When your boyfriend’s mom or dad dies, he may feel lost, helpless, and bewildered. Here are some of the best ways to help when your boyfriend’s parent dies unexpectedly or after a long illness.
These tips are inspired by two readers, both of whom are in long distance relationships.
“My boyfriend just lost his mother, we are in a long distance relationship,” says B. on How Do You Help a Grieving Friend? “Sending a sympathy care package seems like a great idea. I try to be available as much as possible, but my schedule is crazy. His siblings aren’t doing well at all, his sister is the hospital sick with cancer. I’m not sure if she knows her mother passed away. I don’t know his sisters well we meet yrs ago so I don’t want to be forward and try to reach out to them.”
A Thinking Of You – Sympathy Gift Basket will show your boyfriend you care for and love him, and give him physical nourishment (which is often neglected in times of mourning).
If you don’t know much about the grieving process, read On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. It’s one of the most popular books on Amazon about mourning, and it’ll help you understand death.
Here are a few ways to help your boyfriend after the loss of his mom or dad…
How to Help Your Boyfriend When His Parent Dies
“My boyfriend lost his dad couple of days ago and he is not able to cope with the situation yet,” says F. “He is the eldest in his family so he is finding it quite hard to overcome the whole situation. I’m very worried about him. I don’t live anywhere near him, so it is very difficult for me to visit him. I offer every kind of help I can, but still no progress. I can’t bear his pain. He cries all the time. He is finding it difficult to make a living and to study at the same time. He is only 21. How can I help him?”
These tips apply to both girlfriends – and all girlfriends whose boyfriends lost their parents.
Give your boyfriend time to mourn and grieve his loss
It takes months and sometimes years to heal after a parent’s death. If your boyfriend’s dad died recently, give him time and space to grieve. It takes a long time to go through the stages of mourning – and often, the grief we feel when a parent dies never really ends. It just dulls and fades a bit.
Let your boyfriend cry. It’s normal and very healthy for a man to cry when he loses his parents! It shows he’s in touch with his grief. Crying and grieving openly will help him heal much faster than if he was brave, stoic, and had a stiff upper lip.
If your boyfriend seems abnormally sad or depressed, read When Your Boyfriend is Depressed – 6 Things You Should Do.
Help your boyfriend in practical ways – especially after the funeral or memorial service
If your boyfriend is the eldest sibling, he might not know what to do when someone dies. He may need practical help with planning the funeral, preparing a eulogy, ordering flowers, telling family members, etc.
Other practical ways to help include bringing him homecooked meals, walking his dog, cleaning his apartment, buying groceries, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, etc. If you’re in a long distant relationship, consider visiting him for a week to help him cope.
A widow once told me that the her worst, saddest, and most lonely time came after the rush of the funeral and memorial service was over. Before that, she was busy with all the funeral preparations, sympathy cards, family visits, etc. But it was after all the dust settled that she really needed her friends and family members.
One of the best ways to help when your boyfriend’s parent dies is to be there after the funeral is over. Send him a letter a month or two after the memorial. Show him you want to help him remember his parents.
Find a balance between supporting and giving him space to grieve his parent’s death
“I lost my father when I was a teenager,” says D. “I really did want to be left alone. People always want to make you feel better, and sometimes you just want to feel the pain. [Your boyfriend] might appreciate you bringing him over some food or soup and just delivering it and then going away.”
When my grandma died, I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t want to talk or be with anyone. Your boyfriend is grieving the death of his parent, and needs time and space to feel the pain and figure out what to do. Don’t crowd him, and don’t expect him to “make progress.”
One of the best ways a girlfriend can help her boyfriend when his parents die is to let him grief at his own pace, in his own way.
Encourage him to tap into his spiritual strength
Does your boyfriend believe in God or a higher power? Here’s what one grief expert says:
“People who do best with loss believe in a higher power to see them through in hard times,” writes bereavement counselor Rondi Lightmark in Coping With Loss – My Husband’s Mother Died. “A strong connection with the power of your ancestors also provides a sense of vision and ability to go forward. If your [boyfriend] does not have a faith, or if his faith is in deep question, he is also probably feeling pretty lost. The answer for this question is a deep inner search. Getting quiet. Asking for help, even if you don’t know whom to ask. Just asking inwardly for help, even if you feel worthless. And being open to having an answer come to you. The universe is all about give and take–we give love and thanks, we receive and are blessed. Being immobile is like being not alive. So we have to keep moving, even if we don’t know what direction to go in.”
Your boyfriend doesn’t know what direction to go in, now that his mom or dad is gone. It’s a confusing, bewildering, sorrowful time in his life. Give him time to heal, be patient, and pray that he finds a way to tap into his spiritual strength.
For more tips, read When Your Spouse Withdraws Because of Grief – 5 Ways to Stay Close. In that article, I describe what “complicated grief” is.
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.