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How to help a parent grieve loss of spouse?

How to help a parent grieve loss of spouse?

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grieve loss of spouse

Loss of a spouse is one of the hardest things one can go through. It feels a lot like losing a limb or a part of yourself that you’ll never get back. As a child, the process is even more difficult as you’re overwhelmed with feelings of grief yourself, but also have to look out for the surviving parent. 

I remember when my grandpa died, all of us were more worried for our grandma, even though we all felt loss in our own way. We wanted to be there for her but didn’t know how or what to do. If you’re trying to help a parent grieve the loss of their partner, it’s crucial to understand that different people grieve differently, and there is no timeline for healing. 

Having said that, there are some things that you can do to be supportive and help them cope during this difficult time. In this blog, we will highlight how to help a parent grieve loss of spouse. In addition, we will highlight how losing a husband or wife affects a person, so you can better understand their grief journey. 

How does the death of a spouse affect a person? 

Losing a husband or wife can profoundly impact the surviving partner. The grieving process can be filled with intense sadness, anger, guilt, and loneliness. Especially the first year after losing a spouse is the most challenging. Here’s how the death of a spouse can affect a person: 

i) Physical or health changes 

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Insomnia 
  • Fatigue 
  • Unexplained physical pain 
  • Difficulty concentrating 

ii) Emotional or psychological changes 

iii) Spiritual changes 

  • Confusion 
  • Questioning one’s faith 
  • Feeling abandoned by God 
  • Searching for the meaning of life 

Things not to say to a grieving parent 

Losing a spouse is a huge blow. During this time, it is crucial to be empathetic and compassionate. Even though we mean well, there are some things we should never say to a bereaved parent. Here is a list of things you must avoid saying to someone who has lost their other half: 

  • “You’re still young, you’ll find someone else.” 
  • “It’s been so long, why are you still grieving?” 
  • “At least you have us.” 
  • “You should just stay busy.” 
  • “You shouldn’t be so sad.” 
  • ‘‘We are all grieving, not just you.’’ 
  • ‘‘At least you had them for so long’’ 
  • ‘‘Crying won’t bring them back.’’ 
  • ‘‘At least they lived for this long.’’ 
  • ‘‘It could have been worse.’’ 
How to help a parent grieve loss of spouse - things not to say

 How to help a parent grieve loss of spouse – things not to say

These are just a few examples of insensitive phrases you should not say to someone who has lost their partner. Finding the right words isn’t easy in such a situation, but at least we can avoid saying hurtful stuff. 

How to help a parent grieve loss of spouse? 

As we said, everyone’s grief journey and handling process is different. The key is to remain patient and present during this tough time. Below are some of the tips on how to help a parent grieve loss of spouse: 

1. Give them space 

When someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, they may not be ready to talk about their feelings. Therefore, it’s important to respect your parent’s need for space and give them time to process their emotions. Also, avoid making assumptions about how your parent is feeling as grief doesn’t look the same for everyone. 

2. Be a listening ear 

Though space is necessary, you must also not let your surviving parent feel lonely. When they are ready, be their crying shoulder and listening ear. Let them know that you are safe to talk to and that you are available if they need to express their feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how your parent is doing – showing that you care is okay. Sometimes, that is all they need to hear. 

3. Connect with family and friends 

Grief can be extremely isolating, and it’s important for your parent to know that they are not alone. So, ensure your parent is surrounded by caring people who can provide emotional support. Encourage them to stay connected with family and friends, and if they feel comfortable, suggest joining a grief support group to meet others who have gone through a similar experience. Sometimes, talking with other people who have gone through a similar experience can be a great source of comfort. 

4. Help with practical matters 

When a spouse passes away, there are practical tasks that need to be handled. Offer to help your mom or dad with tasks such as making funeral arrangements, sorting through their spouse’s possessions, and helping with chores and errands. These tasks can be overwhelming, so having someone to help with them can be a huge relief for your parent. 

It can also be effective to create a list of tasks and check in with your parent regularly to see if they need help with any of them. Knowing that someone is there to lend a hand can be a great comfort during this difficult time. 

5. Encourage self-care 

Grief can be exhausting, both emotionally and physically. Encourage your parents to take care of themselves by getting enough rest, eating balanced meals, and engaging in activities that bring them joy. Ask if you can do anything to make their life a little bit easier and remind them that it’s okay to take time for themselves. 

It can also be helpful to suggest activities that can help them process their grief, such as writing in a journal, traveling, taking up a hobby, or volunteering for a community organization.  

