What is it like to have/witness the decline of/lose a dearly loved grandparent?
April 10, 2012 10:31 PM   Subscribe

What is it like to have/witness the decline of/lose a dearly loved grandparent?

My boyfriend's grandma has started to decline both mentally and physically, and as my grandparents all passed away when I was young, I feel I lack the ability to really empathise with what he is going through.

Please tell me your stories so I can begin to understand what it's like to have a grandparent who you love dearly, and what it's like to lose them.

And please help me out with some suggestions of what I can say to make him feel better.

Thanks in advance.
posted by peppermintfreddo to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's nothing magical you can say to make him feel better. Just be there, don't pressure him (but mention one time that you'll gladly listen if he wants to talk, not over and over) and let him talk about it if he wants to. At strange times, he probably will. Or he won't. Either is acceptable.

My grandmother declined into dementia over a period of 5+ years. She moved from living on her own to living with my mom and dad to living with another aunt and then finally, in a nursing home. The last time I saw her, a little less than a year before she died, I had a good conversation with her but at that point, she would say "pop" if she couldn't remember a word and her sentences had about a 1:1 pop to real word ratio. I told her I loved her and we talked about the history of her life that I'd written when I was growing up, and how she had met my grandfather.

When she was near death, my mom asked me if I wanted to come up and see her. I didn't. The person that I loved wasn't there anymore and I didn't want to remember that. I don't regret that decision, but it was important that my mom and girlfriend told me it was an okay decision to make.

I remember this was when I realized that I might have to go through this with my own parents someday. That hurt a lot in both sharp pain and dull foreboding aches. It varied.

I really meant that he might want to talk about this at strange times. That's how grief works. Just be there when it happens or leave him alone if that's what he wants. Don't be overly solicitous and fawning.

My grandma died almost exactly a year ago, on the same weekend my father developed what's turned into a serious decline in his living quality, and while I haven't felt the emotions of her passing in at least half a year, I do now in writing this just like when she died. So. He might also at random times in the future.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:54 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

It really sucks. One of the hardest things was seeing my father go through loosing his mother, and to be be kind and strong for him as he dealt with her decline, while I just wanted to be comforted., and when I felt some selfish discomfort at seeing my proud father so wounded by this. But no matter our ages, we all are orphaned when a parent dies.

Things like listening to his stories about her, and asking for more stories about her, when it seemed like he wanted to talk were good, because I learned more about her even as my dad was comforted by recalled her.

My experience of losing my grandmother as an adult was filtered through my father's experience of losing his mother at the same time - one of the things that made it more OK was knowing that I was supporting him, and that me feel closer to both my dad and my grandmother.

Stuff that I could take over for him, like communicating to friends and more distant relatives, I did - this felt like a service to both my dad and grandmother.

Our family photos are a mess, so I pulled what shots I could find and organized them for him in a separate labeled album, for easier reminiscing now and in the future with the grandkids.

Mostly just listening was the most useful thing I recall doing, however. When my grandmother died so much seemed to go with her, that listening to his memories of her was like archiving that, memorializing that, honoring that.

I wish you and your boyfriend and his family all the best in this difficult time.
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 11:02 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heres something I commented
posted by roboton666 at 11:18 PM on April 10, 2012

The worst thing is the devastating effect on your mother or father as they deal with the decline of their parent. Loss is always hard, but a decline is utterly heartbreaking and drawn out, and the responsibility of care -- arranging doctor's appointments, setting up nursing homes, and visiting regularly even when doing so leaves you sobbing in the parking lot -- will likely fall on the child, your boyfriend's parent. If you are unlucky it will involve bickering among the aunts and uncles about what to do. It is a profoundly shitty thing to go through, all around.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:57 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

My dad's mom passed several years ago after a relatively short but traumatic illness; my mom's mom late last year, 7 years or so after an Alzheimer's diagnosis.

On both sides, I was one of the earlier grandchildren, and my grandmothers were among the most important presences in my life. They each shaped, in different ways, pretty much everything I believe and value, and very few days go by that I don't think of them. I've talked more than once to younger cousins and siblings of mine for whom they were more distant figures, for reasons of geography or health, who regret not having known them better.

A close relationship with a grandparent is something to be treasured. Your boyfriend is lucky to have known his grandma well. What goes along with that is that it's probably going to be really hard to face the end stages of her life.

