How the death of your partner or child’s other parent might affect you
If your partner or your child’s other parent dies, you might feel many and mixed emotions. You might feel sad, angry, irritable, anxious, confused, numb or lonely. You might have trouble believing that it has happened.
It might be hard for you to concentrate and do everyday tasks like reading and driving.
Your physical health might also be affected. For example, your appetite and sleep patterns might change, and you might have physical pain or discomfort like headaches and nausea.
Your relationships might also change. You might withdraw from certain people and become closer to others.
If your partner died, there will probably be big changes to your family’s finances too. This can cause additional stress and anxiety.
If your partner or child’s other parent has died, your family might be eligible for some financial support from Services Australia. Your family might also be entitled to the superannuation fund balance of the person who died, along with any additional death benefits. Contact the superannuation fund to check.
Grief: why it’s important to look after yourself
If your child’s other parent has died, you might be focused on your child’s wellbeing, but you’re grieving too.
Looking after yourself will help you cope with your own grief. And if you look after yourself, you’ll be in better shape to help your child cope with their grief.
Coping with grief: tips
Here are some things you can do to cope with grief after the death of your partner or your child’s other parent:
- Talk to friends or family about how you’re feeling.
- Try to practise self-compassion through the good days and the bad days.
- Spend quiet time on your own to think. You could also try writing down your feelings.
- Organise a trusted adult to look after your child while you spend time on your own to recover. Gently tell your child beforehand and reassure them that you’ll be back.
- Find meaningful ways to honour the person who has died. For example, you could create a special place to visit and remember them, make a memento, write them letters or light a candle at a certain time each day.
- Plan ahead for events that might remind you of the person who has died, like their death anniversary or birthday. Planning can give you a sense of control and reduce your anxiety beforehand.
If you feel that you aren’t coping after the death, it’s important to seek help as soon as you can. The earlier you get help, the faster you’re likely to feel better. Talking to your GP is a good first step.
Looking after your general health and wellbeing: tips
Looking after your health and wellbeing can help you cope with your grief. Here are some ideas:
- Ask for and accept practical help from family and friends – for example, help with grocery shopping. You could also ask someone to let other people know what’s going on. This might include contacting your friends, your workplace and your child’s school.
- Prioritise your time and aim to do only essential tasks each day. It’s OK for some of your previous standards to change when you’re grieving. For example, it’s OK for your house to be not as tidy as usual.
- Try to stick to routines. This will help you feel more on top of things and reduce your stress. You can ask others to help you with routines too. For example, a trusted friend could pick up your child from school. But it’s OK if you need to create new routines to adapt to changes after the death.
- Try to eat healthy food and do some gentle physical activity when you feel up to it, like a quick walk or some gentle stretching.
- Try to rest when you can. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try a bedtime routine, and avoid alcohol and stimulants like caffeine and soft drinks close to bedtime.
- Try breathing exercises, muscle relaxation or mindfulness.
Support for grief after the death of your partner or child’s other parent
It’s a good idea to get professional support after your partner or your child’s other parent dies.
You could start by seeing your GP. They can talk to you about local bereavement counselling services. They can also refer you to a mental health professional like a psychologist or social worker.
Here are more ways to get support:
- Call Griefline on 1300 845 745.
- Contact local mental health services.
- Join a local or online support group to meet others who might be in a similar situation.
- Get support from family, friends, your community and support services.
- If the person died by suicide, call StandBy Support After Suicide on 1300 727 247 or go to StandBy Support After Suicide – Find support.