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My partner is grieving

I want to help, but she’s distant towards me.

First, says our elder, you’re doing a great job. And there are lots of tools that can help you.

Dear EWC

My partner of three years recently lost her brother two months ago from a heart attack. It was quite a shock to everyone because he was so young. My partner tries to be very tough and hold her emotions back. However, now I am starting to see her grief appear more every day. She works a lot and comes home very stressed; therefore I always give her time to relax. However, she has become very unaffectionate towards me (the most she does is give me a kiss to greet me). She also is not very emotionally supportive to me at the moment; she’s in her shell. She has expressed to me that she knows that she isn’t being a good partner to me but the only thing she can think about is her brother being gone and her family not communicating with her. I know that she needs her time and space and I try my best to be patient with her but I often feel extremely lonely. I know I should stay as selfless as I can be and I try to clean and cook so she doesn’t have to stress about the small details. However I often look at our old photos and miss who she was, this loving and energized person. Nowadays she’s distant and numb towards me. I understand grief is a process and she is dealing the way that she wants to but how can I find strength during a time like this? I want to be her support but I also want to not be so affected by her disinterest in our relationship. Thanks!

JoeF replies

Before I get into suggestions on ways to help I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend you on how well you’re dealing with the situation. You are being selfless, which I believe is what you should be at this time. I also understand how difficult that can be when nothing seems to be changing. I think everything you’ve done so far has been right. You just have to realize that there is no time limit on how long a person needs to grieve. Everyone handles it differently, and the suggestions below will help you both through this very tough time.

I don’t need to advise you to reach out for help because you’ve already done that with your letter to us, so it’s a good first step. In this particular situation I like to think of myself as similar to a traffic cop whose main purpose is to point people in the proper direction to help them reach where they want to, in the best possible way. Some of the things that are quite important are:

Understanding the grieving process.
How to support someone’s grieving.
Knowing what to say to a grieving person.
How to offer other kinds of assistance.

These are not things anyone knows instinctively so there are different ways to achieve them. One way is to work with a grief counselor. A professional with experience in this area would be incredibly beneficial to your partner. A counselor has the experience to listen, comfort, and offer the advice necessary to expedite the healing process. Your partner can see someone alone or with you if they prefer. Going through something like this together, I believe would deeply strengthen the relationship between you.

There are also Bereavement Group Counseling services available. Sharing your feelings with those who are going through the same issues can be wonderfully healing. Online grief support offers a free grief course and the American Hospice Foundation offers ways to help you work through grief. All these services can be found online.

Since I don’t know what your financial situation is, I would also like to add that there are ways to find someone to talk to without it becoming a financial burden. You can call 211; your local church, employer, universities and community centers may be able to help you find someone to talk to; or you could try online counselling and listening services and online support groups..

I know I’ve given you a lot to think about, but the more tools you have working for you and your partner the better chance you have to help you through this difficult time. Sometimes, to get where you want to go you need to have trust. If you trust in yourself and what I’ve suggested I know you can change what’s been going on for the better. It may seem hard at first but each step will become a little easier as you take it.

Good luck to you and your partner. I’m rooting for you both.

Letter #: 449967
Category: Dating/Relationship

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