It can be really hard not to let cognitive decline or severe illness overshadow your memories of someone, especially for people who are caretakers.

Everyone handles this differently, and I will try not to generalize, but for me, all the best decisions I've made in these situations have involved being present as much as I could, and listening as much as possible. I have quite a few regrets in life, but getting in the car and driving to a hospital or nursing home to be with family are not among them.

As to what you can say, like OnTheLastCastle says above, there really isn't much. Be there and listen. Let him talk when he needs to even if the timing is all weird, or not talk at all for a while. Hold him if he needs to break down crying about it, but don't make a big deal about it. Dudes in our culture have often got all kinds of weird baggage about whether it's acceptable to grieve openly, so I guess be aware that that might be there.
posted by brennen at 12:02 AM on April 11, 2012

My grandfather is going through this now. His dementia is getting daily worse. We discovered the day before his 82nd birthday that he has bowel cancer, which he's having surgery for, but no chemo. It's hard watching someone you remember being so strong and vital becoming increasingly frail.
In terms of helping your boyfriend, all you can do is be empathetic. Listen to him and be interested. Ask questions, but back off if he seems to not want to talk about it. Listen for his cues: is he talking about it? Does he change the subject? There really are no rights or wrongs. But by making sure you are there for him, whatever form that takes, is the most important thing. Be willing to confront his pain and grief with him and don't try to avoid him because he's upset.
Having a slow decline gives time to process the loss before it happens, so the death will be hard but also closure.
posted by jonathanstrange at 12:55 AM on April 11, 2012

A comment of mine on this topic.

I'm sorry, but I don't think I could honestly re-do it again.
posted by mephron at 1:25 AM on April 11, 2012

My gran passed away after a very long mental decline. My mother moved in with her for almost a year to become her primary carer (at a point when I believe many people would have chosen to move an elderly person into care, rather than take that burden on themselves). She was pretty far gone at that point, but my mom wasn't comfortable with putting her into a home; incidentally, after things became too difficult for my mom and she was placed in a care home, my mom said she wished she had been able to do it sooner, because the level of care my gran received was incredible. But YMMV wildly when it comes to things like care homes.

I struggled with a lot of guilt and a lot of anger and resentment, on top of the grief associated with losing someone you love. I was angry at my gran for not staying healthy, angry with my mother for what I perceived at the time as abandoning the rest of the family to concentrate on my gran, guilty about those feelings, guilty that I couldn't bring myself to visit my gran, etc. Her verbal filter completely disappeared, and she said some hurtful things when I last saw her, so when she was in hospice care and they said she only had a day or so left, I decided I didn't want to remember her that way and didn't go to see her. My mom supported that decision, but I know that it made her sad (on top of the awfulness of losing her mom after such a prolonged decline). So, yeah, guilt about that, and then subsequent guilt at my feelings of relief, knowing that gran wouldn't be suffering after death.

After she died, it was more than a year before I was able to process my grief and the crazy emotions that surround loss (particularly because we didn't always have an amazing bond in life); I was studying abroad in Europe when all of this came to the fore, and it was really difficult, because just about anything would trigger it. I often had nightmares about losing her, seeing her die, etc. during this point. I struggled (and still struggle) with not only the loss of the person that I knew, but also the loss of the unknown -- never again being privy to stories about her past, about her relationship with my grandad, and never having her know about my future, about my marriage, my sister's marriage and first baby, all of our achievements.

Re: your second question: I'm not sure there's much you can say to make it better, because the only thing that would make it better is for the situation to not be occurring. When I was struggling most with my sense of loss, I just needed my friends and loved ones to listen and offer hugs. I didn't want to engage in activities to 'take my mind off it' or anything like that, because it was important that I be able to work through my emotions and honor her through a bit of grieving. Again, his MMV.
posted by catch as catch can at 2:03 AM on April 11, 2012

There were two experiences I've had that stuck with me. The first was when my dad's mom died. For the second time in my life, I found myself being dad to my dad. He was having a hard time and, as far as I can tell, needed someone to listen and sincerely to offer to shoulder his load (whether or not he accepted). It was a staggering shift for me.

The second was watching my mom decline. When she started going downhill, it wasn't clear that she was doing everything she should to treat herself and there was no way to argue with her. When it was clear that she was taking a long walk off a short pier, it was even harder because she was refusing things that resulting in a very rapid acceleration of her decline. I stayed with her across several days and saw that she was taking in maybe 800 calories per day and she was already skin and bones. All I could do is ask her if there was anything she would like to eat, because I was willing to get/make anything just to see her eating.

The worst part post mortem is that I, with decreasing frequency, see something special and think "I should share that with my m...oh, right."
posted by plinth at 3:27 AM on April 11, 2012

For me, the first part of my grandmother's decline was the hardest because it was a lot to get used to.

At some point I came to accept that she was gone, that there was a barely living entity that used to have my grandmother in it.

It was also probably relatively easy for me because while she was the dearest person in the world to me, my grandmother had an amazing life, was sharp 'til she was 90 so I realized that as lives go, she did really, really well.

As people have noted, things did remind me of her at various random times so there could be various random moments of sadness.
posted by ambient2 at 4:01 AM on April 11, 2012

When I was in college, I took a short story writing class. At the time, my grandfather was sick with what was thought to be both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. (It later turned out he had Lewy body dementia, which is related to both AD and PD, and mimics the symptoms of both disorders.) I wrote this story from my grandmother's perspective for the class, because it was a fiction class, and it was too hard to write directly about my own feelings, but of course what it really describes is my own experience of watching my grandfather decline. He died a little less than two years later, the day before I graduated from college. He was a great man.

There's a lot I'd change about this story, looking at it 6 years later, but I'm going to leave it unedited because it captures how I felt at the time.
Pull for the Shore

Wilbur sits by the front window. He is wearing his down parka that says ‘1972 Olympics’ on the front. Perched on his head is his oldest ski hat. He is leaning over stiffly, trying to tie his heavy winter boots through thick leather mittens. His skier’s body is frail and desiccated. He is getting ready to go home.

He’s sure he remembers his home; a haven in a hazy mind. It was so recently – maybe yesterday or last week - that he was a young man and he'd ski through the freezing Maine winter, warm and limber. He doesn't know how he got this tired old body, these shaky hands, and these eyes that fall closed. He remembers trips to the mountains with his friends, raising an eyebrow in a silent challenge and careening down the slope faster than anybody. Even now he can feel the jumps and moguls in his thin knees.

Barbara appears before his chair. He loves her very much; but he’s confused. She could be his mother, his wife, his sister, his child. She asks him why he's wearing those winter clothes, and points outside to the green trees and overgrown lawn. He says he wants to go skiing when he gets home. Barbara holds his shaking hand and asks him where he thinks he’s going. He tells her that he’s going home to Maine. Barbara sits down across from him in the second velvet chair. She’s crying, softly, but he doesn’t hear. Wilbur decides that if it's warm outside, he'll go sailing instead. He thinks of the salty breeze and the feel of the wet mainsheet running through his hand. He hears the sea birds.

He takes off his hat slowly, reaching up in the air and finding the tassel. He worries immediately that once he gets outside it will be too cold. Barbara leans down and unties his boots and slips them off his feet. She shakes her head slightly at his two layers of woolen socks, but she lets him keep his leather mittens.

Wilbur looks out the window at the sky. A small grey arrow shoots through the sky and behind it, the blue sky turns an puffy white. He marvels at the strange things the sky can do, condensing itself in to these fantastic structures. He hears a loud buzzing noise as the structure grows longer. He’s glad to be safe from that power, at his home in his velvet chair.

Back in the kitchen Barbara has made 3 pies. There’s apple, in to the crust of which she has carved a heart, mincemeat, full of raisins and spice, and pumpkin, for which she is whipping cream. Her children are all with her. The oldest stands at the sink with her hands in soapy water. The youngest is drying dishes. The other two are quiet, watching her add sugar and vanilla to the cream.
Barbara has seen this day coming. She’s disappointed that it came when he still sometimes knew her name, still could whisper ‘good enough’ in response to ‘how are you feeling today?’. She’s crushed that it had to come at all, that somehow her strength was just not enough for the two of them, and that he’ll be gone in a few hours, leaving the house so empty.

She adds more sugar to the cream. One of her daughters is covering the pies in tin foil and carefully packing them in to a canvas bag. Grandchildren drift in, see her tears, and exit uncomfortably. She tries to tell herself there was no other way; and she goes through the days in her head.

On Thursday she woke up from a nap and he wasn’t in his chair, nor on the couch. She tore through the house, thought he might have fallen down in the street, or walked in to somebody else’s home – and then she found him, asleep in the grass, under the maple in the front yard. When she woke him up he didn’t remember which house was his.

Then it was 2 days later that he came with her to the store, and exhaustion overwhelmed him in the baking aisle. His knees shaking, his face in shame, he sat down and she couldn’t help him up. To be stranded at this routine errand, calling for help down 20 feet of sugar and flour...

Just yesterday he’d forgotten her entirely. He was worried that the fire in the stove would go out, and despite her reassurances that there was no fire, and everything was electric these days, he insisted that his wife would be unhappy if it were too cold. She held his hand and told him gently that she was his wife, and that there was nothing to worry about. He looked sincere and lost, shivering under blankets in the July heat.

And there’s the constant struggle to keep his failing body alive. He can barely feed himself, his muscles are wasting away under the Olympic parka, and his blue eyes are lost in wrinkles. She barely sleeps at night, lying awake waiting for him, to help him sit up, and steady his arm as he shuffles to the bathroom or gets a drink of water.

So there he is, in his parka, out there by the window. It breaks his heart that he’ll never ski again, and hers that he will sit in an unfamiliar hall with some young nurse who will help him lift forkfuls of those pies to his mouth, who will say to him, sing-song, ‘Wilbur, you must be such a sweetheart, look at all these presents!’. He will stumble further in to his thicket, far from any clearing of consciousness, until he is unreachable except by desperate methods of sweets and music. She knows she will see him sitting by the piano in that big hall, with the parka on, inexplicably moved by a song he can’t remember.

Barbara finishes whipping the cream and rises out of her reverie. The kitchen is warm and full of good smells. Her children surround her, carrying the canvas bag with the pies, and together they walk in to the front room where Wilbur is sitting. The grandchildren come, too, once they muster the courage to see his sad eyes and her tears.

Barbara sits across from Wilbur again. She tells him she’ll help him with his tennis shoes if he’s ready to leave, but he’s so comfortable, he can’t think why he’d be leaving home. ‘Where are we going?’, he asks. She says they're going to a place where everybody is trying very hard to help him be comfortable and well. Wilbur is sorry to hear that somebody is sick, but he tells her that he is ‘good enough’. He’ll be ok in the velvet chair.

She asks him if he'd like to bring his book of crossword puzzles to do in the afternoon. He nods gently and he smiles a little. He rises from the chair, elbows and knees shaking under his feather weight. Somebody is helping him up from behind and 'thank you' rises mechanically to his lips from a lifetime of sincere gratitude. An arm is on his shoulder. A blue velvet pillow to match his chair is pressed in to his hand. He sees a child in front of him holding a plate of cookies. The girl says

‘Grampa, it's your favorite kind.’

Somebody begins playing his favorite song, 'Pull for the Shore,' on the piano, and a flute and many voices join in. He stands there, stooped, in front of his chair, and listens. Beside him his children and grandchildren are watching his eyes.

‘Light in the darkness, sailor, day is at hand!
See o’er the foaming billows fair haven’s land,
Drear was the voyage, sailor, now almost o’er,
Safe within the life boat, sailor, pull for the shore.

Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore!
Heed not the rolling waves, but bend to the oar;
Safe in the life boat, sailor, cling to self no more!
Leave the poor old stranded wreck, and pull for the shore.’1

The tune swells to the refrain and Wilbur’s lips once again begin to move. ‘Safe in the life boat, sailor, cling to self no more’, he whispers, as the others stand around him and sing. ‘Leave the poor old stranded wreck and pull for the shore’. He holds Barbara’s hand and she leads him out the door. The air rushes in as the storm door swings open, and it’s a sweet summer day. He steps along the walk, brick by brick. The others surround him as he eases in to the car seat, and a hand presses his seat belt in to place. He feels the engine of the car start and somebody rolls down his window and shuts the door. Everyone is still singing. The song fades away as the car backs in to the street, and Wilbur gets ready for the voyage, and thinks of how happy he will be, at home, when it is over.

1. Words and Music by Philip Bliss.
posted by Cygnet at 4:58 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's hard. We get through by not fighting the sadness. Just accept what is occurring. Find comfort in friends and family. Remember the good times. Perhaps write them down. But the pain will come from fighting it.

I have learned not to wish the situation as any different, just to be in the moment. I tell my grandfather his old stories; my only goal is to make him laugh. He doesn't connect with any new information. He's not going to be proud of me, he has no more advice to give. Now it's about his comfort and happiness.

That took a long time to discover, and now that I have, it's no longer sad. There is sadness present at my loss -- my loss of him -- but now we keep him comfortable and entertain him. It's a real education in being selfless.

Best way to support it? Listen to your partner's feelings without trying to make him feel better. Validate his sadness. It cannot be fixed, thus don't try to fix it. Don't say you're sorry, for that means something's wrong. Just, "I hear you. I am with you in this. And I love you."

Realise the sadness and the anger is not directed at you. Sometimes you may have to get out of the way. Be gentle with him when he needs it. Be firm with him when he needs it. As he must be selfless for the grandparents, the best you can do is be selfless for him. That is the kindest gift of support that can be offered.

When my mother went through it with stepfather, I tried to fix it. I tried to give her tools. To listen actively. In the end, the solution was just the gift of my presence. To sit with her. Not to do anything. Not even to talk at points, but just to be near.

That's it I guess. He has to accept it. To do that, he has to be selfless. To be selfless there, he needs a place for the self. Thus, if you can be selfless for him, it will help him be selfless.
posted by nickrussell at 5:14 AM on April 11, 2012

My grandmother has cancer and has been declining for months. Every time my phone rings and I see my parents' number I think, "Something happened to Grandma." It's also hard because I had a very idealized relationship with my grandparents. It was all of the sweetness of a parent-child relationship without the bickering about too-short skirts, grades, chores, and everyday stuff like that. Losing that last little bit of love and kindness, especially as an adult in the real world that is all too harsh, is hard.

I agree with the posters who said that it's hard to lose a beloved grandparent, but it's also hard to watch your parent cope with it. You have to comfort them, not the other way around. That's difficult.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:43 AM on April 11, 2012

My grandmother had MS and I never knew her to not be in a wheelchair. When things started to get (really) bad, she started to forget her granddaughters' names. She called the youngest sister by the name of the middle sister (I guess I, as the eldest, was more engrained in her brain and she never really screwed up my name). She would just not understand the passing of time anymore - she thought middle sister was 10 years old (she was about 18 when Grandma passed). She constantly wanted to be put to bed. If she WAS in bed, she would instead worry about the next meal, or whatever was going on at the home she was in.

There were a good few months where she was like her old self again. A new man who had entered the facility and was a real lady-killer had become interested in my Grandma, and they won some sort of "cutest couple" deal at a "dance" they had there. It was so awesome to see her happy and so smitten with this handsome man (her husband had passed about 7 years before she did). But quickly after that, the health problems came back and she was back to "normal."

It was brutal and it just got worse as it got closer to the end. She remembered less and less as time went on and started asking to go home and "Where's Bob?" (Grandpa). By the time it was over, it was a relief. I mean, I wished she could have stayed her old self forever, but she was so anxious all the time and just constantly frowning and confused at the end. We were glad that she wasn't in pain anymore.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:26 AM on April 11, 2012

My grandmother had about a year and a half of health decline. Because that's how I handle difficult emotional things, I treated going to see her as a quantified process "drive x hours, sit for x minutes, say x things" and would end up an anxious mess by the end of the visit anyway. I felt obligated to be strong for my mother and tried not to show much vulnerable emotion. That maybe wasn't the most healthy approach. What I wanted most, especially in the last months with my grandma, was someone who would hold me and show me they cared about me. I hadn't told any of my friends she was sick and my family was wrapped up in logistics and their own emotions about the situation.

I didn't talk about her death for a year. On a few levels, I didn't even process it. One evening it hit me, I cried about it for the first time, and while I still miss and love her, I understand that she's gone.
posted by thewestinggame at 6:31 AM on April 11, 2012

About a year and half ago my grandmother passed away from Alzheimers. I am not sure that I can tell you what it is like to watch someone disappear. I wasn't strong enough to visit as much as perhaps I should have in her final years. But I also console myself that it is OK as the woman I loved was not there any longer. Two things will stick with me. The first is the moment my grandmother recoiled in fear when I walked into the room. At that point if she even remembered me I was a small boy to her and not the large bearded man that just walked into her room. The second was a night of sitting with her her final week. My mother was leaning over the wasted husk of my grandmother in a dimly lit room and telling her it was "ok to go" as my grandmothers body clawed at the air ad raved incoherently. I could only think that she had already gone and her flesh just didn't know it yet. I think my mom knew it to and was saying it to convince herself.

