Social Question

browneyes's avatar

How do you help a significant other with loss?

Asked by browneyes (133 points ) May 27th, 2014

Alright, well, my name is Alison, and I am 24. I just recently got engaged to my fiancé, Christoph, who is 33. He is the sweetest man I have ever met, and he treats me so well. He is so charming, and he is such a gentleman. Well, he was very close to his father when he was younger, but he passed away when Christoph was only 15 years old. His father was a policeman, and I think that influenced Christoph a lot, because he is a bail enforcement agent now (basically a bounty hunter) and he takes great pride in what he does. Anyways, after his father passed, he became very close to his mother. He is an only child, so it was just him and his mom for a long time. Well, Sunday night, we went over her place to visit her, and found that she had killed herself. Christoph was completely distraught (understandably) and inconsolable. She never showed any sign of depression, and now Christoph says he feels like he’s responsible for her death because he never did anything to help her. He insists that this is his fault and that he was a bad son. Every Sunday morning, he would buy both his mother and I flowers and we would bring them over to her when she came back from church, and he spent loads of time with her so she wouldn’t get lonely. I have never seen such a good son.
Anyway, he was given some time off of work, since performing a job like his in such a state could be dangerous for him. He has spent a lot of time just laying on the couch staring off into space. I don’t know what to do for him. I suggested to him that we go for a walk or do something and he just told me he didn’t feel up to it. Again, understandable. I made him his favorite foods and spent a lot of time just sitting with him. Last night he refused to come to bed, and he fell asleep on the couch at around 3 am and he was up by 6 am. I’m just worried about him, and I want to help, but I don’t want to pester him. What can I do? It’s killing me seeing him like this… How can I help him through this?

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10 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Give him some time, but let him know you love him and you’re there for him. Don’t push him. The situation sucks, but when I lost my father I just wanted the world to go away and I didn’t care if I lived or died for a few days. Are his guns locked away?

anniereborn's avatar

It sounds like you are doing a great job already. Death is hard enough, but a suicide is devastating. Like @Adirondackwannabe said, give him time. Let him grieve however he needs (as long as he is safe).

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Definitely what @anniereborn said. Make sure he’s safe.

browneyes's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Oh I made sure that his guns are locked up and I have the key. I am letting him have his space but I am keeping a close eye and ear on him.

janbb's avatar

Don’t hover over him but be present. It’s a fine line to walk.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@browneyes Good, and let him know you need him lightly. It is a fine line. Good luck. You’re pretty sharp, he’s lucky to have you.

gailcalled's avatar

Do his employees offer any kind of counselling services?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Honestly? There’s really not much you can do, other than being around, like others have already suggested. When my best friend killed himself, I blamed myself; it’s a pretty typical reaction for survivors of suicide, if they were very close to the person. It’s pretty much five years later and I still harbor guilt that will probably never completely go away. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, trying to describe why that’s the case to someone who’s never lost someone to suicide.

This is going to be very hard for you, as well, to be honest, so I hope you’re a strong person. State in no unclear terms how much you love him, and that you’re there to listen and help, no matter what or when. If he wants space (which is highly likely, for a while), you give it. Don’t try to cheer him up, don’t try to force any kind of anything on him… everything should be on his terms.

And for potentially years down the road: Don’t ever tell a suicide survivor when they should be healed. It’s one of the biggest, worst mistakes that can be made when people are trying to help someone cope. It’s the same for grief in general, but is especially true of suicide survivors. Certain people told me that, and it almost ended personal relationships of mine. (There’s a lot on the matter, if you’d like to look it up).

Lastly… Have resources ready. And know that sometimes suicide can be like a domino effect, so be aware. I’m not saying it’s likely, but unfortunately it’s always a possibility. This might be a time in your life where you’ve never had to be willing to help someone so much from a distance. Even you might want to consider speaking with a counselor about your feelings because of this at some point, and yes, I’m completely serious. It is not, ever, for anyone, an easy thing to deal with.

I’m sending good thoughts to you and your husband. From the bottom of my heart, I hope that he manages, eventually, to heal.

filmfann's avatar

If he has old home movies, watch them with him. Don’t be afraid to tell nice stories of his mom. You are already doing great.

zenvelo's avatar

Everyone grieves in their own manner and time, so be patient and supportive. Hold him, the hug can be very helpful. Cry with him, don’t tell him directly but demonstrate that you are grieving too, and share that through presence.

And ask what you can do to help prepare a memorial or a service or a funeral or whatever his family tradition calls for and that he wants to see. Services are not for the dead, they are for the mourning to say good bye.

And every once in a while, remember to tell him he is a good son. He might get angry and say he wasn’t , but let him express it so he can get it out to deal with it.

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