Death is a hard topic to discuss. Besides the obvious, it's difficult to grasp that someone once in your world is gone. It's even harder if you truly loved that someone. Sons, daughters, spouses, none of them would comfortably accept the person they cared about is no longer there. What about those uncommon relationships? How would you handle that?
Reddit user, u/[usernamedeleted], needed advice about how to talk to someone about a death when they asked:
Daughter [F20] died. What can I [M43] do for her boyfriend [M20]?
My daughter died three weeks ago. My wife and I are obviously upset but we're coping. I'm posting this because I'm a little worried about her boyfriend. I've been back to her grave three times and he's been there every time. Just sitting there. The first two times I left, because I didn't want to bother him, but yesterday I went over and talked to him. We went to a bar and talked some more.
I'm not going to pretend to know the guy, I had only talked to him 5 or 6 times prior to this. But he seems like the type of guy who keeps to himself, with not too many friends. He's also a bit of a nerd. He reminds me of myself actually, which is part of the reason I feel the need to help in some way. When we were at the bar he said a few somewhat alarming things , but these two stuck out: "she was all I had... I have nothing left" and "I'm lost without her."
I suggested therapy, told him that it's helped me in the past, but he had no interest in it. I offered to let him stay at my house, I can't imagine its very nice sleeping in the apartment that she died in, but he declined. I'm not really sure what to do. He said things that made me think he might commit suicide, but I don't know him that well so I can't be sure. He just seemed so gloomy. Advice is appreciated.
tl;dr:Daughter [F20] died. What can I [M43] do for her boyfriend [M20]?
Get To Know Him, FirstGiphy
I'm so, so sorry for your loss. This must be a very trying time for you and your wife.
As I am sure you and your wife have noticed, it is a lot easier to overcome grief when you have someone to share with, but this young man has lost the partner who he would normally have shared his grief with. It is very noble of you to want to try to guide him through his grief. But considering you don't know him well, I doubt there is much you can personally do for him except continue to be pleasant with him when you happen to see him, and try to keep in touch and talk to him if he is willing. If you know how to contact his parents, or if you know any of your daughter's close friends who might also be close with him, the best thing you can do is to inform them of the sentiments he expressed to you and that you are worried about his mental health and ask them to keep an eye on him and check in with him to make sure he is safe.
Just Include Him
My gf died when she was 21 and I was 26. What helped me the most was the family continuing to include me in their life. They made me feel like part of their family. They'd have me over for dinner on random nights, and I'd even spend thanksgiving with them and go to their lake house a couple times. I think it helped them as much as it helped me.
But I really didn't know how to grieve and would spend all day thinking like "what do I do now?"...Not a deep philosophical question but literally what do I do today/tonight? Passing time became incredibly difficult, so every time anyone included me in anything was greatly appreciated. I feared having to go home after work with nothing to do, knowing I'd be alone with my thoughts all night. She committed suicide, so it was impossible not to think about suicide. Not doing it myself, but just that it exists, and it's scary. Unlike other causes of death, you can't sweep that dark thought under the rug. It's right in your face. So just being around people I know was helpful. Being with her family was doubly helpful because I could kinda see how they were grieving and take cues and learn from them.
Put On Your Oxygen Mask First...Giphy
I'm so sorry, I can't begin to imagine.
As to what you can do... I guess just keep talking to him and giving him someone to talk to. Maybe invite him over for dinner or something, you all have a chance to talk about your daughter/his girlfriend and at least you know he's eating one decent meal that day. It's tough, you've got your own grief and your wife's grief and now you're taking on helping with someone else's as well... that's true grace.
By the way, remember the rule of the oxygen masks and if he is going down a bad way and it's exacerbating your grief then call his family or a mental health team in.
Go Through It TogetherGiphy
Find a local grief support group and go to the next meeting and bring him. Tell him you're going to try it just once, but want him to come along as moral support for you.
Find That Common GroundGiphy
First of all, I am sorry for your loss.
