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Long Term Relationship Ended After Girlfriend's Father Passed Away

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Here is my story as it is still relatively fresh in my life, in hopes to find insight from both sides as to how I should continue with my situation.

I am a 19 year-old college sophomore and about 3 weeks ago now I was left by my girlfriend after a beautiful two-year relationship. And, yes, it pains me how cliche my situation is. However after some complexities, it becomes more unique. After two years of being together- meeting in high school, both going to college down in LA (she's a grade below me)- her dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and soon passed two months after his diagnosis. She's 18 years old. I tried to be as supportive as I could possibly be. I drove 8 hours to be with her while her dad passed. I brought her family closer to mine to give support during their grieving process (invited them to our Thanksgiving). In every way I knew how, I was there for her. It was difficult for me to be with her every second as we went to schools an hour apart. Long distance is no stranger to us, as we maintained our relationship when I was 8 hours away from her in LA for my first year of college. And during the past 4 months we have been both happy maintaining our semi-long distance relationship at different schools. When the holidays came around, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to climb Mt.Kilimanjaro for free. I did the trip, but felt incredibly guilty not being with her in support as she went through the first Christmas and New Years without her dad. While I was away, we talked whenever I had internet connection and were both excited to see each other. When I got back, we spent a great few days together before I invited her to come on a vacation with me to Tahoe (in hopes it would both bonding and therapeutic). In the last minute before leaving, she told me she needed to be with her family and couldn't go.

When I got back from Tahoe, she sat me down and told me she couldn't continue our relationship anymore because she needed to grieve her dad alone and valued the opportunity to be alone more than the opportunity to continue our relationship. That to me is something that is hard for me to fully understand. It hit me like a train. That night was sleepless and filled with anxiety attacks. I had 8 days before we each drove down to LA again. In my head I thought back to the 6 days prior when we were still together and everything was seemingly great, Only in retrospect do I realize she had been wearing a thick mask to hide her sadness, but I still am lost as to when the love slipped away with it. The dynamics had changed in our relationship after her dad, but my perspective was I was giving her the chance to be sad without me forcing her to be happy. Again, I didn't know how to handle to situation as I have never been there before. For the next 8 days, I spent time with her, cuddling, laughing, wrestling. She made it clear we were still broken up and used this time as a chance to easily transform our relationship into friendship. I saw it differently. I saw the 8 days as a chance to fight for our relationship. She would openly say she was confused, to the point that on night 5 she slept with me. From my perspective, there was hope and I wouldn't accept the idea that the relationship was over. When I tried to confront her about it, she would tell me I needed to forget about her and move on. And of course that’s the last thing I wanted to do. My mind was split between fighting for what we had  to rekindle whatever had been lost, or to give her the pace I knew  she needed.  Still, the entire week I suffered anxiety attacks and cried excessively.

In the last days before we parted to school, she became stern with her decision to split up and I truly began to mourn our relationship. On the day of departure, still a wreck, she kissed me goodbye and told me she wanted to stay in contact. My mind was spinning with the never-ending question of “why.” After she had expressed her desire for me, she still kissed me goodbye, told me she cared about me, and went on her way. I texted her on good terms as we each settled into our lives separated in LA, but told her to reach out to me when she wanted to talk. After a few days I never heard anything from her.  It was so difficult to see her continue with her life so effortlessly. “Business as usual.” I used social media to see that she was having fun and still in contact with her friends, but I somehow had been cut out of the picture. I still loved her, but it was impossible for me to move on. I was an emotional wreck, lost in our memories and attempting to take my first steps towards recovery. I finally had the courage to call her after a week of silence, knowing that by giving myself a week I would get over the initial blow of emotions I would go through in the first week of separation. It was hard. Like withdrawal from a drug. My chest always carried around an aching pain, while my mind went on autopilot throughout the day. I would take advice and keep myself busy, meeting with friends, getting out of the house. I even picked up running. By the time I called her I thought I could begin to foster a friendship, knowing that giving her space would be the best thing for her. Deep down, I hoped she would turn back and say that she was wrong, but of course she didnt. We made small conversation about how our weeks had been, acting as though we were friends with no history. My mind was ruptured. It hurt that she never reached out to me in our week of silence, but boy was it good to hear her voice now. I quickly realized she didn’t want to get into the relationship. She made it obvious she was over with me, but my mind still hung onto this idea of hope from the kiss, sleeping with me. My mind seeded this idea that she was confused and still in love with me and there was some hope deep down. I knew it wasn’t healthy for me to cling on. But at the same time the last thing I wanted to give up on something that was so good. Finally I mustered up the courage to be direct about the situation. I understood she needed space, but was there any way I could be in the picture for that? No. Why did you kiss me goodbye? Closure. I want you to tell me you don’t love me anymore. I don’t love you anymore. We took a few minutes discussing why she felt the way she did in a blunt conversation. In the end she told me she needed space to be independent, not worry the stress of our relationship. But how could you give up on we happiness we had? I expressed my passion for our companionship, how happy we were together. A bad tactic, I know. At the end, I told her that for my sake we shouldn’t talk for several months. A peppy “OK. I understand.”

