My personal peeve was when people assured me my father was "in a better place." For someone who's not deeply religious, it's frankly kind of patronizing to imply that their father should be anywhere other than with the family he loves. I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not sure I agree with it. When in doubt, simply offering a hug and a willing ear can show that you're there for the person. You don't always have to say something comforting.
2. Sometimes we need to talk, even if we're just repeating ourselves.
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"If it's the beginning of mourning, they need to be left alone," says Temes. "If a few weeks or months have passed, then they need to talk about the relationship. It is important for them to talk, often repeating the same stories. The more they speak of the moment of death, the sooner it becomes a reality to them."
Temes suggests asking questions like these to open up the conversation: "How are you doing—is it difficult to sleep? Are you able to get back to work yet? Some people find it difficult to eat when they are mourning. Would you like to come to my home for dinner one night next week?"
3. Even if you didn't know the person who died, we need you there.
Whether your partner just lost someone they care about or anticipates losing them, they need your support. According to Bob, "if you're with someone whose parent is dying and they ask you to go with them and visit that person, don't say 'no' or 'let me think about it' or 'that's too much of a commitment.' You're there for your partner, not their relative. If you don't care about them enough to say yes, then you probably shouldn't be in a serious relationship."
My boyfriend felt a little out-of-place sitting with my immediate family at the funeral when he'd only met my dad twice. But my brother appreciated having him there so he could focus on comforting my mother, and I appreciated him making the effort to be there, too.
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4. Healing rituals can help.