Second of all, you sound like a phenomenal human being for caring about your daughter's boyfriend. He sounds like he needs professional help as well as someone just physically being there. If you and your wife are comfortable with the idea, maybe have a weekly coffee/dinner/whatever with him and just talk about how you are all doing and/or your favorite memories of your daughter. I think one of the worst part about losing someone you love is that it makes you feel incredibly isolated and alone- maybe he needs people around him that know just how great of a person your daughter was so they can understand how profound his grief is.
Since you said he's like you, maybe connect on stuff you guys have in common so your relationship isn't revolving around death. If you're into Star Wars, maybe talk about the new Star Wars movie? If you're into D&D and are going to have a game night with people, maybe invite him?
That being said, I think I would still every now and again bring up therapy. Perhaps not in "you should do it" sort of way, but you heard about a therapy group and you might try it out. That way, he is always reminded of the option.
You're a good dad, OP. Again, I'm sorry for your loss.
Hugs Are A Good Place To StartGiphy
When I was 19, a girl I was very close to died in a car accident. Her brother is still one of my two best friends (I'm almost 40 now). She and I had dated all through high school (for me).
I remember at the visitation walking to see her in the casket and her dad was there, greeting everyone as usual. When I got to him I broke down. It's hard for me to write about now. I loved her so much and still do.
Anyway he basically held me up. I think he was the first adult to give me a hug during that time. My father was absent. My step-father was a drug addict. He showed me what a real man is.
I have two daughters now (4 and 5) and a wife I love dearly. I'll always remember how even though his only daughter was in that casket, for that moment he put that aside and loved me as much as anyone ever had. That memory has served me all through my life of what it means to be a man and servant of God.
Peace and Grace to you.
Keep The Memory AliveGiphy
Grief counciling would be the best bet.
Short of that then remembering the times you shared with your daughter (keeping her memory alive) I find is a helpful part of dealing with it, though everybody is different. It hurts when it is so raw but as time goes on the pain dims and those memories make you smile.
I personally believe the best thing you can do for anybody who leaves your life is to find happiness and remember them.
A Couple Of Tips
I'm pretty sure this is too late to get any attention, but all I care about is that you read this, OP. My wife's boyfriend before we met and married was killed in an unexpected altercation. Incidentally, I met her because her boyfriend was the brother of my best friend from high school. I met her about 5 months after he passed, and was able to see the good and the bad with how his family treated her. In addition I have history working as a hospital chaplain and have been with people during the grieving process and I hope I can give some insight.
- Take care of yourself and get your own therapy. My wife worried (and still mentions whenever the topic comes up) about their health a great deal as they really never coped properly. It is like the airplane oxygen masks - take care of yourself first or you will be in no real position to help others. I also believe that spiritual guidance is a very important part of processing tragedy, although some will inevitably disagree. Also, most counselors will tell you that the loss of a child is one of the most emotionally significant loss that can happen. I am touched by your care for your daughter's boyfriend, and please let that wholesome desire to give you energy to help him, but don't let that be a distraction for your own healing.
- Let him cope on his own terms. Offer advice and encouragement, but remember that everyone copes differently. Mistakes will be made, but it is a process. Your encouragement of therapy is a very good idea.
- Don't guilt him to stay near you. This is a big one, and it isn't always intentional. "Misery loves company" is very true. People commiserate over tragedy, and that is very acceptable for a time, but there comes a point where there needs to be a break. Right now, things are still fresh, so I personally believe that your mutual company is very acceptable. As time goes on though, if you see that he sticks around a little too much, it is best in the long run to find yourself occupied if he wants to visit. Subtle encouragement for him to branch out to help move through the pain is crucial - if that becomes an issue...
Maybe Just Give Yourself Some Credit?Giphy
I dont have any advice, but I just wanted to say that: your daughter died and you're worried about how her boyfriend is coping? You're a great person. The fact that this is even on your radar at this moment is a masterpiece of understanding and empathy.