My boyfriend’s Dad died what do I say to him?
This is a very common question that get asked a lot during grief support sessions, especially if you have never experience the loss of a loved one before.
This happened to me years ago, which led me down the rabbit hole to understand the sensitive nature of grief and how to help others cope with it.
One very important thing to remember is that everyone’s grieving process is different. If your boyfriend needs to withdraw and be alone by himself, you should support him and give him the space that he needs. Losing a parent is never easy. They are usually the structural pillars in our lives. The best you can do for boyfriend is to be readily available when he needs your emotional support. Sometimes all you need to do is just to share a listening ear. Other times, you just need to probe a little to help him pour his heart out.
What’s my story?
I met Charles at my friend’s wedding many years ago and we started dating soon after. We were just able to hit it off well and have been together ever since.
On January 31st 2021, his Dad was diagnosed with cancer. At the beginning, Charles was in denial – refusing to accompany his Dad for the regular follow up appointments.
Reality only hit him after his Dad went for a major operation. But sadly, his Dad passed away two weeks after the operations.
His father was everything to him.
His Mom left the family when he was at a very young age, which made him very attached to his Dad.
He loved his Dad so much. Seeing him devastated at the funeral was the most brutal thing I have ever experienced in my life.
While he is okay now, he had a really hard time during his period of grief. He went from being angry at everyone (blaming the doctors for not being able to save his Dad, blaming himself for not taking good care of his Dad, etc.), to being extremely depressed, refusing to eat like as if he was on a hunger strike.
Few things I have learnt from this episode, is that:
- There are trigger topics that you should never bring up
- You should also be very sensitive and careful with your words
- You should let your loved one take as long as they need during their period of grief
Boyfriend’s Dad Died What Should You AVOID Saying
Understanding what NOT to say first will save you from a lot of trouble. I have heard of couples breaking up over this because someone said the wrong things.
During this period of grief, you should learn to be extremely sensitive with your words. You should never overlook grief and the loss of a father by changing the subject especially when your boyfriends wants to talk about it.
Never try to console your boyfriend by pointing out that he should be thankful, because his mother is still well and alive. A father’s love can never be replaced.
You should never try to pressurize your boyfriend into packing away the items belonging to his Dad. Different people respond to grief differently and he should be given ample time to reminisce or get over the past.
If your boyfriend decides to take a break from work during this period, make sure you don’t pressurize him to start work sooner. The grieving process is a long one and it requires a lot of energy.
Do not tell your boyfriend that you understand how it feels when you have never experience a loss of a family member before. Most likely, he’ll feel that you’re insincere about the things you say.
Never say things like “it could have been worse”, “everything happens for a reason” or “it’s God’s will”. These are very insensitive remarks which will hurt him even more.
You should always exercise some restraint in terms of giving advise about how he should grieve and “move on” with life.
Lastly, never tell him that “time heals all wounds” because it never will. The intensity of grief just get lesser, but he’ll never forget.
My Boyfriend’s Dad Died What Do I Say
Instead of making the common mistakes listed above, you can start by asking him the following:
- How is he feeling and if he is ready to talk about it?
- Ask if he needs any help? It could be help with the funeral preparation, or help with emotional support, etc.
- As much as possible, always try to be present and available. Eg, let him know that losing a father is the worst thing that can happen to a son and the grief is expected to be long term, remind him that you’re here and there are many who want to give him emotional support
I guess the key here is to find out how comfortable/ready is he to speak and more importantly is to let him know that you’re always available if he needs emotional support. Being present, even if you feel helpless, can sometimes be the best kind of help you can give. Different people grief differently, so remember to give him the space that he needs as well.
Additional Tip: Boyfriend’s Dad Died What Should I Do?
The grieving process for the loss of a loved one can be confusing and scary. Grieving can bring about unpredictable and power emotions, which are not easy to handle and express. If he needs to withdraw into his own tiny bubble, let him withdraw. If he needs someone to talk to, engage him actively and be there to listen.
During this period, it will be a tough one. Be gentle with yourself and your boyfriend’s feelings. Below are some ideas that can help prepare you mentally on what’s likely to come:
Tip 1: Accept That There Isn’t A Timeline For Grief
Grief has no expiration date, so you’ll have to accept that your boyfriend will be grieving for awhile.
You see, your boyfriend’s parents are his anchors in life. After his Dad’s death, it is possible for him to feel lost, confused, angry and even depressed. His interest for most things in life may disappear for a while. Typically, the two most common reaction would be either to isolate himself from everyone or to drowning himself fully in work as a form of coping with the loss.
