When it comes to grief, there is no normal, because everyone grieves their own way. I’m often asked how long the grieving process takes, what are different ways to deal with grief, and how to support a grieving spouse or other loved one. In today’s article, I share 4 supportive ways to deal with grief.
Dear Dr B,
My husband lost his mother last month. He doesn’t talk about it, even when I ask. And I know he hasn’t talked with his father or siblings. Is there something wrong? Does he know how to grieve?
With your husband just losing his mother last month, what you are describing is a normal grief reaction. But even that statement is a bit of a paradox, because when it comes to grief, there is almost no “normal” per se, because everyone grieves in their own way, at their own pace.
Often, men are less expressive in their emotions to begin with, and sometimes less verbal. What you may see is an exacerbation of a person’s normal personality style but to a greater extreme during a period of grief. Those who tend to be less verbal or less emotional to begin with may withdraw into themselves even more. On the other hand, those who are more talkative normally may want to talk more to express their grief.
4 supportive ways to deal with grief
The best thing you can do to be supportive of your grieving husband is to be responsive to his needs during this time.
1. He may just want your quiet presence so he doesn’t feel alone.
2. If you’re able, he may enjoy hearing the good memories you have of times spent with his mother.
3. He may be responsive to your physical touch just letting him know you care.
4. Your husband may need your permission to break down and cry, in order to not feel guilty sharing those more vulnerable emotions if he is more accustomed to being the emotional rock for the family.
Pray with and for the grieving
I’d recommend that you pray with and for your husband and the rest of his family. Pray that God would comfort him, and hide him in the shadow of His wing.
Loss, death, and grieving can often bring about conflict, bitterness, resentment, and greed. Pray that if there is any bitterness, resentment or unforgiveness there, that the kindness of the Lord would bring them to repentance. Forgiveness is not about finding the other person faultless, but about leaving another’s wrongdoings up to God to manage.
In my personal and professional experience, I have found that many friends and family are very supportive immediately following a death but unfortunately, all too frequently, after the funeral life goes on for others while the grieving are left alone in their grief.
How long does it take to properly grieve?
I’d encourage you not to make the mistake of thinking that there is a prescribed timetable for grief. While it’s usually most intense in the first couple of months following a loved one’s death, it can continue for months and years after.
Many of the initial “firsts” can bring about a fresh wave of grief: the first birthday after a death, first Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, anniversary of the death, etc.
Not only do I recommend that you pray for and with your spouse, but I’d also encourage you to pray for wisdom and God’s direction about how to best support your spouse through this time. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what he needs and when. The Bible tells us,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
If your husband’s emotional well-being does not begin to improve after several months, you might lovingly and prayerfully consider suggesting that he speak with a grief counselor, pastor, or physician to ensure that his grief has not led into a more significant condition requiring additional assistance.
I know it is so very hard to watch our loved ones suffer. Entrust Him into your Heavenly Father’s good care. He promises in Isaiah 61:3 to “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Read more here for 15 tips to survive grief or listen to this podcast for how to find hope in the midst of grief.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
One of my dear friends just lost her husband to a very swift bout with cancer (less than a month from the time they discovered it until his death), so I was very interested in what you had to say. Good points. I’ll keep them in mind as I move forward with her in her grief. Thanks. Visiting from Sharing His Beauty.
Mary, I’m so very sorry for your friend’s great loss. I’m also so very happy that she has a friend like you who will move forward with her in her grief. We all need others to come alongside us. I hope this proves helpful to you in the process. Because in Him, Hope Prevails!
Thank you so much for always providing thoughtful and helpful advice. I think that remembering that grief is a process–often a long one–is so important. You’ve made me aware of this through your other posts, and I’m trying to be more intentional about reaching out to those who have experienced loss.
Your kind words of encouragement always bless me Anita. It’s always my hope that the words I feel He prompts me to write will provide help and hope for others through His truth. Little did I know when I wrote this post that I would need these words myself just a week later when I lost a very dear friend and mentor in a collision. Your sweet comments always remind me of the kinds of comments she too would make on my blog posts. It’s just one of the many things I’ll miss about her. Thank you for being a blessing today in the midst of my own grief. Because of Him, Hope Prevails!
Thanks for linking up this solid advice at #ThreeWordWednesday.
Thanks for stopping by Kristin! Blessings to you.
Excellent post, thank you for sharing this with us at Good Morning Mondays. I am thankful that you state that there are no “normals” to grieving and that everyone grieves differently. Blessings
Nope…everyone grieves differently. In our own way, our own time. Thanks for coming by Terri. Hope to see you again.
I am concerned my husband is obsessively mourning out dog, but…the vet says it’s normal, so…
Janice, remember that we all grieve differently..in our own way and our own time. So your husband’s reaction to losing your dog may be different than yours. Pray for your husband. If it continues for very long, it may help him to talk with a professional in order to be able to move past the grief.
Some good advice..you described everything so well. Grieving to me can be like a roller coaster sometimes.. your up and down. You never know when it might hit but it gets better with time. Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty
You’re absolutely right…grief is like a roller coaster, or I tend to think of it like an ocean. It ebbs and flows like the tide. Sometimes it comes up higher on shore than we expect, sometimes not so far. The key is to appreciate the memories but keep looking forward. Thanks for stopping by!
My husband is not the communicative sort. I’ve come to understand that he really DOES need time to digest and put words to what he’s feeling before he even CAN communicate. Even then, he needs encouragement to continue communicating in those difficult situations. There’s a fine line between encouraging him to continue and what he might construe as nagging, but that gentle prodding in combination with waiting on him to be ready has brought him to a place where it’s all easier for him and he appreciates that I can help him work through the harder times. Great post! Thanks for sharing at Christian Fellowship Friday!
DaLynn, I’m so glad that with God’s grace and mercy, you are able to extend the same to your husband. Husbands and wives are usually different in their communication style, and sometimes grief just accentuates it all the more. Your husband is blessed to have a wife who has taken the time to figure out his needs and support him in the way that ministers to him best. Blessings to you both!! Hope Prevails!
This is so helpful. Thank you. I have some very close grieving friends who lost their dad and I am going to share this with them. I know it will be so helpful for them and it also helps me know how to support them. One of the daughters and the wife came to see us on Monday and we had a sweet time with them as they shared memories of the dad and husband with laughter and a few tears. They are doing well in their grieving time.
Thank you Michelle for the timely article you have shared on omhgww this week. My brother just passed and this is a reminder of how I can support his wife and family in their need.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Karren. May God bring you comfort in your time of sorrow.
Thank you so much! This is good to read and to translate and to share.
People definitely grieve in unique ways. It can be confusing at times when others don’t grieve like we do, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less genuine. Thanks for your wisdom on grief!
Lisa, I think we all have expectations from time to time that just aren’t realistic, especially during those times like grief when we need to extend grace to ourselves.