Navigating grief with a romantic partner

2020 has been a year of extended grief. Among many other things that have happened this year, we’ve had the COVID-19 outbreak, the lockdowns, the Black Lives Matter protests around the world, the spate of violence against women, the most recent ENDSARS protests and the killings, lootings and intense sadness that followed. For many people, there has been at least one issue—for most, it has been all—that was intensely triggering.

If you have been in a relationship this year, then you have most likely seen your partner be grieved about one (or all) of these issues. And this is such a crucial phase in the relationship because grief often puts a profound emotional and romantic strain on the relationship. Researchers believe that grief can affect one emotionally by causing them to feel sad, depressed, irritable, or in despair. And because it is unpredictable, it can make making the partner(s) in the relationship clueless.

And 2020 is not the end of grief. Sadly, things that can possibly lead one (or all) of the parties into grief might continue to happen especially if you are in a long-term relationship. Whether or not your relationship might have survived one in the past, knowing how to navigate such situations with a romantic partner is vital.

  • Plan

    The best time to prepare for a season of grief is when there is none. Because of the nature of grief, people who are grieving are not exactly in the best position to explain what they really want, and how they really want to be treated. By having those challenging conversations ahead about what each partner can do in the face of a grieving partner, the other partner is one step ahead. It is easier to apply those in times of need rather than just asking for what to do in the middle of a grieving season.

  • Understand that the nature of the relationship has changed

    Grief changes people; the person who is now grieving is not the same person that you knew before they started grieving. This also means that the nature of the relationship and your role in it has changed too. As a result, you should be willing to take on new roles in the relationship because of your partner’s needs till things normalize. You should also understand that you cannot expect things that you normally would expect from your partner. They are a different person now.

  • Do not interfere in their process

    It is normal to want to relieve your partner of the pain they are going through at the time by encouraging them to snap out of their grief. You might even begin to feel impatient when things do not return to normal after a few days. But it is not possible to do that. Since everyone grieves differently you do not have to impose a timeline to your partner’s grief but take things as slowly as they want to.

  • Remind them that you are around

    Most times, what your partner needs is an assurance that they have a shoulder to lean on during this period. Constantly remind them of this. If they are open to it, random gestures like holding hands, cuddling, and hugs are always very useful during this period.

  • Always ask what they might need

    Your partner most likely needs a few things that could help them during this period that might be different from what you think is going to help them. Constantly asking for their input on what they think will be beneficial to them is a crucial way of letting them know that you value them and their opinion. The most important thing to your partner will be that you are supportive.

  • Avoid cliché statements

    Rather than acknowledge what is going on with one’s partner, many people often resort to cliché statements like “Everything happens for a reason”, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “Cheer up”, or “It is well”. In saying this, you are ignoring the cause of their grief and pain. Instead, you can allow them to be vulnerable around you and reassure them that you will be with them through it

  • Consult a professional

    Except you are a mental health professional, the amount of help you can provide to a grieving partner—regardless of how well-intentioned you are—is limited. After going through an initial first-aid process of making your partner feel loved and affirmed, it is always advisable that they speak to a therapist or counsellor.

If you have more questions on how you to navigate grief with your partner, kindly reach out to our Moderators on our Facebook Page and we will respond.

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