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7 Kind Gestures to Support Your Spouse When Their Parent Passes Away


Losing a parent is a tremendously difficult experience. As a supportive partner, you want to help but need guidance about what to do or say. Here are seven thoughtful gestures that let your spouse know you are there for them. 

The ability to support your spouse in coping with the loss of a parent isn't an innate skill for most people. In fact, it's not something we typically prepare ourselves for mentally and emotionally, even though we are aware that such a day will inevitably arrive. 

Emily Shutt, A.C.C., W.P.C.C., a certified grief coach and the founder of Umoya Institute, highlights this by saying, "Experiencing a significant loss changes you permanently, and while it may be apparent that a person who has lost a parent would be grieving, there's also a less apparent yet very real impact on the partner. Essentially, you're faced with the challenge of quickly learning how to interact with and support someone who may appear to be a completely different person."

We’ve compiled a list with seven suggestions to help you and your grieving partner through this challenging time.

1. Listen and Offer Comfort

Sometimes, we all need someone to listen to and offer a supportive shoulder to lean on. Be present, listen to your spouse's feelings, and provide a comforting embrace. Remember, you don't have to have all the answers; your presence is what matters.

2. Be Practical

Practical matters can quickly become overwhelming after someone passes. Offer to take care of tasks such as contacting family or employers to share the news and organizing important documents like insurance policies and wills. By easing the load, you're giving your partner space to grieve.

3. Help Make Funeral Arrangements

If your spouse's parent didn't have any funeral arrangements in place, offering to help make them can be a significant relief. Look up local funeral homes, call them to get information and pricing, and assist in organizing the logistics of the memorial service. Respect your in-laws and abide by any cultural or religious traditions.

<<The first birthday, holiday, and other milestones are tough. Learn how to cope with Father’s Day Without a Father and First Mother’s Day Without Mom.>>

4. Offer Support to Kids (and Yourself)

Your spouse lost a parent, your children lost a grandparent, and you lost a parent-in-law. All kidding about “monster” inlaws aside, many of us form strong attachments to our partner’s parent(s). If your spouse wants to be alone to reflect and mourn, spend time with your children. Encourage them to talk, write, or draw about their feelings. And for your grief, talk to your spouse, call or visit one of your family members or a close friend. Everyone deserves space and respect for their feelings.

<<Want more suggestions on supporting a grieving loved one? Read Helping Others Through Their Grief>>

5. Be Patient with Your Spouse

Losing a parent also stirs up unresolved conflicts or lingering resentments over past differences. Your spouse might seem okay in the morning but crying and upset by lunchtime. They might want to make plans and then cancel at the last minute. Be patient with their feelings and your own. It will take some time before either of you accept the loss and begin to heal.

6. Do Their Least-Favorite Chores

While routine works for some people, others simply cannot cope with daily tasks. Offer to take care of your spouse’s least favorite chores if they are willing and able to perform a job they enjoy. Ask your kids to pitch in and help. Very young children can do simple things, like putting their toys in a bin.

<<Can ChatAI help you write an obituary? Find out here.>>

7. Encourage Self-Care and Professional Help

Encourage your spouse to take time for activities that bring them comfort or relaxation. If grief becomes overwhelming, gently nudge them to get professional help from a grief counselor or therapist. Consider family or couples counseling to learn how to support and comfort each other during this challenging time. 

Resource for You and Your Spouse

Everyone grieves differently, and small gestures of kindness can make a big difference. Being compassionate, caring, and supportive will go a long way in helping your spouse deal with losing their parent. In addition to Tulip’s expert advice articles, here are additional resources for you and your spouse. 

Resources for Grieving Adult Children: