What To Do When a Partner’s Loved One Passes Away



There’s no one size fits all solution with grief. It can bring out the worst in you or test your strength to keep going. Losing a family member can be one of the hardest things you have to go through. Whether it’s a family member or a close friend, a loved one passing away can completely overcome you and play with your emotions. So, when the tables are turned and it’s your partner who has lost someone close to them, would you know how to react?

In the time we’ve been together, my partner and I have been to two funerals together – one for my young aunty, and one for his great grandmother. Neither of us tend to show our emotions readily, so seeing each other in such vulnerable positions was quite new for us. We had to learn how each of us coped with death and the best ways to help each other through the difficult times.

Here are a few important things I learned along the way:

We all grieve in different ways

As I mentioned previously, my partner and I don’t tend to show our emotions, especially when it comes to sadness, but that doesn’t mean deaths don’t bother us. For me, I like to grieve alone. As I don’t like emotional exchanges, I don’t like to talk much about how I’m feeling or what’s going on. That being said, I can’t hold back tears at funerals. On the other hand, my partner was dry-eyed at both funerals. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t care that the person has passed away – he was very close to his great grandmother – it just means he grieves in a different way. People may grieve openly, while others may bottle it up and release their grief through anger. However you or your partner grieve after a death, try and be understanding and follow those emotional cues.

Be genuine

Depending on how long you’ve been together, your partner is probably closer to you than most of the people in his or her life. Because of this, try to avoid clichés like buying them an over-the-top sympathy basket or printing off a poem about death off the Internet. This might just be me, but if my partner did this I would feel like it was a bit forced. If you wouldn’t do it for your parents or your siblings, you probably shouldn’t do it for your partner. Just comfort them as much as you can – your presence will mean much more than some flowers or a card.

Be there as much as you can

When someone in your partner’s life passes away, try and be there as much as you can. Hearing the news that somebody they loved died will be overwhelming, especially if it’s an unexpected death. If your partner has the responsibility of arranging a funeral try to help with the arrangements as much as you can. Don’t go overboard though, as you don’t want to completely take control of the situation and take all of the responsibility away from them. Try asking them if they’d like you to make the phone calls or organise the music. Even small tasks will be helpful and take the pressure off them. 

Or don’t

Depending on your partner’s personality and grieving style, they may not want you to be there doing everything for them 24/7. Your partner may be strong enough or wiling enough to make all the arrangements for themselves, or they might prefer another family member to help out. If this is the case, try not to be offended and help them in another way, even if that means staying away.

Let them be selfish

This is understandably a difficult time for your partner, so it’s important to let them be selfish. This doesn’t mean letting them treat you badly, it just means understanding that if they’re acting differently or not being as responsive as usual, it probably isn’t about you. On the way to my partner’s great grandmother’s funeral I tried calling him several times to ask about parking. After the fourth of fifth call I started to get frustrated. He never answers his phone and he gave me no information about where I should park and where the building was. Just as I started to get angry, I stopped. I realised that the petty little situation I was getting worked up about was unnecessary and I would figure the problem out on my own. Once I got there, I realised he wasn’t answering his phone because he was visiting his great grandfather’s grave. Imagine if I was angry with him about that? Remember that there is more to every situation than meets the eye.

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Iona is a Wellness Coach specialising in relationships and dating. She works with single women to write their own love stories.