Advice: Supporting Your Spouse When Their Parent is Dying

posted 7 months ago in Married Life
Post # 2
564 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2018

Haven’t had a parent pass, but one of my husbands’ grandfathers passed very suddenly and Darling Husband is pretty close with both sets of grandparents. Different circumstance since it was sudden, but I rushed to the hospital and just hugged him and stayed by his side.

So, biggest piece of advice – Don’t be afraid to cry and show emotions yourself, don’t hide it, no one will care who cries or who doesn’t. Secondly – I know this is generic, but just be there for your husband. Don’t push him to open up and try not to say things like “its okay to cry” or “hey its me, talk to me”. Let him process it in his own way. I said some of those things to Darling Husband and he did get slightly snippy with me in the moment just the standard “I’m fine! Just let me be”, so I just made sure I stayed by his side and was at his beckon call.

One thing I notice a lot with family deaths and serious health issues (I’ve unfortunately had like almost 10 in the past year.. at one point I had 3 deaths in 3 weeks, ugh) is that sometimes children are treated as a hassle.

Not sure if you have a lot of younger-aged children in the family, but you would be a lifesaver to your family members who do have kiddos if you stepped up and said “I can take Jimmy to the potty for you!” or “Hey, Sally, why don’t we go color and draw for a little bit?” and come prepared with kid activities to sit with them and show them attention too. I would almost guarantee the parents will love you for keeping them occupied or offering them snacks or whatnot.

Post # 4
459 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: March 2019

I would just ask them if you can help them in any way and offer the things you said here. So they can decide.

Remember that it is ok to say that you don’t have words or that you don’t know what to say other than that you feel sorry that they have to go through this. My beloved grandmum past away last week and I’m far away from home, so that has been really tough on me. So when sadness overwhelms me and I’m crying, my husband holds me or my hand and lets me cry. That’s actually just enough. And at times, when I’m calm again, I like to share thoughts or memories with him.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do or say to make things easier or better, but just BE there and show that you care, by asking a serious: how are you feeling today? And I don’t know how emotional your husband is, but let him know that you’re there to listen if he feels like it.

Post # 5
1211 posts
Bumble bee

I have been around a lot of death and grief and what strikes me the most are the regrets. The things that were never said to the person that died. I have seen too many people say ” I wish I had really told him how much he meant to me.” ” I wish I had apologised for the time I was foolish and hurt him by…..” ” I am so sorry I didn’t thank him for all he did for me and how helped shaped me into the person I am.” So, I would encourage your husband to ask all the needs to be asked and say all the important things that need to be said so that he has no regrets.

In my experience, most people who are dying just want to know that they made a difference, someone loved them and that they will be remembered.



Post # 6
7835 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2010

My mother in law is on hospice now. We found out she had a terminal illness at Christmas. I would go over and visit my mother in law and take a meal, but it didn’t seem like enough. So finally I asked “what can I do for you?” “What do you need done?”. And low and behold- she and my father in law had a list of things. I think phrasing it as a direct question is better than saying “let me know if there is anything I can do”. Some of the things she asked were to mop her kitchen floor, and buying her new pajamas because she lost so much weight and nothing fit. I’m sorry about your father in law. I hope you and your husband have some good time with him before he passes.

Post # 7
584 posts
Busy bee

I’m so sorry to hear but also glad I found your post. I am currently out of state visiting my bfs family for the MDW and also because his father was just diagnosed with prostate cancer (Gleason score 10) last week after a prostate surgery. He is recovering from that then they will have to see if it has spread or not. 

Thank you for all the suggestions as well. I think you just being there says it all. ❤️ And like another poster said, just ask. Sending prayers for you all. 

Post # 9
1391 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

Thank you so much for starting this thread. I am at a bit of a loss myself. My Father-In-Law just got diagnosed yesterday for prostate cancer and I was feeling so down about it and wondering how my poor husband is going to process this whole situation. So far he has just not wanted to think about it. He’s got a lot of work stress right now to top it off so I just want to be sure I can figure out how to support him the right way. I feel for you OP. The PPs have some good suggestions. I will definitely be re-reading some of these suggestions as we go through this whole process. Good luck to you OP during your visit. Just offering to be there is the best thing you can do right now. They will let you know if it’s not and no offense to be taken as people process events like these so differently. 

Post # 10
51 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: April 2018

AnnieAAA :  I’m so sorry you are going through this, it must be a terrible time. My father passed away last year and there are a few things which I found helpful (and a few things which weren’t!) but everyone is different. 

For me, I didn’t really want to eat and the thought of having someone cook a full on meal and then potentially have to sit down together to eat it wouldn’t have appealed.  I was feeling pretty antisocial and just wanted to spend some time with my thoughts to process what was happening (he had dementia and we knew he was slipping away when he got another infection and the palliative care team took over). However what my husband did do which was really helpful was to make sure there were plenty of bits to snack on in the cupboards/fridge so when I did need to eat something there was stuff there. Also he did say a couple of time that ‘you need to eat’ which, although he was 100% right and meant well just kind of annoyed me (irrational I know). I knew I did need to eat but I just had no joy in it and didn’t care at that point. Fortunately it was short lived!

I also agree that saying things like ‘it’s ok to cry/be upset/be angry…’ were not helpful for me. I kind of felt like I know all those things and I don’t need you to validate those feelings but again this was probably irrational and I was being super sensitive. 

The biggest comfort I found was just having my husband be there with me. We didn’t have to talk, be watching tv, doing anything but just being close meant a lot and knowing that I could just give him and hug meant a lot. I’m quite a tactile, huggy person though so this wouldn’t comfort some people!

The fact you’re even thinking about how you can help and support will mean a lot to them, just be mindful that they might not be able to express their gratitude and try not to take that to heart as their minds are probably full up with everything else going on. Good luck and my thoughts are with you x

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