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Coming Back Together After Grief Related Break Up - Long Distance

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I have found this site helpful in the past and am posting for the first time. This story is quite long, but I am going to try to be brief. I met my partner online about a year and a half ago. We both live in different cities, 2000 miles apart. When we started writing back and forth on a dating site, we both thought it was just a lark and that it wouldn't go anywhere. But eventually our connection felt very strong, and she decided to come meet me in person. When we met, the connection was so immediate and palpable. We feel in love that first weekend together in person, much to both of our surprise (neither of us had ever done anything like this, and had very little experience with on line dating). Our relationship progressed, and was very sweet, romantic, loving, physical, equal, etc. She told me in the early days that her father had died three years prior, and that her mom has Parkinson's, but was pretty independent at that time, lived on her own as was doing well. Our in-person visits continued, the relationship flourished. We were/are deeply in love. We made trips out to visit each other's families, met each others friends, planned to move to be together, to have a child, etc. I am 37 and she is 42 (I'd have the child, if possible), so we aren't new to serious relationships, and both felt like we were meant to find each other. It felt like that really big, special kind of love - like none other I've ever experienced.

About 9 months in to the relationship, we went on a vacation out of the country. We were having a lovely time. But, on our last night she finally checked her email and saw that a family member had been trying to get a hold of her for days - her mom had suffered a bad fall and was in the hospital. The rest of the trip was obviously very stressful as they were having a hard time with cell service, time differences, etc, and she couldn't talk to her mom or sibling until we got back to the states. She finished the weekend with me in my city as planned, because her mom was stable and her sibling was with her. She was stressed and sad, but we managed to feel connected and have a nice time. We spent Valentines Day together and she gave me a very thoughtful gift and a card she had made that referenced our future together. She went back home and I assumed we'd start thinking about when I'd come visit her next.

When she returned to her city, it was very stressful for her. It quickly became apparent that her mom's Parkinsons was escalating, and they would need start making some serious life changes -- all of which are very consuming, stressful, sad, and very triggering of her father's passing only years prior, which had been sudden. A lot to go through. I geared up to be as supportive as possible. Two weeks later, with no warning and not much explanation, she broke up with me over the phone. Her reasoning was that long distance relationships take extra energy, and she needs to pour all the extra energy in to taking care of her mom, and our future together (the plan for her to move to my city) now felt impossible to her, and the whole thing felt too overwhelming for her to manage. She basically shut down and pushed me out.

Two months passed, where i was in my own deep, deep sadness about not being able to be there for her, knowing she was suffering, and experiencing my own loss in losing her. I wrote her a few letters (no response) and we exchanged superficial texts a few times. I did not request to talk to her or anything. I knew she needed space, and I was so blind-sided and overwhelmed with my own grief and sadness that I didn't know how to proceed.

Then, two months later, I decided to be bold. I knew that if our relationship was truly over, both it and I deserved a more substantial conversation in person. I also felt deep in my heart that it wasn't over, not after what we shared. So I bought a plane ticket and found a place to stay. I didn't tell her I was coming until my plane was just about to take off. I wasn't sure if she would see me or not, but I knew I had to be brave for myself, to face it all head on. It was scary, but a risk I felt was worth taking. She did see me right away, and we ended up spending the whole time together, reconnecting in every way, and having the difficult conversations about the complicated nature of the situation. It was a hard but very good time together. She thought I was brave for coming out like that, and I felt glad I'd believed in myself and us.

I didn't think we'd solve everything in one short trip, and I just wanted to open the door to communication again so we could figure things out (however they end up) in a more collaborative manner. She took a bit of time after I left to process her feelings, and decided that she wanted me in her life, but that she wanted to leave things undefined for now and take things slowly, as she was worried about the quality or presence (or lack thereof) she would bring given her stress level from caregiving/grief, and because she felt she'd been under too much stress for too long to make clear decisions she could trust. I respected that, and admired her clarity, and of course agreed. I mean, I am so in love with her. Now it's been a little over two months since then. I went out to visit her again, and then we went on vacation together, her first chance to get away in months. I am so happy about all of this...but...I have very casually brought up anything related to the future with her twice recently and she kind of had a melt down. And I understand, she's stretched too thin to even think about it. The problem is that I find myself feeling very paranoid, like worried that she might shut me out again out of nowhere. And, I feel like I'm caring for her (albeit from a distance) like she's my partner, at that level, though I am totally uncertain of our future. But, I am respecting her boundaries and not bringing up that conversation at all for now. She says she loves me and wants me in her life, but can only take it day by day for now. We once had a plan to have children and were talking about a whole life together> I respect it, but it's a hard adjustment for me.

I guess I just feel a little stuck at this point. I want 100% to give this shot. I believe that we can be really happy together, and I want to move to be with her...though we aren't talking about any of that right now - but she knows I would happily move to her city. So, I'm not ready to withdraw or change anything, but I also don't really know what to do? How long should I remain in this undefined place of limbo? I want to grow old with her, so I feel like I can wait it out a long time, but I also don't want to spend that time wrapped in anxiety every time I don't hear from her for 6 hours. That type of insecurity (I'm keeping it all to myself) is just not healthy. I never felt anything but loved and confident in the relationship before things with her mom took a turn and she pulled away.

Any suggestions on how to best support her, how to proceed, how to manage my anxiety about our unknown status and future? I MOSTLY trust and have faith that our love is deep enough to get us through...but it is a young relationship and the obstacles are many. Yet my capacity to love is very strong (one bonus I've learned through all of this). But I'm not sure what she thinks, because even talking about talking about it gives her anxiety. I love that she's leaned on me and opened back up to me in the amounts that she has, though. I want to support her through this, and also respect my own needs in the relationship - which currently has no clearly defined commitments. I should add that we talk or text everyday, though it dwindles at times and I get too anxious that she's pulling away again. I hate that feeling!

