Everyone grieves differently. However, outside influences like our upbringing, age, social responsibilities, and gender can affect the way we grieve as well. A father figure can also fall into this category, and feel as though they may be unable to cry or express their emotion, wanting to be stoic and strong in front of others. Even though they may be devastated on the inside, they may not let others in on how their loss has affected them.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Can You Say to Help Your Father Through Grief?
- What Else Can You Do to Help Your Dad While He’s Grieving?
If you and your family have suffered the death of a loved one, you may see your father struggling with his grief while others are outwardly expressing their emotion. Below are some ways to help you break through this rigid outer shell so you can better support a father who’s grieving.
What Can You Say to Help Your Father Through Grief?
The deep emotions of pain and sorrow felt by a grieving father are incomparable to any other type of grief. A father who’s grieving may look like he’s okay on the outside, but may not be willing to share the same vulnerability regarding his own grief.
As a result, he’s a different man altogether and may need your support now more than ever. Here are a few things you can say to help him get through his grief.
1. “I know this is tough. Take as much time as you need.”
Acknowledging a father’s grief — or anyone’s grief — is an essential first step to helping them cope with their sorrow and pain.
They may feel overwhelmed with emotion that may be exacerbated by having held it in for some time. Some fathers are uncomfortable expressing emotion and will instead focus on busying themselves to get them through this challenging time.
2. “Dad, it’s okay for you to feel sad and cry.”
Give your father permission to grieve. Many men in western society think that men aren’t supposed to cry or show emotion. Some men are conditioned to believe that it’s a sign of weakness to allow others to see them in a vulnerable state. They may also think that the man is responsible for holding his family together amid tragedy.
Have an honest conversation with your father about how this way of thinking is no longer relevant and that it’s okay to grieve, and no one is going to think any less of him. Loss and tragedy affect us all, regardless of gender. The outward expression of pain and sorrow gives meaning to grief, and there’s no shame when a man allows his grief to overtake him.
3. “You don’t always have to be the strong one.”
Gently remind your father that he doesn’t always have to be the pillar of strength for everyone. It’s okay to feel vulnerable, hurt, and sorrowful after a loved one’s death. It’s not only healthy to express sorrow by getting rid of pent up emotions. It also speeds up the healing process. Anyone who holds in their grief expressions is likely to suffer from prolonged and complicated grief later on.
Here are some ways in which a man’s grief may affect them in the long-term:
- Development of chronic depression
- Strained relationships related to withdrawal and low self-esteem
- Development of physiological symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and backaches
- Chronic anxiety and agitation
- Substance abuse
4. “Let me take care of the house for the next few weeks.”
Sometimes you have to take the initiative and let those in mourning know precisely how and when you’re going to help them get through the most challenging days.
When someone’s grieving, they don’t always care about what happens to the daily household responsibilities. Their grief takes hold of them, and they’re sometimes unable to give that added attention to things like household and yard work. Schedule a time for you to come in and take care of the essentials for the next few weeks.
5. “Tell me what bills need paying this month.”
Financial responsibility also goes by the wayside at times when someone is trying to cope with a loss.
Help your father keep track of his household and personal expenses to avoid issues with late or missed payments. If they’re unable to work or generate an income due to their grief, offer to take over the expenses for a few weeks if you can afford it.
What Else Can You Do to Help Your Dad While He’s Grieving?
There are lots of things that you can do to help your dad while he’s trying to cope with his grief. Some of the most important things are that he maintains his health and nutrition, gets proper exercise, and has the opportunity to interact with others.
6. Accompany him to the graveside
Dealing with the death of an adult child is one of the most challenging things for any parent to go through. The loss of a child doesn’t get any easier to cope with when they die as an adult instead of during childhood.
Your father may need some extra support while he’s grieving the loss of his child. If you’re also dealing with the loss of a sibling, you can be each other’s support system for the weeks and months following their death. Graveside visits together can help you grow closer in your relationship as you both deal with your heartbreak and loss.
7. Ensure he has food to eat
Proper nourishment is essential in maintaining good health during bereavement. Skipping meals for a few days is easy to do when you feel sad over your loss.
One of the immediate symptoms of grief is the loss of appetite. Gently remind your dad that he must eat to maintain his strength and motivation to get through the days ahead. Consider preparing meals ahead of time to store in his fridge or freezer for later ease of reheating. An even better way of ensuring that he’s eating is for you to join him at mealtime at least once a day.
8. Arrange household help
Enlist the help of friends and family to drop in and help with housekeeping duties so that your dad has fresh linens and clean clothes to wear.
You may also want to ensure that the basic housekeeping is done, such as cleaning bathrooms, living areas, and the kitchen. If no one is available to drop in to help clean, consider hiring a temporary maid service to come in at least once a week.
9. Give him space to grieve
When grieving, a man needs space and time alone with his grief. There’s no need to oversee your father’s grief process or to ask him too many personal questions.
Too much attention may make him feel backed into a corner. Allow him the time and space to retreat to when he feels the need to let out some of his pain and suffering.
10. Introduce him to online support groups
The internet is an excellent way for your father to meet other men and women who are grieving. Joining online support groups may provide him with additional support while sharing his grief with others experiencing a similar loss. Online grief support groups are available for anyone who needs extra help getting through their grief.
There are many different types of groups for different kinds of losses. Help sort through some of them so that you can present your father with some options. Consider setting aside some time so that you can go through these narrowed down choices together. Show your father how to access these groups, join, and engage or interact with other members. You may also want to show him how to leave a particular group when he finds that it’s not for him.
11. Offer him therapy
Sometimes online support groups are not enough to get someone through their grief or may not be the right type of therapy they need. Follow up after a couple of weeks to see how online support groups are going for your dad. If you know that they’re not proving useful in helping your father deal with his grief, suggest connecting him with a grief counselor or therapist.
Counselors and therapists are also available online and will take virtual appointments that fit with his schedule. Consider purchasing an initial set of sessions for your dad as a gift so that he can try it out to see how he likes it. There is also free grief counseling available to anyone through various organizations.
Take the same measures of ensuring that he knows how to access and schedule his appointments. The more comfortable you make it for him, the more likely he is to make use of his online sessions.
A Father’s Grief
You can expect your relationship to suffer somewhat when your father is grieving. Men grieve differently than women and children. They process their feelings and emotions in a much different way as well. A suffering man may push you away, lash out in anger, and say things that may seem cruel and unjust.
Try not to take it personally and understand that a father’s grief may go beyond what you know suffering to be. These grief reactions are a normal part of a man’s despair. In time, your relationship will start to heal as his grief begins to lift.