Staying connected as a couple after suffering a significant loss can be a challenge. Even couples who once shared a healthy and loving relationship may find it difficult to thrive together after tragedy shakes their foundation to the core.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How Does Grief Affect a Relationship?
- How to Stop Taking Grief Out on Your Partner
- How to Help a Partner Who’s Taking Their Grief Out on You
Grief has the ability to affect all areas of your life. Your relationships are not immune to its effect, and your closest relationship may be one of the first to feel the impact of you or your partner’s pain and suffering.
The way you process your grief and how you handle your emotions will play a large part in how your relationship weathers the storm of grief and loss. Both you and your partner will need to be willing participants in making changes to help you survive life’s toughest challenges.
How Does Grief Affect a Relationship?
Grief affects your relationship in ways that may not become apparent until well after your partner has had time to process their loss. Weeks, sometimes, months or years may go by without either of you addressing changes in your relationship that were a direct result of not knowing how to handle grief.
Grief and marriage breakdown are commonplace, especially when you don’t know how to help a grieving spouse. The added stress and pressure of suffering on a relationship are likely to create cracks in your bond. Taking grief out on your partner is not unusual when you have lost someone, but it can be mitigated, if not entirely avoided.
How to Stop Taking Grief Out on Your Partner
Expect that you and your partner will react differently to grief. This is true even when you have both suffered through the same type of loss. It is always important to remember that no two people will grieve in the same way. Your relationships, maturity levels, past losses, and ability to cope with tragedy contribute to how grief will affect you.
Learning to process your grief in healthy ways to the relationship may take some effort on both parts. Here are a few ways to stop taking grief out on your partner:
1. Allow yourself to grieve
Setting aside your grief or compartmentalizing it and moving on as if nothing’s happened will set the stage for failure in your relationship. Your suffering may manifest later in ways that may be hurtful to both you and your partner. The grieving process can sometimes be long and unpredictable. Allow yourself adequate time to heal from your grief and to accept all of the ups and downs that are part of the overall experience.
Permit yourself to walk through your grief and all of the emotional shifts that come with it. By openly expressing how you feel, it allows your partner the opportunity to be a source of emotional and physical support for you instead of shutting them out.
2. Take breaks from your grief
Some people who are grieving find it challenging to break away from their suffering. They may feel that they’re being judged or that they’re dishonoring the life and memory of their loved one who’s died. It’s okay to step away from your grief and to take time out from it to regain some of your old life back.
Take your partner out on a date, see a movie, or go for a long walk in the park. Incorporating distractions and bringing laughter back into your life following loss is essential in maintaining a strong bond with your partner as you’re dealing with your sorrow.
3. Seek outside support
Seek support from people outside of your immediate circle so that you’ll gain a different perspective on your grief. Getting others’ input on how your reactions might affect your relationships at home will help you maintain or improve open and honest communication with your partner.
When others step in to help you through your grief, you’re relieving your partner from the stress and responsibility of being your sole source of comfort and support. You can turn to family, friends, support groups, spiritual leaders, therapists, and counselors as readily available support sources to help you while you’re grieving.
4. Make plans for special days
List on the calendar those days that you’ll find it especially hard to go through. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other significant days that mark special occasions may cause grief triggers for you. Mark these days on your calendar so that you’re prepared for them when they arrive. Don’t allow yourself to be caught off guard without a plan on how you’re going to get through them.
Consider letting your partner know that you may be emotionally unavailable on these days. You can also ask them to join you in commemorating your loved one’s memory in a way that’s special to both you and your partner.
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5. Share intimate moments
Shared intimacy between two people in a relationship is not only nurturing but healing. Physical touch, acts of love, and support given and received will enhance the bond between you and your partner. It’s crucial to maintain a closeness to others instead of shutting them out when you’re feeling especially vulnerable.
Talk things through with your partner if your relationship has already reached a level of separation where you may feel that your bond has already been broken.
6. Find an outlet
Finding an outlet to release your grief can include anything from going out for a walk on your own, exercising, or participating in any activity that helps you let go of pent up emotion. Physical exercise is one of the best releasors of stress that’s available to you at any time and free of charge.
Another way to let go of your pain is to write in a journal. You may also consider writing a letter to your loved ones, letting them know how you feel and how this loss has affected you. Make sure to include ways for them to help you move through your grief.
How to Help a Partner Who’s Taking Their Grief Out on You
Knowing how to help your partner through grief is an essential part of your relationship surviving past tragedy and loss. Different types of grief will affect your partner as they try coping with their losses.
Understanding how grief affects a person will help keep them from taking it out on you. There are ways of approaching a partner who’s grieving that’ll make them feel more secure in the relationship and less like they’re being attacked. The right approach will alleviate some of the stress and tension associated with grief that affects even the most solid relationships.
7. Give them room to grieve
A person who’s grieving will be going through a lot of internal and external emotional turmoil. They may be in the beginning stages of the grief process, where things are foreign and unpredictable. Your partner’s likely trying to make sense of their loss, feelings, and responses to their grief.
When you allow them the needed space to process their emotions, they’ll have a better opportunity to come to terms with their loss without the added pressure of having to explain themselves or their reactions.
8. Be emotionally present
Loving relationships are built on trust and bringing comfort, understanding, and connection to one another. Instead of trying to fix each other in times of loss, consider focusing your attention on being emotionally present for your partner.
Emotional attunement means more than just listening to their words and what they’re saying. It means using all of your senses to try and make sense of what they’re feeling, so you’ll better appreciate what they’re going through. This will allow you to respond in ways that’ll make them feel as if they’re not alone in their grief.
9. Offer support
Support your partner by offering ways in which you can help them work through their grief. Giving support can be as simple as picking up their part of the household chores for a few days or weeks. But it can also be something unexpected, like booking a grief healing retreat for them to connect with others who’ve experienced similar losses.
As your partner goes through the stages of grief, ask them about how they’re feeling and what they need from you during this time. Try and avoid minimizing their experience or giving advice and offering ways to help fix what they’re going through.
10. Don’t judge them
Everyone experiences their grief journey individually. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Your partner’s expressions of grief are uniquely theirs, and there’s nothing wrong with them doing whatever is necessary for them to get through their pain and suffering.
Try not to be judgmental over how long it’s taking them to process their grief, how they’re getting through it, or what their needs are during the first few months immediately following their loss. In time, things will sort themselves out.
11. Find a therapist
Consider grief counseling with a professional if you’re concerned about your relationship not surviving through this tragedy.
Online therapy or counseling is an excellent place to start rebuilding your relationship after a loss. Professional help can also help your partner if they’re faced with depression or other psychological effects related to their loss.
When Your Grief Affects Your Relationship
Grief almost always has an impact on your relationships. Sometimes it serves to bring you closer together with your partner to enhance your bond. Other times it drives a wedge so deep between you that you find it nearly impossible to get your relationship back to what it was before the loss.
Working through grief-related issues can be exhausting to any relationship, but can be overcome with patience, love, understanding, and support.