Today I find myself in a situation where I know the healthiest thing to do would be letting her go and moving on completely to enjoy my time here in college. However it’s difficult to ignore the potential our relationship our had and the incredibly unique experiences we shared at such as milestone in our lives. My head has moments of clarity where I see the future as a single person, where I can develop myself, be with other people. But I am constantly reminded of the amazing memories we share and still not entirely understanding why it had to end with me out of the picture. My heart is suffocating from the anxiety and withdrawal of having a best friend.

Where I need guidance is to assess where I stand in her life and how much should I be part of that. All I want to do is talk to her everyday and support her in such a difficult time in her life. The irony is before I didn’t know how to support her because I had never gone through any major grief in my life, and now that she’s left me, I see through her mask and can recognize the pain she must be in. I have several anxiety attacks each day, almost a month after she left me, each one inspired by a rabbit hole of thought as I think about how she is fine without me. I am reminded constantly of our past and am intimidated about the future. I’ve been told to support her from afar, but how do I do that without hurting myself? If I don’t talk with her will she drift too far and I then lose all hope of us getting too far? I want to give her space, but keep me in the picture as support. Should I fight or fall back? How do I cope with the anxiety? If anybody has lost a parent, what has been their experience with their relationships? What is it that she needs and is there anyway I can be in her picture?

I know I am 19 and the story sound like the classic first loves drama. But the pain that I am going through gets harder every day as I think about her drifting.

 

TL;DR My girlfriend left me after the passing of her father for reasons pertaining to her needing space to grieve. She fell out of love with my, however gave me strong signals of hope after we had broken up. After confronting the hope and beginning my first steps into acceptance, I am lost on truly understanding why she left me and how I should best allow the situation to play out to foster the potential for getting back together. The pain is overwhelming and I want to be there to support her but she has kindly told me she needs to be alone. How do I cope? How do I fight? How do I let got? What have been your experiences in relationships when losing your parent?

 

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The problem is trying to help her and her family through their grief is you don't understand because you haven't been through this loss, they have.  This is not something she will get over or recover from.  She will never be the same person that she was before, she is forever changed by this loss and grief.  Many many people respond to their loss in this same way, feeling they don't have it in them to do a relationship at the same time, preferring to focus on dealing with their grief.  It's not up to any of us to tell them they are not doing it right.  We all handle grief differently.  One person might turn to others in their grief, another will withdraw.  Both are normal and there is only one way through it and that is our way.  
http://www.griefhealing.com/column-helping-another-in-grief.htm

It's important to respect her decisions and show your support by doing so, not try to change her mind or force YOUR way on her.  I encourage you to read through the other threads in this section...I have read each and every post and I think there is only one that survived with their relationship intact...and then there was mine that we survived as friends but no longer engaged.  And that is okay.  After the initial breakup and my broken heart, and grieving MY loss and dreams, I accepted what is and only then could we be friends.  It can't work when one of you is secretly hoping for something different or trying to manipulate their way back to something that used to be.  We have to respect their decisions.

