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Anytime we lose a loved one, or someone who is close, there is a process of grieving that follows. Processing grief looks different for everyone. Whether you and your partner are grieving together, or you’re looking for ways to love your partner while they grieve, there are some things you need to know.

Being the Shoulder That Your Partner Can Cry On is Harder Than It Looks

Understanding the best practices for loving your grieving partner starts with gender. The natural tendency of women is to talk or cry at inopportune moments as a way to process the emotions they’re experiencing. Men tend to process analytically, from a more practical perspective. These differences are normal, and it’s important to understand why your partner might act a certain way while they are grieving. Being the shoulder starts with determining what kind of shoulder your partner needs.

Silence is Golden

So many times in life, silence is awkward, uncomfortable and even polarizing. We have a tendency in our human nature to want to fix things and rid ourselves of awkward silence. In a time of grief, there’s not much you can say to make the situation better, but your love for your partner, and your desire to comfort them will lead you to try.

Don’t

One of the most common phrases during a time of grief is, “I know how you feel” and “I’m sorry.” You’ll notice if you say either of those statements that the awkwardness of the silence will not go away, and neither will your desire to relieve the pain and hurt of your partner. Even if you’ve also lost a loved one, or experienced grief in some fashion, your loss means something different to you, and you probably process differently than your partner. When in doubt, it’s better to offer a warm hug and a willing ear. Comfort in grief does not come from words, but from actions.

Grief Doesn’t Have a Deadline

Because each person processes grief differently, the emotions and struggles of “getting back to real life” is often an unnecessary pressure that your grieving partner will put on themselves. It’s important to know that they will start feeling like themselves again when they are ready. When you know that and reassure your partner of that through your actions, the need for an “all better” deadline begins to dissipate. Grief comes in waves, and it can take a long time for someone to feel good again.

Anyone who loses a loved one will never truly “be their same-old self again,” because death takes away a little piece of our hearts. Something that was there before will never be there again. This is okay, but it’s important that you recognize unhealthy grieving too. If your partner becomes depressed, stops eating, and has trouble sleeping or working after a few months, it could be time to search further treatment.

Loving your partner through the good times and bad is what establishes a solid foundation of love and trust. The bad times will not be easy, but knowing how to love your grieving partner through the battles in life will only make your relationship stronger.