What do you think? Apologies for the long length! Thanks!

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I feel for you Erfette ... I really do. I am not the relationship guru by any means however what keeps standing out for me is how many times you mentions anxious, and you mostly trust etc

So since you asked let me tell you what I think :-) and you can think about it and decide if it makes sense to you or it doesn't. And I'm sure that Marty has a lot of good resources for your situation as well. But I only have what I have right?

There is a book by Louise Hay and David Kessler called You Can Heal Your Heart -- Finding Peace after a Breakup, Divorce, or Death

Their redcomendation is that everyone read Chapter 2 "Breakups and Breakthroughs in Relationships". The premise is that thru grief the universe will force all of our unresolved issues to surface for healing.

This may be a wonderful time (this separation) for you to explore why you are so feeling so anxious when you perceive that she is pulling away (even when you know that she has so much to handle on her plate now that she doesn't feel that she has the emotional bandwidth to take on more). Maybe you can love her and your relationship by figuring out what issues you need to work on,

Page 18: "Part of what keeps many tormented is fear, and one of the underlying fears in the loss of a relationship (and I'd added perceived loss/anticipatory loss) is abandonment".

Good luck Erfette ... I hope that you'll post again. And while I bought this book, I first checked it out from our local library :)

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Thank you for your comments, SuiteAria. I will check out that book. I enjoy Louise Hay, so I'm sure it will be a good match. I agree with your thoughts, and am actually working on these deep rooted issues in therapy. You know, I had done so much work on this issue and have made so much growth. But you're right, grief pushes old stuff up and forces us too look at it. I think healing and growing is a forever path, with ups and downs and spirals.

Intellectually I understand, and also have so much empathy for, why and how she has zero bandwidth. I just have this nagging fear (it's totally fear based) that she'll leave me again like she did before - which was so surprising and unexpected. Before that experience I felt so secure in the relationship. But then everything was suddenly upended. Having no idea how long this time period will last feels hard. But I know there are never any guarantees in life anyway. Our situation is very complicated; but my feelings for her aren't complicated. The logistics of our future are uncertain (which is totally ok), but I know I want her in my future. It's hard that she can't return that sentiment right now. But I also understand that she has enough to focus on in the here and now. I am also working on being in the moment - I know it's truly all we have. Again, thank you for your kindness.

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I'm glad you found this site. It's very common for someone to break up with their partner when experiencing grief, anticipatory or otherwise, due to feeling the need to focus on their caregiving, grief, etc. It's just overwhelming to deal with.

I understand that trusting after such an abrupt breakup is hard. That is what you need to deal with. She has her hands full and can't give any more right now. If that's not sufficient for you, you need to decide whether or not you can be satisfied with what she has to give right now and if you can't, then you alone can make the decision to move on, otherwise, try to be patient with her. If you need counseling to help you through this period, I hope you will seek it. Perhaps moving to be closer to her would help, but you'd have to understand that it may or may not work out, can you be content knowing you may move there for nothing? In other words, you're kind of being asked to live in limbo. I understand that's hard, but in reality, most of us live in limbo because none of our futures are guaranteed with a certain outcome, only we just don't realize it.

I do wish you both the best in your relationship and also her with her mom. My mom died of Lewy Bodies Dementia last August, which also includes Parkinson's like symptoms. It's tough to go through.

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Thanks so much to you all. We are in a relationship in practice, but with no real commitments or labels because that part feels overwhelming to her. I'm happy to move to be with her, no matter what happens, but she's not willing or able to have that conversation right now because she's so stressed...so just moving there without discussing it would not be prudent. You're right I am in limbo. I love her so very much that for now I'm willing to wait, and trusting myself that I'll know if I reach a point where I can't do this limbo anymore. For now I can.

I think I was looking for reassurance that it's not foolish to wait, and tips for supporting someone in a caregiver role who can't really support you back...all while you're in an undefined, yet also serious relationship.

I am speaking with my therapist about all of this. I'm also looking for other perspectives.

Thank you so very much!

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When my fiance broke up with me (his mom was dying and he was her caregiver 24/7) I wasn't given the option of waiting, I was just cut off completely. Had I been given that option, I would have waited. No, I don't think it's foolish to give it time and be there for her in whatever supportive way she'll allow. Understand, though, that we aren't geared for that long term, most of us have limits as to what we can handle, it takes it's toll on the relationship, and how we feel, just automatically, no matter what great intentions we have. They take a risk by putting us in that position indefinitely...as long as they understand that and are willing for that, but then I guess that doesn't matter to them at the time because they can't handle thinking about the relationship, let alone doing what's in it's best interests.

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Thank you. I am totally willing to wait for now, knowing that there are no guarantees. She is actually able to laugh with me, and connect with me, and plan for us to see each other when she can. I think writing everything out and getting these great responses helped me realize that my anxiety about abandonment and the unknown has been a major player in all of this (and just healing from the previous sudden break up and two months of being shut out). When I sit back and look at how she let me back in to her life, and wants me in her life, it's actually going quite well. I mean she broke up with me, and 2 months later I flew out to her city to see her out of nowhere and she welcomed me in to her arms! That's huge! She is giving what she can, and I am grateful for that. I am going to keep working on myself, let what will be unfold, support her as I can, and trust myself to get my needs met how and when I need to. Thanks so much!

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I hope you can remind yourself that what drew the two of you together is still there, it's just she's not the same person, none of us are that have gone through grief, so she has to find you with her new self, and I think she will, being as you've made it this far back together. Remember, patience, and trust that if you're meant to be, it will be. Jim and I remain "broken up" but have had a wonderful friendship evolve and that's okay too. We value each other very much as friends.

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