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So here I am, almost exactly one year after closure from the last time I was here. I have moved on, I have not seen, or talked to the girlfriend I wrote about here before in 13 months. 

I have a new person in my life I care for. And today. Her grandmother died. 

Now all I can feel is the rush of hopelessness and helplessness I felt for the majority of 2016. The pain is overwhelming.

It has only been a couple hours. My new lady has not given me any indication that she would withdraw but I cannot seem to escape the fear that history will repeat itself. I have sent a reply simply asking her to tell me what she needs and I await a response. 

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Just remember, my friend, that grief is unique to each and every one of us, just as our relationship with the person who died is unique to us. Don't assume that your new lady will mourn the death of her grandmother the same way your former girlfriend coped with all the losses she endured. Use what you have learned about what is normal in grief and what you can do to support this new person in your life ~ and if you need a refresher, see some of the articles you'll find here:

Grief: Understanding The Process

How We Mourn: Understanding Our Differences

Helping Another In Grief

In Grief: "Being There" for Someone in Mourning

When Death Happens: Tips for Helping the Mourner 

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Not everyone reacts in this way, in fact, I'd have to say it's a minority that reacts like your ex did.  There's enough of them I'd call it a classic grief response, but certainly not the majority!  Unless you get some indication from HER that she's withdrawing, try not to worry about history repeating itself, she is unique from your ex.  Marty gave you some great articles, I hope you'll read them, they can help you know how to respond to her and be of help.
Here's another one:
https://themighty.com/2016/12/what-to-say-to-someone-whos-grieving/

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Another one I like is http://www.griefhealing.com/column-what-is-not-helpful.htm but the formatting came out odd so I've cleaned it up, here it is:
 

Helpful-NOT!.docx

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What Is Not Helpful to the Person in Mourning: A List of "Dont's"

 Be aware of what is not helpful to the person in mourning. 
 Do not:

  • Expect your friend to mourn or heal in certain ways or within a certain time frame.
     
  • Deliberately avoid the subject of death, change the subject, or act as if nothing has happened.
     
  • Talk about your own losses, especially early on; this shifts the attention onto you.
     
  • Use judgmental words like "should" and "shouldn't".
     
  • Begin a sentence with the words "At least . . ."
     
  • Offer unsolicited advice.
     
  • Compare one loss with another, or offer judgments about which loss was worse.
     
  • Take it personally if your friend rebuffs your invitations.  Try again another day, and realize that grief requires being left alone at times.  The mourner needs some time to turn inward, to ponder the deeper meaning of life and death.
     
  • Try to change what your friend is thinking or feeling.
     
  • Talk down to the person, in a patronizing way, as if you are the expert.
     
  • Try to fill up every moment with conversation.  Become comfortable with silence.
     
  • Ignore warning signs of self-destructive behavior: alcohol, drugs, depression, suicide. Confront the person directly, or organize an intervention with family and friends.
     
  • Wait for your friend to initiate contact (i.e., call, write or visit).
     
  • Wait until tomorrow or make promises you cannot (or will not) keep.  Follow through with whatever you have planned or promised.
     
  • Wait to be asked; this places the burden on the mourner.
     
  • Expect gratitude for your efforts.  A person in pain is focused inward and self absorbed, with little room for gratitude.  If you offer help, make sure that it is wanted, and don=t feel hurt or rejected if it is not.
     
  • Push or expect the mourner to sort through and distribute a loved one's things.
     
  • Take away the mourner=s autonomy by doing too much for her or making major decisions that rightfully belong to her.
     
  • Expect the mourner to begin to reenter social life on other than his/her own time frame.
     
  • Try to rescue someone from her regrets; she needs time to sort them out, until she is eventually able to forgive herself.
     
  • Force food on the person if he is not interested in eating.
     
  • Expect the mourner to be "over it" within weeks, months or even years.
     
  • Try to do everything by yourself, or try to fix everything.

Copyright © by Martha M. Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC    All rights reserved 

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I had a long visit with my sister, who wisely reminded me of what you have both said above. This new lady in my life is not the same as the other and will be different. She did reach out to me. I sent her some flowers (condolences flowers, not flowers loaded with an I Love you card) and we will likely talk some more later tonight.

She is a strong lady. Lawyer working in a place with one of the highest per capita rates of violent crime in the US prosecuting felony assaults. She is in the middle of a tough trial and hasn't even had a chance to process anything yet. 

I am just going to have to wait and see, but it definitely triggered my loss from last year....

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19 minutes ago, I Don't Believe This said:

it definitely triggered my loss from last year....

Yes ~ remember that when you lost that girlfriend 13 months ago, you also experienced a significant loss that is worthy of grief. For your sake, I hope that you have acknowledged that loss, sat with the pain of it, and given yourself permission to mourn that other woman you loved and lost. If you're not sure if you've come to terms with that, a session or two with a qualified grief counselor may help you sort through where you've been and help you better understand and cope with all that you may be going through right now.

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I have spoken with a lot of people in the last few days... 

I did not come back because of her, rather it was my own response to the news. She is a different person and she is kind at heart, strong willed, and I do not think that she will be a second person in my life to withdraw in grief like so many others in this forum. 

My response to it was shocking to me. I am well past the relationship I lost. I am not at all pining for the lost love, nor do I have any interest in reconnecting with whom I lost. I last heard from her 13 months ago and have not spoken to her since. I have dated a few people and moved on. But there was definitely a deep scar left behind and when I heard the news the feeling of hopelessness ripped through me. 

She arrives at home this evening to be with her family. I expect her to go silent for a few days. I am prepared for the silence it won't be bad. She has been texting me between flights and letting me know she is safe. 

