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Helping my partner through this while caring for myself


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Hi everyone,

I'm just going to jump right in and give you some backstory. My boyfriend and I have been together a little over 2 years. Just 3 months ago, at the start of COVID lock downs and everything, his mother committed suicide. He was the one to find her, and it's safe to say he is traumatized by this. A little history- they have had a very turbulent relationship in the last few years. His father is an addict and after his younger brother went off to the army after graduating high school this past year, his father just fell into his problems. Before that, his father forced the family out of home because he was in so much drug debt that they lost everything. My boyfriend developed his own habit during this turbulent time (before we were together) and was forced to be the one to take care of the family financially. He even became his brother's legal guardian for some time. Fast forward to this time period- the family somewhat recovered, they were back in the home, dad's drug problem is back, he goes to rehab and my boyfriend is left to be his mother's only support system.

She had her problems. She was loving when the real her came out, but I think over the years the issues in their family took their toll on her and she never really dealt with the effects. When we told her she wouldn't be able to move in with us when his dad went back to rehab (she couldn't afford to live there on her own) because we did not have the space, she refused to look into other options, and it would have just been a terrible idea mentally for my boyfriend, she became hateful towards him even though all he wanted to do was help. This caused him to take a break from speaking with her because it got very abusive. She contacted nearly everyone in his life that she could and tried to tarnish his name. I want to stress that this woman had a LOT of issues she never dealt with. I was lucky enough to see the best parts of her at the beginning of our relationship even though it was already clear she had been through enough to change her. This was the first time my boyfriend really stood up for himself and took the space he needed so he didn't fall apart mentally and then with all the COVID stuff going on, he was worried about her and wanted to go check on her. He was having bad dreams all night that something bad had happened.

I'll never forget the phone call. I was so sure she would come to the door, they would fight a little, but he would at least be able to make sure she was ok physically and then he would come home. He found her overdosed and dead in her bed. I watched him break that day. He had fought so long and so hard for his family. He had just wanted to take a couple of weeks to let things calm down and not be subjected to her abuse and she killed herself.

On Easter, just about three weeks after he found her, his grandfather passed. On the same day, one of his favorite client's passed and then shortly after that his Great Aunt passed. That's four deaths within about 5 or 6 weeks. I can't even handle typing this right now if I'm being honest.

Anyways, he is clearly going through one of the hardest times in his life. His father is no help to him, although he's trying harder than I have ever seen him try, I'll give him that. His brother is stuck in another state since he's in the army and under COVID lock down. His family has not been supportive in years and he's barely gotten a response from them. He has a best friend who is just amazing, but he's only one person. And then there is me and my family, who love him as if he were blood, but he's not totally comfortable opening up around them yet. Plus, as you can imagine, after losing so much family getting closer to another is difficult.

We are looking into counseling now because we've had a difficult time coping and I've never seen a significant other through a death before, let alone four. I'm doing my absolute best, but his addiction reared it's ugly head. He ended up stealing pills from me (I have an adderall prescription) and lying to me about money. Now, I'm not looking for advice on this part. He knows the severity of the problem and so do I. We have both committed to not making excuses for him, but it is evident that he needs help and we are looking into drug treatment programs, but I can understand why and how he got to this relapse. I addressed the problem immediately and appropriately and put up necessary boundaries.

But it's safe to say, we are having issues and being his main support system has taken its toll on me. I sometimes feel shut down completely. I've come to fear when he calls because I'm afraid of yet another problem arising. And, I know that is unfair considering everything he's been through and I'm doing my best to cope with my feelings, but I feel a little broken here. He feels empty and like he has nothing to live for. I can see him trying so hard. I can see him trying to be here and be present and love me the way he wants to, but he is so defeated. That, in turn, makes me feel defeated. I've tried so hard to support him since we've been together and it's so difficult to hear him say he's lost everything when I'm right here. He still wants our future together, but he's having a hard time being motivated to want anything after this.

I hate even saying this, but because of everything he's been through and how difficult his family was before all of this, it sometimes feels like nothing will ever be about me. I'm not trying to be selfish and we have had productive conversations around this topic. He knows he is having an incredibly difficult time seeing outside himself right now, rightfully so. However, it is definitely doing damage to our relationship and it becomes clear at points that he does not see my problems as significant because of the gravity of what he's going through. He is working on this, but I do also feel it's important for him to have space to be a little selfish right now. Plus, part of it is jealousy. He's admitted that because I have such a wonderful family he does feel jealousy towards me. I think sometimes if I'm having a difficult time part of him feels I should just be grateful for what I have and I am left feeling like nothing in my life is important enough to even register with him.

That being said, I would love some advice of how to do a little self-care here. I was reading that it's important to understand that your loved ones might not be able to be there for you as much as they usually are and that you should never make them feel bad for their grief. I want his grief to be cathartic for him. He's been through years of struggle and it ended like this. Of course he feels hopeless. So what can I do when I start feeling that resentment creeping up? What can I do to meet my needs outside of our relationship while I give him this space? Not trying to fill romantic needs here just in case that was implied. A lot of people are going through it right now so a lot of my friends are not as available for me either. That's totally fair, but I don't know what to do in those moments where it feels like this pain and this grief will be never-ending. What do I do when it feels like I've lost him entirely? I'm trying not to be scared in those moments, but I'm flawed and it's difficult to hear that he has nothing to live for anymore. He doesn't feel suicidal, he feels he's lost purpose. For so long, keeping his family safe was his purpose and now that's gone.

The last thing I want to stress is that he is an incredibly loving person. We both have our faults but we are both committed to trying to figure this out. We are both ready and willing to go to counseling, and he is ready and willing to have structured drug treatment. But sometimes we are at such a loss that we end up fighting or just sitting there with nothing to say at all. I think we both feel a little stuck in this pain here.

The last part of this is my grief. I have so much anger towards his mother for doing this. I have so much anger towards myself for not just making it work and letting her live with us, but we even contacted a lawyer because I was afraid of her escalating behavior and he said she never would have left if you let her in. We tried to be there for her from afar. We had wellness checks done for her TWICE the week before she killed herself. How does that happen? I do not know how to cope with these feelings and I don't want to get in the way of his grief. She harassed us and tried to break us up just so he would be forced to come back and live with her and take care of her. I needed him. I was going through a hard time already and she just kept bulldozing herself into our lives in such unhealthy ways. And then on the other hand, I miss her. I hate that I miss her, but I do. We got along so well when things were good. I'm so mad at her for doing this. She was so scared of being homeless and she even wrote that in her suicide note. She didn't even write a note to my boyfriend, only to his brother and his father. How does that even happen?! He was the only one who ever even tried to take care of her. If she had just waited ONE MORE WEEK evictions would have been on hold and she would have been able to stay. Also, she never even fully got evicted. She could have fought all of it and chose not to. She knew for MONTHS that the father was on his way out and she never chose to set herself up for success. She never chose to get a job, look for a roommate or anything. She put it all of him just like she always did. And I absolutely hate that I was so mad at her when she died. I don't understand why any of this had to happen. I don't understand why she couldn't be stronger. I know that might sound horrible, but I'm so mad at her and I'm so sorry for her at the same time. It's incredibly confusing.

I apologize for such a long post. I'm sorry if not all parts of it are clear. I suppose part of me just needed to let it out. Thank you in advance for reading this if you stuck through till the end. I appreciate any help we can get.

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