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Dating Someone Suffering from a Loss

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Greetings everyone,


I am sorry for the length of this; however, I am hoping someone can give me some guidance dating someone who is suffering from a loss.  I am very confused about what is normal or abnormal behavior for both of us.

In 2010 a woman and I met, fell in love, and dated for a little over two years.  We were engaged.  Due to outside life circumstances and maturity issues with both of us we decided in middle of 2012 to separate.  Shortly after the separation we both moved on and dated other people.  I had more relationships than her while she met one individual and stayed with him for the 5 years.

Around September of 2017 we reconnected and began dating again.  It was amazing!  The love and friendship we had was still present.  It felt as if we never separated from one another.  Shortly after reconnecting she provided some insight regarding the person she had been seeing.  They dated for approximately 2.5-3 years before he suffered a heart attack.  She felt it best to move him in and care for him until he died.  Some of the details she provided are part of my confusion and struggle.

Some of the confusion stems from how she describes this person.  She loved him, but she knew he was not for her and the relationship would not last.  Her friends had told her this and she conveyed she felt the same way to myself as well as her best friend.  Then she would describe him as her husband, her love, someone she cared about but not deeply, and the descriptions would change constantly.  The only reason she moved him in was out of obligation to help.  She described the guilt she faced because this person was in heart failure, kidney failure, lung failure, and a multitude of other ailments.  He was at the VA no less than 2 times a week.  Each time they informed her he was about to die, he would recover and be sent home home.  On the day he passed away she arrived at the hospital hours after the fact as she assumed it was the same situation as always and she would pick him up and go home.

When we started seeing one another again this person had passed away 10-11 months prior.  There were times shortly after we started dating that she would only want to talk about this person.  At the time she still had all his possession in her house, was still receiving his mail, had his clothes in her closet, and his mother sent her a portion of his ashes.  A military funeral was held and they presented her with his flag and honored her as his spouse.  She had some of his ashes made in to a ring which she wears as daily.  She would become very upset when I was not be able to discuss all the details of their life together.  She wanted to discuss his death, their vacations, intimate moments, and life.  She would not tell anyone about us.  She kept me from her family and his and most of her friends.  Whenever someone called or came over she would hang up and tell me to not call or text until she contacts me first.  She didn’t want anyone to know.  If she went to go do something with his family I may not hear from her for days.  It came to a point where I had to say I could not be both the boyfriend and the counselor.  However, she did not want to go see anyone else for help.  The grief appeared bad and possibly pathological.

All of this created many arguments between us.  I did ask at one point she not wear the ring when we were intimate together because it was hurtful and explained the symbolism to me.  Moreover, it was a reminder to me she was not ready to be in a relationship.  Eventually the arguments became so frequent we separated again in November of last year.

This June she contacted me, and we have started seeing one another again.  Many things have changed, and I can tell she has coped with some issues.  She is much happier.  She has told everyone other than his family about me.  I am not allowed to be on her FB page of other social media feeds, but I am not hidden as much.  She still wears the ring she had made and every now and then it is visible in pictures she sends.  However, when we are together she doesn’t talk about this person or wear the ring.  I did ask her how she knows she is ready for us now.  All she would say is that she had to do some things and come to some realizations, but she won’t discuss them so it does not affect us or hurt me.

My concern for her is knowing that she is healing in a healthy way.  Moreover, I have a fear (more unfounded I suppose) that what if this person becomes the center of our relationship again.  We both love each other immensely.  Both of us would do anything for the other.  It is painful because we often think about what we have missed out on together and the life we could have had all these years.  However, I cannot tell what is irrational or normal behavior for both of us.  For example, is it normal for me to be concerned she still wears this ring with his ashes?  Or wonder if she still has all his possessions and has not buried the ashes his mom sent?  I can see some of this behavior being normal if you were married to someone for 25+ years but not someone you dated for a couple.  The descriptions of what this person was in her life changed so often it only deepens my confusion.  I am sure I have not acted appropriately through this either as we both have our own struggles in this case.

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As someone on the opposite side of almost this exact same situation, I have to tell you: the guy I'm seeing needed to accept that the love I lost was not a loss by choice. I love him, still. I will always love him. Whoever decides to start a life with me now has to accept that he will always be part of my life. I have his ashes. I gave his eulogy. The sweater he wore the day before he died unexpectedly, 10 months ago, is sitting in my closet - and it still smells like him.

If anyone ever tells me it seems like I'm not coping because I still love him, then it's clear to me that that person isn't for me.

It's easy to say that she "didn't really love him" or "he wasn't for her," but she stuck it out. You only do that when you really, truly, love someone. It makes her grief more complicated, but it doesn't mean you should run away because you feel threatened by a ghost.

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I agree, I’m in a similar situation. I recently lost my ex and had begun dating someone a few weeks prior. I’m at such a loss at what has happened but this guy has been so supportive and amazing. I cry almost everyday and talk about how I wish my ex was still here, that I could change the past. Sometimes I feel cruel about the things I say, and feel distant but he knows that this was someone I truly loved. I agree with the previous post, I had said the same to him that he has nothing to worry about in our relationship that the person I loved is a gone. I don’t wish this experience on anyone but I tell him that he will never understand unless he is going through it. Hang in there it sounds like there’s a reason both of you keep coming back to one another!

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