I have lost both of my parents, one nearly 35 years ago, the other 2 1/2 years ago.  But that experience doesn't help with this one because I handled it differently than your XGF.  Like I said, we're all different and we grieve differently.  I turned to my husband in my grief over my dad, but that is not your XGF's way.  With my mom, I was alone and had to deal with it alone.

Perhaps instead of giving you strong signals of hope she was dealing with old habit dying hard, and you took it as strong signals of hope...perhaps it was your taking advantage of such without even realizing it.  Now you are aware and I would hope you would respect her wishes out of your deep regard for her.  Trust me, if she EVER changes her mind, she knows how to reach you...but that's not likely to happen.

I'm not so cold as to not realize what you're going through.  It is a hell of its own, but if you allow yourself to experience the pain of the break up, you will progress through your own grief.  My experience is that we get through the break ups better than we do death.  In time we learn from our relationships, even the failed ones, and that in itself lends meaning to them.  I'm sorry you're in so much pain, and there is no doubt in my mind YOU are grieving what you can't have right now.  (((hugs)))  Been there, too many times...

 

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Thank you for getting back to me. I went through your article you sent me about how to help somebody grieve- and my largest take away was that in the end, I wasn't being the supportive friend she needed. Having never gone through major grief in a case similar to hers, I was oblivious to the fact that she wore a mask everyday and I was only exposed to her mask without truly seeing behind it. It leaves me with guilt for not being the person she needed when she needed it most. And I look back at all the signals I had missed. She has expressed to me that she wants me in her life as a friend, reaching out with interesting articles, visiting when I am in her neck of the woods, even cuddling when we might watch a movie. This last three weeks have been absolutely crushing to my well being. I, too, now wear a mask. Personable with friends, but feel like a broken toy. This epitome shines light on how I could have been a better companion and friend. And still, I have no idea what she is going through as her grief is much more severe. But here I am, crushed inside not to lose a lover, but a best friend. It was me who set boundaries not to speak for months as I needed time to get over her. But would I be wrong to look past my pains and be there as a friend while she conquers her first year away from her family alone? Or instead has she drew a new picture without me in her life, and by me reaching out I would be seemingly desperate to re-foster out romantic relationship? I can't imagine the pain she must be going through as she nears 2.5 months without her dad whom which she was close with. All I want to do is be there as a friend. Out of it she hopefully will feel happier to have somebody there for her, and being completely honest, I would not only get a friend back, but I maybe cure some of my separation anxiety. Would reaching out as a friend only hurt me further? Would she push me away? Or follow through with her request to continue our friendship? It's difficult to know where she hides in her state of grieving, but I can't image I am too late that our friendship is obsolete. I sit in my bed at 10pm wanting to drive and see her not as a chance to find love, but be there in support of this mask she so cleverly hides behind.

Thanks again,

Q

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Take your cues from her but I would reach out with a friendly gesture, but only when you have accepted the friend status she has changed you to.  It doesn't work to try to be friends with the hope of it being something else because then you manipulate to make that happen and that's not respectful of her wishes.  It's tough, I know.  I was able to do that, a lot of people are not, only you can know if you are capable of doing that.  I felt Jim was worthwhile to keep in my life after he broke up with me, but I had to let go of our being anything else in order to be a friend to him.  We did have a few months no contact where I grieved our relationship.  My advice to anyone going through that period is to focus on themselves, work on self care and betterment, spend time with family and friends, take a class, join a gym, just focus on YOU more and give the other person their space to grieve.  If and when the time is right, you will know it and can initiate contact but keep it short and do not talk relationship talk or anything that could put any pressure on them.  Even saying "miss you" can be construed by pressure.  Grievers can be thin skinned and super sensitive and it doesn't take much to upset them so it really takes being careful.

Guilt's only purpose is to call attention to something that needs changed...once that's been realized, it's time to let go of the guilt because then it turns to shame which is paralyzing and has an adverse affect on us.  So let go of the guilt.  All of life is a learning experience and you could not be expected to know about grief, not having been through it.  

There's no way to predict her reaction if you reach out in friendship.  My question is, is it worth the risk to you?  Love, whether in friendship or otherwise, involves risk and vulnerability, but again, only you can decide that for yourself.

 

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