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How to be supportive - Need advice

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My boyfriend has never dealt with the death of a very close family member. He learned today that his maternal grandmother is very ill and is likely to pass from liver cancer. She has been sick off and on for the majority of the last year. He has always been very close to her and as a child she had an active role in raising him as his mother was single for part of that time and then remarried. I have very little information about her condition or how long she may live but I'm aware that they do not expect to treat her condition. She is going home to enjoy the rest of her time here and pass in the privacy and comfort of her own surroundings.


I lost my own grandmother about 12 years ago but we were not as close as they clearly are. Although I did grieve for her, I'm humble enough to say this really isn't the same situation.


One other note I should point out is a quick comment about his relationship with his mother (this is her mother who is sick). She is an extremely emotional woman and tends to lean very heavily on my boyfriend for support. Whenever her marriage is rocky or something is wrong in her life, she places this in his lap to help her through. I have some serious concerns about her placing additional stress on him during this time because she is not likely to handle this well herself (understandable, but not enough to be leaning so heavily on her child IMO).


What are some ways/things I can do to be a supportive partner in all of this? He and his mother are going to hang out with the grandparents for the rest of today - I offered to come by and bring or cook them dinner at their house. I'm jsut really unsure as to how I might be able to assist his family in this time or what I should do to be a supportive girlfriend beyond the typical listening and talking with him when he wants me to.


Advice from those who were the ones actually going through the loss would be helpful. How would you have appreciated being treated?


Thanks much :sad:

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When I lost my Grandmother and my Father, to be honest there was really no comforting me. I just wanted to be left alone to grieve in my own way and just a simple conversation with anybody was too much trouble sometimes, because I knew they were going to ask how I was holding up, and I just didn't want to talk about it.


It really depends on your boyfriend and his personality, I think. If he's the type who likes to talk and it makes him feel better, then listen. If he doesn't want to talk, don't bring it up or force him. People ahve their own weird ways of dealing with things. I personally couldn't stand to talk about it, but I also couldn't stand to be home alone in a quiet house.


Just be thoughtful, patient and understanding. The dinner thing was thoughtful and nice. Keep doing things like that. help him with daily errands, maybe. Give him space, but make it clear you love him and will be there for him in any way he needs you. His number one priority right now is probably to spend as much time as possible with his grandparents, so the more he is able to do that, the better.


Don't take it personally if he's moody or seems a little off. Just continue to be very understanding that this is a hard time for him right now. Be careful that no fights occur between you right now, as this will just be added stress he doesn't need. Maybe get him a card or something, with a short but sweet message.


As for his mother, you can't really help that. If you have a good relationship with her, maybe let her know that you are there for her also if she needs to talk? That's if you're willing to be. May take some of the stress off him, but it may put it onto you..

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Only other thing I probably should have put out there is that we do live together and actually today is our two year anniversary. So I'm used to how he tends to dealw ith stress which is to bury it away. In this case he is being super emotional - something I'm NOT used to - so I simply told him that I am here for whatever he might need. I generally take care of him quite well so I expect it will just be a little *more* - things like being sure to cook his meals, give him time to himself for relaxing, etc.


As for his mom, I do realize there isn't much I can do per se, but I think she is making it worse on him by relying on him for support. CALL YOUR HUSBAND! Meh. At the risk of sounding horrible, I have no intention of being her emotional support. As much as I do care for her out of respect for him and where he came from, she isn't my favorite person due to these types of reactions. I'm doing a good job of keeping that to myself - he doesn't need it from me too!

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I think you have the right ideas. Making sure that he knows you're available if he needs someone around him. I don't know what kind of person he is, so he may be someone who will need to talk to you, or may just appreciate someone being there around, doing normal things. I'd also suggest cutting him some slack for a while. If he's dealing with this difficult situation and he's also carrying around his mother's emotional baggage, he's likely to be on edge. So, if you have arguments, try and let them go for a while. I'd also agree with your assessment that it isn't your place to offer emotional support to his mother - sympathy certainly, but nothing more. It sounds like you're doing the right things though. He's lucky to have a girlfriend like you!

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Thanks Lana.


Monday (when he found this out and I posted) he stayed out with the fam and didn't call me or anything. I did my own thing, came home and took care of our pooch and waited for him until 7 or so before I made dinner for myself. He came home, took one look at me and broke down. I let him have his moment, and then made him something to eat while he watched a little tv and got himself together.


When he was ready, he came to me and talked a bit. I simply told him that I was here, I loved him, and anything he needed was fine. If that was to talk, giving him space, taking care of the little things, I'd handle it. He said thank you and suggested we go out for a bike ride in our neighborhood together which was not a typical thing. We did that, came home, and he slept like a baby.


I know the time between now and whenever she is gone is going to be rough on his family, so I'm trying to do whatever they need.


I DO care about his mother very much, and I gave her a quick call before work the following day to tell her I loved her and offer to run errands or help her out if she needed anything. I think giving that type of support when it comes to his other family is the right boundary but also helpful, don't you?

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