I will send flowers to the Funeral Home tomorrow. 

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1 hour ago, I Don't Believe This said:

My response to it was shocking to me. I am well past the relationship I lost. I am not at all pining for the lost love, nor do I have any interest in reconnecting with whom I lost. I last heard from her 13 months ago and have not spoken to her since. I have dated a few people and moved on. But there was definitely a deep scar left behind and when I heard the news the feeling of hopelessness ripped through me. 

Present losses often re-awaken losses we've experienced in the past, and it can feel as if we are losing someone all over again. But feelings are not facts. What matters is what we DO with what we are feeling. You are wise to pay attention to what you are feeling, to recognize why you're feeling that way, and to know that your reactions are perfectly NORMAL. What happened in the past, with a completely different person, does not necessarily predict what will happen now, with the new lady in your life.

From what you describe, it sounds to me as if you're handling the present situation nicely. You have learned an important life lesson (that we all respond to significant loss in our own unique ways, and there are both "Do's" and "Don'ts" in how we can best support another in grief) and this will serve you very well in the future. 

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Marty is right, it triggered the old feelings, but you're doing well to recognize that she is an entirely different person.  Wishing you both well going forward, sounds like you have quite a catch!

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On 11/19/2017 at 5:55 AM, kayc said:

sounds like you have quite a catch!

I think so...

Funeral was Sunday. I sent flowers. (see picture)

It was a difficult day, as to be expected. She is the "Strong" one in her family. She was the one holding it together while the rest of the family grieved. It wasn't until later when she was on the phone with me that she told me she was numb and just waiting for it to hit. It seemed to. start hitting her on Monday.

She was at home, in a place of peace. Wishing she could stay. But she had to go back to Alaska. She had to leave her kids behind in the tundra. It would have been cost prohibitive for them all to return home. The stress of her job is also challenging. She works prosecuting felony assaults. So she is returning from a weekend of peace and grieving with family to a job filled with violence in a place where there is no easy escape (400 miles into the tundra from Anchorage) and rampant crime. 

We have a long weekend together planned in two weeks. It has been planned for some time. She is still excited and looking forward to it. I have planned activities to help her relax and forget her job for a while. I have a day at a spa planned, watching Christmas carolers in downtown Portland Or, and Box seats to a showing of the Nutcracker with live orchestral music.

I think she will not be one of those people that pushes loved ones away. I just need to deal with my own feelings in that regard. I still haven't spoken to her about what I felt when she told me of her grandmother. It is too soon. She knows at a high level that I went through some painful experience last year but still no details. I will probably tell her when she and I sitting together in a quiet place.  

75037.jpeg

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I hope you have a wonderful time away together.  I'm glad she made it through the funeral.

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Thank you Kay,

I hope we have a good time too. One take away I have over the last couple years is to evaluate how a person handles stress before I get excited about a possible relationship. Nikki makes me happy. She is tenacious, and strong. I look forward to the long weekend and I will probably know the last things I need to know about this lady.

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That is a smart thing to take away!

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

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We spoke on the phone for five hours last night. That is fairly typical for us. We spend about 30 hours a week on the phone. Last night we spent most of the time playing a verbal game. She had made a request to distract her.

But she lamented a little and I could use some advice. 

She had mentioned that she was feeling guilty that she feels numb while most of her family is expressing grief. She also mentioned that she feels like she grieved her grandmother when dementia had taken her to a point where she was no longer recognizable as herself. 

I simply said that there is no expectation what you are supposed to feel and when. But had nothing else to offer. 

I would recommend a grief counselor for her, but she is literally in the middle of nowhere arctic tundra - no roads, only access is a two hour flight. I mean even our conversations are broken up a lot because there is only one cell tower, bandwidth is too limited for skype, and often text messages simply don't make it out there and internet is highly limited. There is no infrastructure to support her there and I am doing my best from 1000 miles away.

*edit* spelling error

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8 minutes ago, I Don't Believe This said:

I simply said that there is no expectation what you are supposed to feel and when. But had nothing else to offer. 

If that is all you had to offer, my friend, I hope you will let it be enough. This is perhaps the most compassionate thing you could have said and done. You simply cannot fix this for her. But you CAN let her know (by exactly what you did say) that you understand that there is no right or wrong way to "do" her grief. This is her grief journey and she will "do" it in her own way, which she will discover for herself. And by having "nothing else to offer," you conveyed the same message. Just being there for her on the phone for five hours is offering your presence, which is quite enough ~ and way more than most people would be willing to give to her.

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I like the article Marty listed in the beginning of this thread, http://www.griefhealing.com/column-helping-another-in-grief.htm especially the part  In general, what is needed from a helper?  You're doing well with her just by "being there" and caring, listening!

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Thank you both,

I am trying hard to just be there, but alas I am a fixer of things... So it goes against my nature and it is hard. Grief is not the only challenge. The difficulty of her job and the remoteness of where she is living exacerbates the issue. Only a few months left on her contract though. One tough Alaskan winter to go.

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Most guys DO prefer to "fix" things and it's frustrating to them to not be able to.  Grief is one of those things you can't fix, there is only but to live through it, absorb it, process it, get through it.  It doesn't have an end date where everything is perfect again, but rather we learn to live WITH it and adjust to the changes it's made to us, to our lives.  The most important thing one can do for a griever is just "be there" for them, sit with them, listen, care.  No platitudes, no fixing, no telling them how to deal with their grief or their life.  They'll figure it out, they just need our support.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm glad, wishing the best for you!

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