Mom Dies: “My boyfriend’s mom died almost a month ago and he is not able to cope with the death or his mother’s things yet. I talked to my boss at work because I knew her husband’s mom died last year. My boss gave me a bunch of ideas for helping my boyfriend deal with death. She even told me what to say to my boyfriend: ‘I’m so sorry you lost your mother. I can’t imagine how painful it is for you, but I am here to listen and love you in whatever way you need.’ Talking to my boss was helpful because her husband and my boyfriend actually know each other through their hockey team. My boyfriend is still grieving but I feel more helpful and supportive.”
Give your boyfriend time to grieve his mom or dad’s death
We never “get over” a family member’s death – especially a parent we were close to. It often takes months and even years to heal and feel somewhat normal again after a parent’s death. If your boyfriend’s mom or dad died recently, give him time and space to grieve. Tell him that the grieving process takes a long time, and that he probably won’t feel normal again for a long time. The grief we feel when a mom or dad dies never really ends. It just lightens and fades.
If your boyfriend cries, don’t worry about what to say or do. Just hug him. It’s hard to let someone cry on your shoulder – especially if your boyfriend isn’t normally emotional or expressive. But if your boyfriend cries because his mom or dad died, he will be healthier and heal faster than if he swallows his pain and tears. Again, don’t think about what to say or do when your boyfriend’s mom or dad dies…just be there for him.
Your boyfriend may not want to cry in front of you, or even cry alone. Don’t pressure or ask him if he cried; let him grieve his dad or mom’s death his way. If your boyfriend seems very sad or depressed, read 5 Ways to Help Your Boyfriend Deal With Depression.
Help him cope in practical ways – especially after the funeral or memorial service
If your boyfriend is the eldest son, he may have more responsibilities than his siblings. He may have no idea what to do when a parent dies. If your boyfriend has to plan his parent’s funeral or memorial, find out what needs to be done. Don’t attempt to do everything for your boyfriend; just get information about planning the funeral, preparing a eulogy, ordering flowers, telling family members, etc.
Other practical ways to help your boyfriend deal with his mom or dad’s death include bringing him home cooked meals, walking his dog, cleaning his apartment, buying groceries, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, etc. If you’re in a long distant relationship, consider visiting your boyfriend for the week after his mom or dad’s funeral or memorial service. One of the best ways to comfort your boyfriend after his mom or dad dies – especially if you don’t know what to do or say – is to stay quietly by his side after the funeral is over.
A widow once told me that the her worst, saddest, and most lonely time came after the rush of the funeral and memorial service was over. Before that she was busy with all the funeral preparations, sympathy cards, family visits, etc. But it was after all the dust settled that she really needed her friends and family members. That’s when her grief hit her hard…and she was alone in her pain.
Find a balance between supporting your boyfriend and giving him space to grieve
“I lost my father when I was a teenager,” says Duane on What to Do After Your Girlfriend’s or Wife’s Mom Dies. “I really did want to be left alone, so I let my girlfriend take all the time she needed when her mom died. People always want to make you feel better, and sometimes you just want to feel the pain. If your boyfriend’s mom or dad died, he might appreciate you bringing him over some food or soup and just delivering it and then going away. Don’t worry about what to say to your boyfriend. He’s not really listening too closely. He’s grieving.”
When my grandma died, I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t want to talk or be with anyone. Your boyfriend is grieving the death of his parent, and needs time and space to feel the pain and figure out what to do. Don’t crowd him, and don’t expect him to “make progress.”
The best ways to help your boyfriend after his mom or dad’s death is to let him grieve at his own pace, in his own way.
Gently encourage your boyfriend to lean on his faith in God
If you and your boyfriend believe in God or even follow Jesus, find gentle ways to talk about your faith. Were your boyfriend’s parents Christians? Talk to him about his faith, their family beliefs, and how they feel about death.
“People who do best with loss believe in a higher power to see them through in hard times,” says bereavement counselor Rondi Lightmark. “A strong connection with the power of your ancestors also provides a sense of vision and ability to go forward. If your boyfriend does not have a faith, or if his faith is in deep question, he is also probably feeling pretty lost. The answer for this question is a deep inner search. Get quiet. Ask for help, even if you don’t know who to ask. Ask inwardly for help, even if you feel worthless. Be open to having an answer come to you. The universe is all about give and take–we give love and thanks, we receive and are blessed. Being immobile is like being not alive. So we have to keep moving, even if we don’t know what direction to go in.”
Knowing what to say and do when your boyfriend’s mom or dad can be confusing and painful. Pray for guidance, wisdom, and healing. Stay in touch with God, and remember how Jesus wept when his beloved friends lost their brother. Death is hard, and there are no easy tips for helping someone grieve.
Expect your boyfriend to have less time and energy for you
Be patient for at least a year after your boyfriend’s parent’s death. I know it seems like a long time for your boyfriend to grieve – and it is different for each person. Remember that losing a parent is traumatic. If you notice signs that are alarming or unhealthy – such as self-harm, extreme depression, long-term withdrawal – talk to someone who can help you decide if your boyfriend needs additional support.
Learn as much as you can about the grieving process. Read books like Please Be Patient With Me, I’m Grieving – How to Care for and Support the Grieving Heart by Gary Roe. The more knowledge you have about how your boyfriend feels after his mom or dad’s death, the less surprised and hurt you’ll be by his reaction to you.
Give your boyfriend a sympathy gift in memory of his mom or dad
An “In Memory of Your Father” Comfort Candle is a beautiful symbol of your support and love – especially when you don’t know what to say to your boyfriend when his mom or dad died.
Candles are wonderful sympathy gifts for men. They’re not feminine, but they are a source of light, hope, and life. And, many comfort candles have inspirational sayings. This candle says, “Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.”
For more sympathy gift ideas for your boyfriend, read 20 Sympathy Gift Ideas for Someone Who Lost a Mom.