So what is it like? It sucks. be supportive and non judgmental.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 6:52 AM on April 11, 2012

My grandmother fell and broke her hip (we learned later she probably had a stroke then, and had been having mini-strokes for a while beforehand) in October 2010. She was in her mid-80s and until then had lived on her own in her own home. Once she was in the hospital, she had another series of strokes and associated dementia and died in June 2011, without ever going home again (though she asked every time she saw you, sometimes multiple times, when you were taking her home. Oh god, that was so terrible). I live thousands of miles away but I saw her twice during that time: first in November 2010, at which point she was a bit addled, but much more like herself and then in December 2010, when she was completely out of it - she recognized me and recognized most of our family but was so lost in time and place. The second visit (well, series of them, I saw her nearly every day I was home for that week) was really really brutal because she was so scared and completely not like herself, except... and it's terrible maybe to admit it but since she thought she had been kidnapped she once punched a nurse and called her a Nazi which ... GO GRANDMA.

Since her decline was so precipitous and irreversible we all felt like it was a blessing that she went so quickly, it could have dragged on for so so much time and I think that would have destroyed our family. The hardest part was seeing my mother (this was her mother) and her sisters deal with it and their relationships became strained. They're mostly repaired now but had it gone on for a long time I think it could have destroyed them.

After the second visit, I decided that I wouldn't make a special trip home to see her again. I didn't want to remember her That Way. I'd rather remember the Grandma I always picture in her kitchen making me pierogies. But I also recognize that my being able to make that decision is a privilege a lot of my family didn't get to make - they had to see her because they were there. So I also try to recognize the difference of that experience and try to be supportive of them and the choices they made, even if I would have made different ones. Since this isn't your family directly, I think you're in a similar position and you can't really tell them anything to make it better, all you can do is support the decisions you make. I will also say that, if there's dementia involved, the absolute best thing for everyone to do is to GO ALONG WITH IT. Don't try to argue with the patient, it just freaks them out. It took a while for everyone to get on board with that plan and it would have been a lot easier (collectively, and for some individual family members) if they'd just not argued with Grandma about her situation for so long. But you also can't force someone's approach here, it's so individual when its their mother or grandmother.
posted by marylynn at 10:11 AM on April 11, 2012

My grandfather was sick for a long time (almost 10 years). He had a serious heart attack that he never really recovered from, physically or emotionally. Then he got cancer and Altzheimer's. It was incredibly hard on my large, fairly tight-knit family. There were divisions that are still being felt over how he should have been cared for, who should have done it, who was being treated unfairly, etc. He was sick for so long, it's almost hard to remember him well. So when he died (after suffering far, far too long), it was a guilty relief in some ways because at least his (and our) pain was over. We all have/had a lot of anger over the situation, our helplessness in the face of his pain and misery.

It was hard to watch my formerly tough, muscley, blue collar worker Grandpa decline physically, for him to barely be able to hold my baby cousins. It was much harder to see him decline mentally. He became accusatory and mean, he would try to convince us that my grandmother was poisoning him. He called her "Annie Wilkes" (the character from "Misery"), which, in retrospect, is kind of hilarious, but wasn't at the time. He mixed up me, my mother and my cousin and would always call us by the wrong name, either my mom's or cousin's, but never mine. This is sort of silly, but it still hurts a little that he seemed to forget that I even existed.

He's been gone a little over two years and we're all only just now able to talk freely about him, how funny he was, silly things he did (there were MANY). A friend of mine told me that one of the worst things about grief is that it separates you from your loved ones. This is horribly true. There are suddenly all kinds of pitfalls and hidden traps in your relationship, things you don't want to talk about, that they don't want to talk about, things you don't mention so as not to upset the other person. It puts walls between you that can take a long time to bring down.

I don't think there's much you can say to make your boyfriend feel better, though it's kind of you to ask. Hugs, a shoulder to cry on, make him laugh with a funny movie and a bottle of wine, listen if he wants to talk about his grandmother, don't push if he doesn't.
posted by Aquifer at 4:43 PM on April 11, 2012

Thankyou all so much for sharing your personal experiences. I've read the first few answers and gotten all teary, so will save the rest for when I'm at home and have a box of tissues handy.

Even from those few answers, I can see this is exactly what I was looking for, so thanks once again for your generosity.
posted by peppermintfreddo at 6:22 PM on April 12, 2012

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