6. Don’t push them to do things 

While it is good to encourage grieving parents to stay active, pushing them to do things can be detrimental to their emotional and mental health. Here’s why: 

  • It can increase their stress: Pushing someone to do things or moving on too quickly can create added stress and pressure on them, making their grieving process more difficult. 
  • It can be intrusive: Forcing bereaved parents to do certain activities could feel intrusive. Respect the grieving person’s privacy and personal space.  
  • It can be counterproductive: Trying to force someone to move on from their grief can be counterproductive, as it can take away from their ability to process and heal from the loss.  

So, offer your support and you are there for them, but do not push them to do anything. 

7. Be patient 

Grieving the loss of a spouse is hard, and it can take a long time. It’s important to be patient and understanding with your parent and remember that everyone works through grief differently. Allow your mom or dad to feel whatever emotions they are experiencing without judgment or expectation. It’s okay not to be okay – and it’s essential to let them know that you are there for them, no matter what. Showing your parents that you care and are there for them can make a world of difference! 

8. Encourage professional help 

Encouraging professional help when someone is grieving the loss of a spouse can provide invaluable support and guidance during a difficult time. It can help provide a safe place to express emotions, identify coping strategies, get support, and develop healthy habits and practices.  

Besides, therapy sessions or grief counseling can also benefit you as an adult child as it is often overwhelming to handle the weight of your own loss. 

3-points summary 

  • Losing a spouse can have profound physical, emotional, and spiritual impact on the surviving partner. 
  • It is recommended not to say insensitive things while they deal with their pain. 
  • Some ways to support a grieving parent are being there for them, helping with practical tasks, connecting with loved ones, giving them space, and seeking professional help. 

Final thoughts 

Grieving the loss of a spouse or a loved one is an individual journey, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to handling it. The best way to help is to be a steady and supportive presence, offering comfort without intruding on their personal space. Also, listening with compassion, assisting with activities of daily living, and surrounding them with friends and family can also be effective ways to show your support. 

It is important to take time to honor the memory of the lost loved one and seek out supportive resources to find a balance between remembering and moving forward. We hope you find our tips on how to help a parent grieve loss of spouse useful to understand their state of mind and the kind of support they need. Remember, patience and compassion is the key. 

Related articles:


  • What to say to grieving parents? 

It is difficult to find appropriate words to comfort someone who has lost their partner. However, here are some ideas for expressing your sympathy to grieving parents: 

  1. Acknowledge their loss: Let them know that you are aware of their loss and that you are thinking of them. 
  2. Share their grief: Let them know that you are sorry for their loss and that you too are grieving. 
  3. Share memories: Reminisce about your individual or shared memories. 
  4. Offer help: Ask if they need help with anything, such as running errands, or paperwork, etc. 
  5. Remind them that you’re there for them: Make sure you let them know that you will always be around to listen if they need it and that they are not alone. 
  • What are some best books for dealing with grief? 

Sometimes books can provide an escape from the harsh realities of the world. Here are some of the best books for dealing with grief: 

  1. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner 
  2. It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine 
  3. Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler 
  4. The Orphaned Adult by Alexander Levy 
  5. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande 
  • What are some thoughtful gifts for grieving spouse? 

Some thoughtful gifts for grieving spouse include: 

  1. A handwritten note 
  2. A journal or scrapbook to record memories 
  3. Donating to honor the departed person 
  4. Memorial candles or keepsake box 
  5. Fresh flowers or a plant 
  6. Gift basket with self-care items 
  7. A book of prayers and comforting scripture 
  • How to help parents when grandparents die? 

There are many ways you can help parents when grandparents die. Some of the most important ones include: 

  1. Being there and listening to them 
  2. Holding and comforting them 
  3. Taking care of complex matters, like funeral arrangements, paperwork, sorting possessions of your grandparents, informing extended families, etc. 
  4. Being patient and allowing them space 
  5. Seeking outside help if needed 
  6. Encouraging them to engage in conversations and activities, but don’t push 
  7. Taking them to memorial services or prayer meets 
  • What are the 6 stages of grief? 

The six stages of grief are: 

  1. Shock and Denial: The initial reaction to loss is usually shock and disbelief that this has happened. 
  2. Anger: After shock and denials comes anger, frustration and even despair. 
  3. Bargaining: During this stage, people may feel the need to bargain or make a deal with a higher power. 
  4. Depression and guilt: This is the stage in which you come to terms with your loss and fall deep into the rabbit hole of guild, pain, and even depression. 
  5. Acceptance: This point is of acceptance and hope. Here You are able to accept the reality of your loss. 
  6. The Upward Turn – This is the final stage of grief where you start to make some progress in your healing and start moving forward. 

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