Work can be a form healthy distraction, a way to stay grounded while preventing the mind from wandering into negative thoughts. You’re likely to lose his attention while he grieves. Avoid pressing your boyfriend for attention. Let him know you’ll be there for him when he is ready to rejoin the world.
Let him grieve his way, at his own pace.
Tip 2: Speak To Someone Who Have Experienced Such A Situation Before
While your boyfriend may not be ready enough to speak to you, you can consider speaking to other guys and ask them how they cope with the death if a parent.
Men grieve differently, so you may want to have a male perspective of what they expect their girlfriends to do. Ask for ideas and the kind of support men need.
Although grief is a personal experience, it is not completely different from other mens’ grieving process. Learn from the different experiences and responses that your friends may have, that will help ease your own discomfort and feelings towards the situation.
From what I have gathered, most men prefer to be left alone to grief rather than speaking about it. It is likely, due to their “manly instincts” that help them resist tearing in such situations. Most of the time, they tend to feel lost in the period of grief. They may need help planning for the funeral, take time off work, may not want to see you for a period of time, etc.
Tip 3: Accept That Boyfriend May Change After Dad’s Death
The truth about grief is that we will never completely get over our loved one’s death. It is likely going to take months or years to heal and feel “normal” again – especially after a parent’s death.
His perspective and priorities about life may change. I had a friend who gave up his highly sought after investment banking job after the death if his Mom. He felt that the hours he put in at his job doesn’t justify the family time he sacrifices. Life sometimes put you in positions to reconsider the decisions that you make.
If your boyfriend’s Dad just passed away recently, acknowledge that healing from grief takes a long time and tell him that he may never feel normal again. Let him know that you’re giving him all the space and time that he needs.
If your boyfriend cries (which is unlikely), dont panic, just give him a hug and let his tears flow. It will be healthier from him to cry than to keep his emotions hidden – swallowing his pain and tears alone in the dark. This will help him heal faster and give you an opportunity to facilitate his recovery.
Tip 4: Help Out With The Funeral Preparation
If your boyfriend is the eldest son in his family, more responsibilities will be resting on his shoulders when it comes to funeral preparation (as compared to his siblings). If this is the case, it might be a good idea to take some initiative to help with the funeral planning. Find out what needs to be done, but don’t attempt to do everything for your boyfriend, as he needs to feel like he is part of the planning process. Here are some ideas you can get information on:
- Writing a eulogy
- Ordering flowers
- Informing friends and family members
- Engaging a pastor
- Engaging a funeral home service
Apart from funeral planning, you could also help out with other chores around the house, such as: preparing his meals, walking his dogs, cleaning up his apartment, doing the laundry or dishes, etc.
If you’re in a long distance relationship, it maybe a good idea to visit your boyfriend for the week during week of his Dad’s funeral or memorial service.
My widowed friend once told me “One of the best way to comfort someone who just lost one of his parent is to stay quiet and be by his side after the funeral is over”. The period when he felt the loneliest was immediately after the memorial service, when all the planning and family visits ended.
Tip 5: Encouraging Your Boyfriend To Lean On Faith
If your boyfriend has a relationship with God, find ways to talk about having faith in God. Grief counsellor Rondi Lightmark once said that people do best with loss when they have a higher power to see them through the hard times.
Tip 6: Giving Him Space To Grief
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one before, you would know that sometimes, you just want to be left alone. But on the contrary, concerned friends and family members want to make you feel better. The truth is… you just want to be alone to endure the pain inside.
So if you’re intending to deliver food, soup or some comfort food to your boyfriend, it might be a good idea to just drop the food at his place and leave. You don’t have to worry too much about what to say, because he is likely not really listening closely. Let him grieve at his own pace and in his own way.
Tip 7: Calm Him With Scented Candles
Scented candles have been used for centuries to promote healing and transforming our mood. Our sense of smell is incredibly powerful and should not be underestimated. The smell of scented candles can stimulate part of your brain which helps to balance out our mood.
Here is a list of scent recommendations you can consider to help ease the anxiety and depression your boyfriend is experiencing:
- lavender: relaxes both mind, body and soul
- sage: lifts mood
- cinnamon: makes you feel revitalized
- lemon: improves mood and helps to clear the mind
- apple: helps with anxiety control and reduce stress
- frankincense: helps fight anxiety and gives great stress relief
- sandalwood: relaxes and calms the mind mind
- vanilla: stimulates the feelings of relaxation and joy
Read more: How To Heal A Grieving Heart? (6 Easy Steps)