Well its one of those topics isn’t it? Like Money or God. Or Sex. We don’t like to talk about it because its loaded.
But in long term relationship, sooner or later, you have to talk about loaded topics. Actually many couples manage to avoid the talking, but they can’t avoid the experience.
Sooner or later someone close to you or your partner is going to die. I believe that grief is a private matter – possibly the most private of all emotions. Because of that, people handle grief in very individual ways.
This is where the trouble starts. Some people want to be left alone with their feelings. Others want to talk and cry and be held. I call this a ‘sharing threshold’. How much do you want to share and how much do you want to mourn privately?
In the depth of grief its hard to articulate how you want to be supported. Your partner is left guessing, says the wrong thing and it lands as crushingly insensitive and uncaring. Its one of those pivotal moments in relationship that can cause long lasting damage – not through anyone’s fault, but because emotions are heightened.
Let your partner know what your sharing threshold is, and to find out what theirs is.
If you can talk about this before the situation arises, so much the better. Its uncomfortable to bring up the subject of death but its worth it.
Ask the question, ‘How would you want me to support you at a time of grief?’
Now, because death is taboo, a lot of people won’t have an answer, simply because they haven’t thought about it. That doesn’t matter. Asking the question will get both of you thinking about it.
You may not have an answer till someone passes away and are in the throes of grief. But if you start the conversation now it will be easier to revisit when its a real experience.