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I want to be strong for him at this time of terrible grief, but how?

Tagged as: Big Questions, Family, Health<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (23 June 2017) 5 Answers - (Newest, 29 June 2017)
A female United Kingdom, anonymous writes:

My boyfriends brother died suddenly last week and it has hit the whole family hard. I am trying so hard to be strong for my boyfriend but every time I'm on my own I beak down in tears myself because I feel so sorry for him. He hasn't spoke much since it happened and doesn't want to be hugged or anything so I feel a bit shut out but I understand that this is grief. I just keep crying when he's not around, I feel so heartbroken for him and hate him being in so much pain. How can I be strong for him I really don't want him to see me crying as I feel that I should be the strong one that he can lean on, not the other way round. We have children together so it's also quite difficult trying to put on a brave face in front of them too. I am 33 and he is 36. This is probably the first death that he has had to deal with before and I just want to be there for him and strong enough to help him through this bad time. How do I do this when I can't stop breaking down myself?

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A female reader, aunt honesty Ireland + , writes (29 June 2017):

aunt honesty agony auntIf you don't cry around him he will think you are made off stone. Yes it was his brother, but it is hard for you as well, you are grieving as well so be their for each other. You don't need to be the strong one, just as long as you are there by his side.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (25 June 2017):

For goodness sake please please cry with him ....he will wonder why you won't cry .... crying is not weak it shows true emotions. ..cuddle and cry together talk about the brother laugh and cry and give tight hugs please ..

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A male reader, no nonsense Aidan United Kingdom +, writes (24 June 2017):

Don’t feel bad about crying. You love this man and he’s hurting, and you’re hurting too. Sudden loss is a terrible thing.

If he can’t talk at the moment, don’t push him. There are much more subtle ways you can show him strength: entertain the kids. Keep their spirits up and try and do nice things with them. Just keep things going. That will confirm to him that you can be depended on at this terrible time, and when he’s ready he will open up. The first stage of grief is often denial. Talking about it makes it real and maybe he’s frightened of that.

I wish you all the very best.

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A female reader, Youcannotbeserious United Kingdom + , writes (24 June 2017):

Youcannotbeserious agony auntI had a conversation with a colleague yesterday. She and her partner had a child a while back who was born with severe problems and subsequently died soon after his first birthday. They split up after a while but are now getting back together. One of the things they have realized is that, after their son's death, they both tried to avoid going through the pain of grief. If one was having a down day, the other would try to cheer them up or distract them, and vice versa. They now realize that, instead of facing their grief and going through it, they avoided it. Also, they each had this feeling that the other one "didn't really care that much", even though, deep down, they knew this was not so and that both were in horrendous pain.

Everyone grieves differently. Some people need to externalize their grief, while others need to shut it inside and deal with it themselves. If you were close to your boyfriend's brother and knew him well, it is only natural you are shocked and grieving his untimely sudden death. Do not be afraid to admit you are grieving. It may help him open up. You can still support each other while grieving yourselves. Your children may be grieving too, if they knew their uncle. Don't forget they may need to discuss his death with you too at some point.

Sending hugs to you all. A sudden loss like this knocks most people for six for a while. Support each other but don't forget to look after your own needs as well.

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A female reader, chigirl Norway +, writes (24 June 2017):

chigirl agony auntYou are allowed to cry. Being there for someone and being strong does not mean that you can't cry or be sad yourself. It just means that if they want a hug, you are there. If they want to talk, you are there. If they don't want it, and they pull back and away from you, then support appears to not be what they want and they want to go through everything alone. Some people do that. I don't think it's good at all, because by doing so he is neglecting the fact that he also needs to be strong for you. You are also in pain, and it sounds like YOU could use a hug. But he is pulling away, leaving you alone.

What I mean to say is that just as you want to be strong for him, it looks like he also needs to be strong for you, and is failing. You are a team, it needs to go both ways. You are sad, he is sad, but while you want contact he pulls away. This makes things even more difficult to deal with, and you don't know what to do.

Well, if you truly are crying just because you feel bad for him, then stop it. He is a grown man and if he wants support he will come to you for it. But if you cry because YOU think it is sad that his brother has passed away, then that's perfectly normal. I mean it is a sad thing to happen, people usually do react to the death of others, and grief isn't a competition on who was closest to the deceased or not. You are allowed to grieve also. But grieve his brother then, don't grieve your boyfriends grief.

My advice is to just go about your day. Do as normal. Let him come to you if he needs to. But if he keeps pulling away, and you keep crying, then you need to tell him that his pulling away is hurting you, and that you are also grieving in this time.

I don't get why you focus on this probably being his "first death" or not. When you put it like that, it sounds like you have experiences several deaths. But obviously, having gone through that experience before hasn't hardened you, because you're grieving now too. So what does it matter if it's his first time experiencing it or not. Grief is still grief.

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