When a Partner Dies

Grief is not isolated to marriage or familial relationships. The death of a partner can be just as painful, intense, and significant. Grief, in the final analysis, is a measure of love. But as a partner, your grief may be minimized or altogether overlooked by others who do not know about your partnership or who minimize, for whatever reason, the meaningfulness of your relationship.

While your grief reactions are similar to the death of a spouse, partners may experience death and the dying process differently. You may have had to explain your presence at the hospital or funeral home. You may have felt marginalized at the funeral or memorial service. You may have had to explain absences at work above and beyond what a married person would experience. Sympathy cards may be few and far between.

Put simply, your grief may be unacknowledged by others.

The important thing is that you do not disenfranchise yourself. While you may not have the same social support, it is important to be able to mourn when a partner dies by finding safe places to explore feelings and reactions. An understanding confidante, a receptive support group, or a grief counselor may provide that place.

Remember that each person experiences grief in his or her own way. For some, the experience can be physical with aches and pains. For others, grief may be more of an emotional experience—a roller coaster of feelings. Grief also can affect people spiritually, behaviorally, or cognitively.

Developed from Journeys with Grief: A Collection of Articles about Love, Life and Loss, edited by Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D., MDiv., copyright Hospice Foundation of America, 2012.