A reader asked for tips on how to help his girlfriend cope with her mother’s death. There isn’t one right thing to say or do after a mom dies, but there are many little ways to show your love and support.
I wrote Heartwarming Sympathy Gifts for Someone Whose Mom Died a couple years ago, but we know a gift doesn’t ease the grief of a mother’s death. So, I asked my She Blossoms Facebook Group what to do after a woman loses her mom. This article is a summary of those tips, plus my own experience grieving the death of my grandmother.
The most important thing to remember is that you can’t take away her pain or make her feel better. The grieving process is a difficult journey, and some women want to walk alone. Other women are comforted by support groups for grieving daughters or even more intensive individual grief therapy. When you’re wondering what to do after your wife or girlfriend loses her mother, take her personality and worldview into account.
I received a wide variety of tips and ideas when I asked my She Blossoms Facebook Group for coping tips after a mother’s death. Many members have already lost their moms, while others are dealing with different types of death. You’ll find good ideas in their suggestions, especially since they represent a range of cultures, ages, and lifestyles.
Helping Her Cope When Her Mother Dies
When my grandma died, all I wanted to do was sleep. I didn’t want to talk—I had no energy for anything! Grieving takes a surprising amount of energy. When I did participate in activities with others, I found myself doing a lot of watching and thinking. I didn’t actually interact.
If you live with a woman who recently lost her mother, take care of the practical household chores. Take over the cooking, cleaning and childcare duties. Encourage your wife or girlfriend to take time to write, paint, walk or talk on the phone. Give her time and space to grieve her way. This is one of best tips for what to do after her mom’s death: give her freedom to do what she needs to do.
“Just be there” was the one bit of advice that kept coming up in my Facebook Group. Be there to listen, talk, and hold her hand. She lost her mother, and she’ll never be the same.
Make sure she knows you’re listening
“You will need a lot of patience,” says LJ. “Be prepared to listen to her even if she keeps sharing the same memories or talking about the same stuff. She’ll she’ll need to know you’re listening.
Follow her lead. We all handle grief differently and we need to grieve our mother’s death in our own way.”
Offer practical help without being asked
This is one of the most thoughtful, helpful things to do after your girlfriend or wife’s mom dies:
“Take a look around and see if there are things you could do just to keep things ticking over,” says LJ. “Laundry, bits of food shopping, etc. It’s awful when you’re desperately upset and then you feel guilty when you see things piling up. You feel unable to deal with anything. If she wants some time alone, let her have it. Sometimes she might need time to think, and just process her mother’s death.
A lot of the time, it’s the little things that matter.
Take her away
“She might appreciate a weekend get-away for a change of scenery,” says EN. “Maybe even just a day trip or car ride to the countryside.”
Remember that she may not have a lot of energy, so give her the gift of organizing the weekend getaway. Don’t ask her to make decisions about where to go, what to eat, or even what to pack. Try to take care of as many of the details as possible. After her mother’s death she may not know what to snack on, much less where to go for the weekend.
Understand that her mom’s death is awfully painful
“Losing our parents is no fun,” says MF. “It’s been almost 15 years since my mom died and I miss her terribly. Losing our mothers, for girls, is one of the hardest things we deal in life. We do get through it, but never over it. My advice is therapy or a grief share group. If you don’t deal with grief, it gets worse.”
Consider offering your girlfriend or wife different outlets for working through grief. I’ve heard of grief cruises, weekend grief retreats, and even walking trips for daughters without mothers. If your girlfriend or wife is active, she may find it helpful to walk through the grieving process with other women.
Allow her to never “get over” her mom’s death
“Grief is an emotional wound that never goes away,” I wrote in Helping Your Sister Through Grief After Her Husband Dies. “It lightens and the pain fades, but the loss remains. Your sister’s husband’s death was a painful and traumatic shock, and she will live with it forever. Don’t expect her to “get over” the grief, and don’t assess (or judge) her grieving process. Allow her to grieve at her own pace, in her own way.”
Let her go at her own pace. A mother’s death isn’t something a woman ever really heals from. Allow her grieving and healing process to be an ongoing part of her — and your life.
If none of these tips for helping your girlfriend or wife cope with her mother’s death, read How to Comfort and Console Your Grieving Boyfriend. Sometimes a whole different approach is needed, especially since there isn’t one “right” thing to do after a mom dies.
Your thoughts – big and little – on what to do after her mom’s death are welcome below. I also welcome your ideas for consoling and comforting a woman after she loses her mother.