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I received a private message on Facebook Messenger from a very recent ex informing me that his grandmother had fallen ill and her chances of recovering didn’t look promising. My initial reaction was complete shock because we had only been broken up for two months and she seemed to be in good health at that time. So naturally, I offered my prayers and condolences to him and his family. In his message, he talked about how much his grandmother loved me and how cool his family thought I was in a way that made it seem like he regretted the decision for us to part ways. Not knowing how to respond to that, I decided to act like I didn’t see the message, so I changed the subject because I was genuinely concerned about his grandmother’s sudden illness and how it was affecting his family. We ended the chat with him telling me he loved me and thanking me for being there for him. I decided once again to skip over the love part and told him it was no problem.

A day later, I received a text message from him informing me that his grandmother had passed and it tore me up. But somehow, in the midst of his grieving and trying to cope alongside the family members that he had the closest relationships with, he also took upon himself to start pouring out feelings that he had been clinging to. Soon after, he started sending messages that read, “Hey babe” and “I love you.” I even started second-guessing myself and reflecting on if we could actually make it work again even though I knew better.  When I told my friends about my dilemma, they said it was time to cut him off — completely. The thing is, I felt bad for him after such a tragic loss, so I didn’t want to cut him off. But I also knew that I needed to establish boundaries on the type of emotional support I would offer to him and the amount of emotional feedback I could handle from him. When it comes to dealing with an ex who reaches out to you when they’re going through turmoil, you don’t want to be cold, but you don’t also want to lead them to believe that a reconciliation is in the works. So, if you are going to be there for them, keep these things in mind: 

Be Sincere, But Objective

Offer them some encouragement. Death is never easy to deal with, so allow them to vent when they reach out to you. Say a prayer with them. Offer them your condolences, but remember to remain objective. When the conversation starts to move away from the situation at hand and steers itself into matters of the heart, immediately change the subject. Reiterate that you’re here for them in their time of need, but that it won’t go beyond that. It’s not being harsh or insensitive, it’s just a way for you to protect yourself from getting hurt by falling for misplaced emotions.

Keep Your Distance

For some, it’s easier to deal with situations in person rather than over the phone. There is the urge to want to reach out and hug the person, but the truth is, that’s not a good idea. When we’re most vulnerable, we want someone to help us make the pain go away, and in those moments, anything can happen. Anything. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to the funeral if you were invited, but it also doesn’t mean you need to attend with the family. Even though you’d like to offer support to your ex, you don’t belong there in the family circle. It can cause emotional confusion and create the illusion that things are back to the way they were when you two were together.

Know When to Be Done

There are only so many times you can say “My condolences to you, ” “Your family is in my prayers,” or “I’m sorry for your loss” before you start to sound less than genuine. Keep in mind that you’re not going to be the very thing that gets them through this trauma, only time will. So to avoid emotional attachments and confusion, know when to start pulling away. It’s a good thing to be a shoulder for someone, but at some point, an individual will have to face their internal struggle on their own. 

When someone is grieving, it’s important to be there for them. However, when it’s an ex, you can still be there for them if they reach out to you, but remember that you need to establish boundaries for your own emotional well-being. The worst thing that can happen is that you allow that person’s grieving process, filled with mixed emotions, to confuse you into finding yourself caught up and falling for something that isn’t real. You can be of support without having to go back down a road that led to nowhere.

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