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Coping with Loss/My Boyfriend Lost His Grandfather: How can I help?

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Question
Hello.  My boyfriend and I (both 18 years old) have been friends for years, but have been romantically involved for just about 5 months and we are incredibly close.  I just got a call that he lost his grandfather.  He has never lost someone close to him before.  I know what he's going through; I have dealt with the loss of all 4 of my grandparents, but I can't pretend to be able to offer anything more than someone that will listen.

What can I do to help him?  I know he's supposed to be leaving for college orientation in a day or so, and going on a beach vacation with me and my family next weekend.  Would getting away help or hurt, or does it depend on the person?  I know I should give him space if he wants it and just be there to support him but in all honesty, I feel lost too as to how to help.

Help?

Answer
Hi Rachel,
My sincere apologies for the delay in response as I was on the road for a few days and am just seeing your note now.  First, I'm so very sorry to learn of your boyfriend's grandfather's death.  And what a gentle heart you are to be seeking out ways to help your boyfriend as he has his own grief experience now.  I think one of the best things we can do for each other is to just simply show up.  Be willing to listen without offering cliche or platitudes, without trying to fix it or come up with ways to make it all better.  Your boyfriend will have whatever experience he has, and it will be his own.  Some of his experiences may echo what you felt with the deaths of your grandparents, some will not echo and be unique to him.  That's okay.  You don't have to know some special answer or way to help him.  You just show up and be present for him in the moment.  Ask him how he is doing.  Ask if there is anything special he'd like to do in honor of his grandfather and then just be there with him.  Just listen.  That alone is incredibly helpful.  Not just in the next week, but later in the year when the holidays roll around or a year from now when the anniversary of his death comes.

And it is okay that you feel lost, too.  Remember that just because we are adults, we are no so different from the way children experience things.  At every new stage of child development, a child will re-visit things that have happened to them to try and make new sense of the event given the new skills they have.  In the same way, we have experienced the deaths of our loved ones, but as someone else in our life experiences the deaths of their loved ones, there is sometimes a reflection on our own process.  We re-examine our own grief stuff.  We re-vision and re-consider how we felt, what we did, where we are now in relation to the people in our own lives who died, too.  

If you are interested in learning more about just being present with the feelings like not know, or being at a loss, etc... you might try picking up some of Pema Chodron's writings or watch some of her videos on YouTube.  She teaches a lot about just being present with feelings of chaos or grief -- about leaning into the presence of pain and sitting with heart break.  It sometimes gives us perspective that while the heart is broken, maybe, in some small ways, it is also broken OPEN...which can make us more emotionally available to our own experiences and our interactions with the people we love.  Anything by Chodron could be helpful, but in particular, there is this video where she talks about the practice of Tonglen or leaning in:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwqlurCvXuM

Hope this is a helpful start.
Be in touch any time.
Miracles to you,
k-  

Coping with Loss

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Kara L.C. Jones

Expertise

My specialty is using creativity to address grief, loss, and death issues. Creativity is not necessarily about being an artist, but rather about being willing to let go what we think we know and get a different perspective using creative tools such as writing, drawing, body mapping, painting, smashing, wrecking, mosaic, heART journal,and many other techniques. I can answer questions about how to have permission to grieve in your own way, how to become your own best advocate as you learn to live life again, how to approach a creative way of being even when you think you are not creative. Afterall, it takes a lot of creativity to find reasons to get out of bed the day after someone you love has died. I am glad to answer any questions about how to embrace that creative approach when we otherwise feel totally tapped out by the grief experience.

Experience

For 14 years, I've been studying grief and creativity specifically and have been part of bringing the emerging field of grief and creativity to the fore in our world. I worked for a decade with the MISS Foundation offering support to families around the world who are enduring the death of a child due to any cause from miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, accident, disease, suicide, whatever the case. I also co-founded The Creative Grief Studio with Cath Duncan from Remembering For Good as a brand new vision on the training, accountability, and development of the Grief Coaching and helping professionals fields. And probably most important, I've endured the death of three of my own sons and am always learning to live creatively with that reality. For more information, see: http://www.motherhenna.com/about.htm

Organizations
The Creative Grief Studio, Grief & Creativity groups on both LinkedIn and G+

Publications
See: http://www.motherhenna.com/seen.htm

Education/Credentials
Graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Three-year Mentorship with Fred Rogers and Hedda Sharapan of FCI producers of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Certified Reiki Master-Teacher, Certified Whole Systems and AI Coach (key model being The Hero's Journey)

Past/Present Clients
Confidentiality and a sense of ethics will not allow me to share private client information ever! If you are interested in testimonials from people who have worked with me and given full permission for me to share their experiences, please see: http://www.motherhenna.com/grief.htm

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