Be patient. Supporting your partner through deep loss can be very confusing. And although grief affects everyone differently, the emotional landscape that lies ahead is likely to be tumultuous. You'll be faced with blank denial, searing rage and everything in between. Be the person who doesn't expect them to be strong. Tell them it's okay.
Cultivate resilience. It's very hard – in the midst of your partner's depression and pain – to feel that it's not just a little bit about you. It isn't. Be kind to yourself – get all the help you need - and don't feel guilty for wishing that things were different. Helping a partner through grief is not easy. Just keep going.
Accept change. When my husband lost his brother, Euan, his sense of self was dismantled. It was as though there was a huge crack in the foundations of his being. And it was painful to watch. But I've now learned that there are both endings and beginnings in death. Through learning to live without his brother, my husband has forged a new understanding of who he is. And the fracture in his being – like in the ancient Japanese art of Kinsugori – has been filled with a beautiful seam of gold.
Grief can be complex and can cause untold conflicts. Although everyone in my husband's family was left with a Euan shaped hole after his death, the outline - the size and jagged edges - of each individual's loss was unique. Remind your partner that their broken heart is still connected to all those left behind. Tell them the story of love that still surrounds them. Gently.
Stay focussed on the light. Because grief is like a dark tunnel with unchartered terrain. And when you support a partner through deep loss, you navigate this tunnel with them, while holding their hand. Know that, even though the darkness will be so overwhelming that you'll keep losing your way, the light will come. Just a flicker at first, then gradually a brightness that extends to everything.
About Yvonne Gavan
Yvonne Gavan supported her husband through grief after the death of his brother, at the age of 37. Yvonne is a British freelance journalist who's written for a wide range of UK publications. Since 2013 she's been living overseas - first in the Caribbean and now in Southern Africa - with her husband and three young children. She has an MA in creative writing and is currently working on her first collection of poetry.