Question: My husband wasn’t there for me when my dad died, what should I have done?
If your husband wasn’t there for your when your Dad died, it is common to feel betrayed and disconnected. In fact, many acknowledge that they still feel the emotional distance even after the episode has ended.
Losing a parent to death is one of the most shocking transition people experience, but yet it is a common occurrence which is partly why it is often brushed off or minimized by a spouse. While it is common, such a loss increases the risk of substance abuse and can cause various physical and mental health challenges.
You often hear people feel abandoned and unsupported by their spouse after a death of a parent.
In my opinion, this usually happens because a marriage is already in distressed and disconnected to begin with. Alternatively, it could be that your husband doesn’t know how to help or is confused by the intensity of emotion or feels helpless about how to be a supportive spouse.
A Season For High Emotional Needs
Losing a father creates a time for high emotional need. The emotional need is usually exacerbated by other stressors such as to care for your mother, dealing with your Dad’s estate, etc.
Your high emotional needs combined with your husband confusion on how to react (which usually turns into withdrawal) can leave you feeling alone. This is the perfect storm for attachment injury, where you expect your husband to be supportive, but yet you feel betrayed because of his absence.
Your husband’s withdrawal and absence may not be intentional but it is perceived as a lack of support. This often results in diminished trust which can potentially affect the marital quality.
What Should You Have Done?
Losing your father wasn’t part of your husband’s plan going into the marriage. Like you, he probably doesn’t know what to do or how to react. The supportive role of helping a spouse work through grief can be overwhelming. To keep your husband from guessing, perhaps it is best to let your husband know what you truly want. Communication is key in every relationship. Here are some suggestions:
- Be mindful of his words
- Bring home flowers
- Being a shoulder to lean on
- Tell him not to be too judgmental
- Help with end of life decisions
- Give you space when needed
Being Mindful Of His Words
When it comes to consoling, men tend to say the wrong things. Most aren’t good with their words, so you’ll need to let them know if you have any words that trigger your grief. During this period, your sensitivities may be at their peak due to stress and anxiety.
Regardless of when the death of a loved one happened, there are certain phrases that your husband should avoid saying. If these sentences don’t sit well with you, do pre-empt him in advance:
- Everything happens for a reason.
- It was their time to leave this world.
- They’re in a much better place right now.
- God called his angel home.
- Be strong for the kids.
- Time will heal all wounds.
- Maybe a distraction will help ease the pain.
- I know how you feel.
Bring Home Flowers
If flowers are your thing, just like every girl I know, get your husband to bring home fresh flowers or indoor plants. Flowers not only help to add beauty to your home but the scent from the flowers also helps to lift your mood. It also makes it less obvious when others stop sending flowers and condolences.
Being a Shoulder to Lean On
The hardest thing for a spouse to do in such circumstances is to offer unconditional love and support. If you need your husband to be the shoulder that you can lean on – tell him!
After you took your marriage vows, you promised one another to love and support each other through the good times and the bad times. This is one of those times where things may be at rock bottom.
If you want your husband to be there physically, you’ll need to be able to articulate it.
Additionally, if you’re someone who tends to behave unpredictably or in ways out of character when you’re emotionally upset, you may want to pre-empt him as well. The last thing you want is to be sending mixed signals that can create resentment and confusion in a relationship.
Not Being Too Judgmental
During this period of bereavement, you may forgo all personal hygiene routines, leave the house in a mess and not do any household chores, etc. As you mourn, these things are no longer important to you.
As such, you may want to ask your husband to help by pick up the slack on the household chores, packing, yard work, etc. This can be a touchy situation, and your husband may resent you if you’re able to afford paying someone to do it instead of getting them to do it.
Nevertheless, you should sit down and have a chat with your husband to understand how he is willing to help.
Helping Out With End-of-Life Decisions
If you’re not in the right frame of mind to make any funeral decisions, meeting estate lawyers, CPAs and etc, get help from your husband. Let him know your current state of mind and ask for help.
Give You Space When Needed
Having a little breathing room between you and your husband during this period can help ease any tension between the both of you. If you need space, let him know when to take a step back from being a loving and supportive husband.
When your emotions run high, let him know that he shouldn’t be overly sensitive to everything that you say or do. The loss of a parent is unique to every person, and you may find yourself navigating uncharted territory. Assure him that all you need is time, patience and compassion.
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