What To Know About Being With A Grieving Partner

June 10, 2019  |  
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grief stages

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Nobody plans for grief. There’s no such thing as a good time for it. The times you do lose someone in your life, it’s highly unlikely it’ll happen conveniently in the middle of your two-week vacation, for which you hadn’t even planned a flight or booked a hotel anywhere. Grief will strike while life is hectic, busy, and perhaps otherwise very happy, and everything will come to a screeching halt. All of the things you’re obsessing over like appointments and salaries and social engagements will suddenly be put into a sharp and even painful perspective. If you’ve lost a loved one before, you know all of this to be true. You also know that you do bounce back. It’s human nature to want to be happy, so your brain finds its way back to equilibrium. Now, having your romantic partner grieve the loss of a loved one is a complicated and entirely separate experience. You’re so close to the loss but it isn’t your loss. Here is what to know about being with a grieving partner.

grief stages

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You’ll feel bad discussing anything else

Whether it’s which friend you ran into at a coffee shop and how cute her baby is or how you don’t like the new Pilates teacher at your gym, you will feel silly and guilty reporting any of these updates to your partner who is going through something terrible. You’ll feel like any updates you have that are bad pale in comparison to his situation and any updates that are good are just insensitive.

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But sometimes, he’ll say he wants the distraction

Sometimes, however, your partner will say that he’d actually love to hear about something light and funny that happened in your day—that he needs the distraction. But it’s very hard for you to gage when exactly that’s what he wants.

grief stages

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You feel bad sharing great news

You feel bad sharing really good news, like getting a raise or getting your article published in a great publication. You feel bad being really happy when he’s so miserable, and you also don’t want to pressure him to put on a fake happy face for you. But when he finds out later you withheld great news, he’ll be upset you deprived him of the chance to be a supportive partner.

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You don’t dare drag him to social events

You wouldn’t ask him during this time to go with you to a friend’s birthday party or an office party. You don’t want to make him pretend he’s in a good mood, for your sake. It would feel selfish.

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So you start to feel like you’re living a double life

Since you are going to so many social events alone for now, it can start to feel like you’re living a double life. You have your life in the light—with your friends, at work, at the gym—and your life that is obscured by sadness, at home with your partner.

grief stages

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You don’t dare initiate sex

You would feel very bad initiating sex right now. If he weren’t in the mood, you wouldn’t want him to feel bad about that, worrying that he’s letting you down while he’s grieving. So you just don’t initiate it.

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And you don’t dare turn him down

But on the rare occasion he does initiate it during this time, you feel like you must go along with it, even when you aren’t in the mood. He doesn’t need sexual rejection on top of everything else he’s going through. And, you want to make him feel good however you can.

grief stages

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In fact, you must go with his every whim

You actually have to go along with all of his whims, sexual or otherwise. If he craves this odd fast food at midnight or wants to go to some movie in the park or on a random road trip, you go along. You know it’s all a part of the grieving process.

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You feel pressure to be a doting partner

You feel like his friends and family are watching you and judging how you handle the situation. Are you supportive enough? Are you there enough? Do you stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, or do you get involved just the right amount?

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Sometimes, you need a break from the sadness

You feel bad about it, but sometimes you want a break from the sadness. The truth is that you didn’t lose someone, and when you step away from the situation, you do have a happy, light life you can escape to. And sometimes you really do want to escape to it.

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He’ll get upset with you for not empathizing enough

There will be days when your partner gets upset with you—when he says you’re not taking what happened seriously enough or that you’re acting like it didn’t happen.

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Then he’ll feel bad for getting upset

He’ll later feel bad for going off on you like that. His grief got the best of him, and he has to remember that it’s a lot to ask of you to behave perfectly at every moment during this sensitive time.

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You’ll want so badly to understand

You’ll actually feel left out sometimes. You obviously don’t want to lose someone but, you know it’s the only way you could possibly understand what your partner feels. And you want to be there for him as much as you can. You feel a bit ostracized from his family and close friends who are also grieving. You’re an outsider.

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You may even form some jealousy

He may have a female friend who is also grieving. He may commiserate with her. She may seem to understand him more than you do right now. This can cause some jealousy and insecurity.

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Then you feel bad for having your own feelings

Then of course you feel bad for even having your own feelings and needs around what happened. Who are you to feel anything negative when it didn’t happen to you? But, the truth is, you are still here. You are still affected, because you love him. You are allowed to have feelings and needs now, too.

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