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Helping Your Spouse Cope With Loss
One reader wonders how she can help stabilize her husbandís emotional distress over the loss of his father.


John Dalog
There are no rules on how long it takes to mend a grieving heart.


However, thereís no rulebook for how one grieves or how long the process takes.”
My father-in-law passed away suddenly last year and it was shocking news for my husband since he was living far away from us and the cause of death was a flash flood while we were on a camping trip. Though it happened a year ago, I still see my husband crying loud for hours, especially when he listens to his father's recorded voice or goes through his photos. I don't really know what to do and I cannot just sit here and watch him cry and do nothing because I love him more than anything in the world. Any help would be appreciated.

First, let me extend my condolences to you and even more so to your husband. Losing someone you love is very difficult. When it happens suddenly, it makes it even more devastating.

Itís a common belief that people get over their grief in a yearís time. The thinking behind this is that in a year, one will have passed the mark of every event.

However, thereís no rulebook for how one grieves or how long the process takes. Iím reminded of a client who came to see me years ago, at the insistence of her adult children. She had lost her husband two years previously and was still very distraught. Her children believed something was wrong. Once I told her what I just told you, she no longer felt like there was anything abnormal with her. She was able to give herself permission to continue her grieving.

In some cases, however, the passing of oneís parents is particularly difficult if there have been some unresolved issues. In these situations, your husband might be feeling guilt or hurt. This is known as complicated grief. If you do think that there are some leftover issues involved, it might be a good idea for him to speak to someone professionally.

You might want to suggest a bereavement group. Many people find this type of support helpful. The best that you can do is allow yourself to understand your husbandís grief and offer to be emotionally supportive if he chooses to open up. Let him know that whatever feelings he is having are okay. It may take a while for him to get past this loss and come back to functioning the way he did, but sooner or later it will happen.

Let me also acknowledge that this must be hard for you. Itís difficult to watch someone you love be in pain. Itís hard to not be able to take their discomfort away. Your spouseís grief is likely also having an impact on your marriage. I want to assure you that healing is a process and as the days pass it will get better.

Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com



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