Helping a partner through life changes
November 11, 2013 8:20 PM   Subscribe

My partner is facing some big life changes, including a new job and loss of a pet, and I'm wondering what small ways I can support him and make life easier for him.

This week, my partner will be starting a new job after nearly a decade at the old one. Without going into too much detail, he's happy to be starting the new job but will be very much missing many aspects of the old one. The whole thing is quite bittersweet for him.

And this week we will also be euthanizing his beloved cat of 20 years.

What are some ways I can support him in the coming weeks? I already plan to take up some of the extra housework, and I plan to mail him a condolences card (we often mail each other things even though we live together). My parents and I are pooling our money to get him an early birthday gift, but beyond that I don't have a lot of $$$ to throw towards anything but smaller gifts, such as a $10 iTunes card here or there.

Are there little ways a loved one has supported you through difficult times? Like, I don't know, packing a note with your lunch or something? (I don't pack my partner's lunches, but I'm looking for ideas along those lines.) I also don't have any experience helping someone this close to me grieve, so any suggestions in that category would be welcome also.

Thank you!
posted by whistle pig to Human Relations (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Stock the fridge with his favorite beer.

Listen, if he needs it; give space if he needs it.

Regular sex too.

I don't mean to be flippant but these are the things that makes my partner feel loved.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:47 PM on November 11, 2013

Also, sharing fond memories of the cat. And, it sounds like you're already emotionally present, which is huge.

Notes can be hidden in shoes, coat pockets, or wallets. Nice text messages or emails can be a welcome surprise.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 9:03 PM on November 11, 2013

Best answer: When I had to put my cat (of 18 years) to sleep, it was really pretty tough. What helped for me is realizing that the cat was in a lot of pain and it was the right thing to do, to stop him suffering. Also that he'd lived a good, long, happy life with us, was loved a lot, and it was time to say goodbye.

Framing it this way, helped me come to terms with it sooner, instead of thinking, "he was the best cat ever and he was such a good cat and I'll miss him so much and I can't hold him or cuddle him any more." That too-- and I did think that, but I realized I also missed the kitten he was, and the active cat he was. I loved him in his twilight years but I wasn't going to miss him bumping into things because he lost his sight, or eating really slowly because he'd lost (one) tooth, and had kidney problems, and soiling himself, and all the other things that made up his life in his old age. In that way, realizing it was just time for him to go and that it was another part of his journey, helped me to come to terms with it easier.

I don't know if you can frame it this way for him gently, but shifting my perspective helped. What hurt so much for me, was ultimately a real kindness for my poor kitty. Also we buried the body and had a little tree planted over it, which was nice.

To get a bit detailed: When we had the cat euthanized, the vet put him to sleep, and I pet him and hugged him until he fell asleep, but before he slipped away. We left, and then later we went back for the body (it was in a small box we'd left there). That helped a lot, because I didn't really want him to die in my arms; but everyone is different.

Speaking of, discussing what you want to do with the remains (either leaving it at the Vet, or getting a box for it, or dealing with cremating it) and paying the bill and stuff-- I was too distraught to really do any of that-- my brother helped me, and he went to get the body later for me. That helped.

As far as mourning, just for people to be understanding, and not say things like, "it's just a cat." You've obviously not that person, but to just keep him away from people like that for the time being-- I'm sure you know some people who just wouldn't get it, or who don't like cats, or who are insensitive. It's gunna hurt and it's okay.

As for the other stuff...

One of my friends started a new job recently, and I made sure to have a email (text would be good too) ready for him to receive at work, that said, "Kick butt today, try not to stress! I heart you!" and I think it helped. He emailed me back telling me what his first day entailed. Mailing him a card works too. Or even slipping a sweet note in his bag would be nice. You say you don't make his lunch, but does he make his own? You could take over for a day and make him a fun bento with a note inside. It depends on the person but receiving a cute thought out lunch like that would make me feel really special and make me smile.

Buying him something special that he really likes to eat but doesn't have very much? For example, I really like Diet Cream Soda or Dr Pepper but I rarely buy it. It's not expensive, I just don't wanna have it all the time. I think everyone has a few things they like that they often forget about or don't buy. Like Fluff. Or Chocolate Milk. Or a snack cake. Something like that might make him smile.

Other things... plan something nice for the weekend? I'd plan a picnic or something to the park, or a cheap outing for the weekend where you could just explore and be together. Even a mini road-trip would be fun. When you get home, you could curl up with one of his fave movies that night.

Just be there a lot. Make sure he knows you're there for him. That's the best you can do.
posted by Dimes at 11:34 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes by William Bridges. It's the only book we've come across that was practical. (And maybe Pema Chodron "Things Fall Apart").

Technically a kid's book, but my mom sent us a copy when my husband's parents put their cat down: The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. It's really sweet, without being overly saccharine.

Make some easy to follow-through-with plans... even if it's "Tonight we order pizza and watch 6 episodes of X Files, and tomorrow we go for a walk and eat sandwiches and watch Harry Potter for the ten millionth time". Not having all those little things to think about or decisions to make, and having a bit of distraction built in really takes the pressure off. And yea... whatever mini-staycations you can manage during the weekends (get out, and if involves a little exercise that's a bonus).

Make sure he eats well, gets a little exercise (gets out of the house), and meditates (or prays or whatever) every day.... even if it's a ten minute walk and a five minute meditation.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:13 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I actually came into the question to suggest pack his lunch, so i like that line of thinking you have. Definitely pack his lunch so he doesn't need to worry about finding grub near work. Put a note in it about how great he'll be at his job, but don't mention the cat since you dont want him to cry at work.

On the home front, try to neaten the house the way he likes it
posted by WeekendJen at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2013

1) Prepare his favorite meal.
2) Be extra affectionate.
3) Leave notes showing how much you love him all over your house.
4) Wear especially pretty clothes for him and put extra effort into your appearance.
5) Don't ask if he wants to talk through his feelings.
posted by lotusmish at 11:08 PM on November 12, 2013

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