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Stay Or Go? Is It Grief Or Denial?

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On our very first date my now boyfriend told me his mom was battling cancer and had been for the past eight years. Now, two years later, she's losing her battle and I'm starting the battle of how to deal with the grief that my boyfriend is going through. I'm looking for a way/advice to help me cope with his grief as he is shutting me out and closing me off. He claims he's fine and that he's prepared for her death, but I know something is wrong. He is throwing himself into work, not eating, doesn't sleep, had no interest in intimacy or touch, and seems to be lost. Last week I confronted him about his recently behavior changes and while he continued to deny that it had anything to do with his mom, he did say that he doesn't know if he wants to continue our relationship, even though he still loves me, doesn't want to break up or for me to move out. At the time, I told him that I was going to stay until he asked me to leave, determined to help him get through whatever hard time he's having right now, hoping to make us an even stronger couple.

Now, a week later, I'm struggling to keep that same positive attitude. My love languages are physical touch and quality time and I've been getting neither in the past week. Granted, he's a farmer and it's haying season so even if we weren't in this current situation I might not be seeing him much and I'm trying to remember that. I'm doing my best to give him space and time, while offering positive encouragement about work and life in general.

We've had a great relationship these past two years, full of love, laughter and happy memories. We often talked about getting married and what our futures hold. I don't want to give up on that or abandon him in his time of need, but every once in a while I worry that he really doesn't want to be in a relationship with me anymore and just doesn't have the guts to break up with me. Maybe blaming the entire situation on his mom is just my way of denying it?

If anyone has any ideas, thoughts or similar stories, please share.

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Hi, welcome to our site. If you have read some of the other threads in the "Loss of Love" section, you've already realized that grief/loss does affect relationships. Grief is all encompassing so that it's a common response for a griever to shut out their relationship or call it completely off as they can't do it while they are newly grieving. My fiance called off our relationship nearly five years ago when his mom was dying and he was her 24/7 caregiver. Not everyone responds in this way, but enough do that we've seen some commonalities.

I hope this is not the case with you as it's very hard to go through. We have been able to resume friendship but at no point did he ever try to rebuild our relationship as it was in the years since. I don't want you to assume this will be your demise, but there have been enough couples go through this that it is a distinct possibility. Keep in mind, however, that it is mostly the ones who have gone through this response that have posted here, whereas those who have weathered their loss intact as a couple that have not posted here.

If this does turn out to be the case for you, I hope you will come here and post so that we can support you and help you through it.

I would advise you, if you want to save the relationship, to give him space and be supportive, if you are able. If you push, he will likely break up with you. Right now he doesn't have much in him to give to a relationship, everything is going into his mom and what he is going through with that. I am sorry, I know it is hard and unfair to you, but then nothing about death/loss is fair. I can understand your feelings, I experienced similar feelings myself when I went through it.

I hope you will turn to other friendships & your family to fill your needs right now and help make up for what you are coming up short in your relationship with him. Sometimes we can't stop the downward spiral of our relationship no matter what we do or how understanding we are, because it's not necessarily about him or you, it's about the situation you find yourself in.

My sympathy to both of you, I know it's hard.

Here is my story:

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That's pretty brutal. I know a lot of kids in America are in the same boat, but that doesn't make it right or any less painful. I guess all you can do is try to explain grief to him the best you can so he'll know it's not because of him that his dad stays away, but because of this mysterious thing called grief.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi...so I'm new here, but I think I might be able to offer a little insight. I was previously with someone who changed drastically after a death in his family; however, his depression and grief also stemmed from a repressed memory that came back after the death. I chose to stay with him. He didn't ask me to leave, but I felt like he clocked out mentally and emotionally. We were together for 14 years, but it was not easy. My only advice to anyone with a grieving or depressed partner is to:

1. Don't push him to talk if he has indicated that he does not want to. I did that in the beginning and I think it only made the situation worse. I think it made him feel bad and push me away even more.

2. Do something that you love to do and still participate in activities that you enjoy. I know that may sound selfish - but the stress of worrying about him will start to weigh you down. Halfway through my marriage, I started painting again and going out to museums - and it helped sooooo much. :) It gave me something to smile about.

3. Remember friends and/or family. Don't isolate yourself in this.

The first half of my marriage after my husband's grandfathers death was so hard because I isolated myself with him in his grief/depression. I'm not saying not to be there for him, but it's okay to think about yourself too. People always ask me how I stayed for 14 years. I respond, "because I loved him, and I had to love myself too since he couldn't seem to do it anymore."

I don't regret staying with him through it - just wish maybe I had not stayed so long. It took a toll on me. Oddly enough - he's seems stronger now that I left. We are even friends now (sort of...lol). He talks to me now (a little...lol).

I hope your situation gets better.

Take Care!

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Very sound advice. I'm not sure she wants to stay at this point though.

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