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Can Grief Kill Love?


Elizabeth James

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Elizabeth James

Hello,

In advance, please let me apologize if I am posting inappropriately or in the wrong place. I have not lost either parent, but am in love with someone who is in the process of it. There is no clear place on the forum to post a question like this, but I am hoping that you can share your perspectives anyway to help me understand better.

I was engaged to, and am still very close with and still love, a man who is in the process of losing his mother to cancer, and his father has also had a series of near-fatal heart attacks.

The backstory, as briefly as I can summarize it:

A year and a half ago, I met an amazing man. At almost 40 years old he had never married, and according to family and friends, had never been serious about a woman. As a doctor he spent most of his time in his profession, developing his hobbies, travel, etc. He and I fell hard for each other. After an incredibly sweet courtship he proposed marriage. I, however, was still healing from a divorce and was terrified. I was still trying to conquer my fear and go forward when his mother, with whom he's extremely close (he's Latin) developed cancer, his father started having serial heart attacks, and a number of other things happened in his personal life. It was too much for him to handle all at once, he said, and he broke off the romantic part of our relationship. He subsequently went into clinical depression but worked very hard and got out of it in a few months.

He told me that although he doesn't love me anymore, he desperately wants to "stay friends" and stay connected. I am still in love with him. Our lives are still closely intertwined and neither one of us seems to let go. We have developed a pattern in which we draw close and spend amazing time together (no physical intimacy but deep emotional intimacy). When we talk or see each other he pours his heart out to me. But then he seems to panic and withdraw, distancing himself for a time, although he always comes back. Over a long period of time our relationship has progressed closer at a snail's pace, but his mother is still in a long, agonizing process of dying. It is incredibly harrowing for him to cope with the grief, and he is actively reviewing everything in his belief system and his life. He spends most of his free time with her. I must mention that he has gone out a few times with a woman he works with, but family members assure me that it's incredibly casual and means nothing, that he doesn't have the emotional energy to invest in rekindling our relationship right now because of his mother. They counsel me to have time and patience. I haven't dated anyone else and am not interested, and have focused on healing myself from my divorce.

There are two things I would appreciate help with understanding. First of all, of course, is how to be the best friend I can to him, independent of our romantic state. I have read a lot on the topic of supporting a loved one through loss but I would still like any advice you could give me. And then, is it reasonable to think that his grief has caused, or at least contributed, to his emotional distancing from me? It has been extremely painful and difficult to understand why something that seemed so special and so good fell apart, yet we seem to still have such strong bonds to each other.

Again, I apologize sincerely if this is off-topic. If anyone knows of a better place for me to ask these questions, please let me know.

Thank you,

Elizabeth

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No need to apologize. You question is fine for this forum.

This is a tough one...It sounds like you truly care about this man. It sounds as if his grief and need to to be with his mother is consuming his thoughts and time these days. If you want to support him and you feel to do so would not be asking too much of you given the break-up of the engagement I think you can be available to talk with him and let him get his thoughts and feelings out. That seems to be what helps a lot of people who are grieving. I know that is what helps me. He at times may need space or to just spend time with himself or his family right now. As his friend you can just give him that space. No-one can "fix " our grief..all they can do is just be there with us as we are and sometimes it is all consuming.

My mother had terminal cancer for 7 years before she passed away and it was a trying time for. My brother and I were her primary and until the end her sole caretakers and it does take a lot time and energy to care for someone in this types of circumstance. That being said we both had lives and relationships apart from our mom. I had 2 children during her illness and my brother who had other interests and businesses. I of course do not know this situation at all but something you said a couple things that caught my attention..."At almost 40 years old he had never married, and according to family and friends, had never been serious about a woman." and "He told me that although he doesn't love me anymore, he desperately wants to "stay friends". If you were my close friend or sister I would tell you to be careful and not pin your future hopes for a life partner here. In reality of course I only know what you have written here and you are the only one close enough to situation to reasonably assess things. Who knows, maybe those who are asking you to be patient are right, I just think you should be careful.

Take care. I wish you, your friend and his family all the best. God bless.

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Hello,

In advance, please let me apologize if I am posting inappropriately or in the wrong place. I have not lost either parent, but am in love with someone who is in the process of it. There is no clear place on the forum to post a question like this, but I am hoping that you can share your perspectives anyway to help me understand better.

I was engaged to, and am still very close with and still love, a man who is in the process of losing his mother to cancer, and his father has also had a series of near-fatal heart attacks.

The backstory, as briefly as I can summarize it:

A year and a half ago, I met an amazing man. At almost 40 years old he had never married, and according to family and friends, had never been serious about a woman. As a doctor he spent most of his time in his profession, developing his hobbies, travel, etc. He and I fell hard for each other. After an incredibly sweet courtship he proposed marriage. I, however, was still healing from a divorce and was terrified. I was still trying to conquer my fear and go forward when his mother, with whom he's extremely close (he's Latin) developed cancer, his father started having serial heart attacks, and a number of other things happened in his personal life. It was too much for him to handle all at once, he said, and he broke off the romantic part of our relationship. He subsequently went into clinical depression but worked very hard and got out of it in a few months.

He told me that although he doesn't love me anymore, he desperately wants to "stay friends" and stay connected. I am still in love with him. Our lives are still closely intertwined and neither one of us seems to let go. We have developed a pattern in which we draw close and spend amazing time together (no physical intimacy but deep emotional intimacy). When we talk or see each other he pours his heart out to me. But then he seems to panic and withdraw, distancing himself for a time, although he always comes back. Over a long period of time our relationship has progressed closer at a snail's pace, but his mother is still in a long, agonizing process of dying. It is incredibly harrowing for him to cope with the grief, and he is actively reviewing everything in his belief system and his life. He spends most of his free time with her. I must mention that he has gone out a few times with a woman he works with, but family members assure me that it's incredibly casual and means nothing, that he doesn't have the emotional energy to invest in rekindling our relationship right now because of his mother. They counsel me to have time and patience. I haven't dated anyone else and am not interested, and have focused on healing myself from my divorce.

There are two things I would appreciate help with understanding. First of all, of course, is how to be the best friend I can to him, independent of our romantic state. I have read a lot on the topic of supporting a loved one through loss but I would still like any advice you could give me. And then, is it reasonable to think that his grief has caused, or at least contributed, to his emotional distancing from me? It has been extremely painful and difficult to understand why something that seemed so special and so good fell apart, yet we seem to still have such strong bonds to each other.

Again, I apologize sincerely if this is off-topic. If anyone knows of a better place for me to ask these questions, please let me know.

Thank you,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth,

You are perfectly okay in posting here. In our society, grief is such a "hush-hush" experience. No one really wants to talk openly about how it affects lives. If we knew more and were more educated about grief and loss, I think it would help us at many levels. I'm not saying it would make things perfect, it just seems it would help.

With that being said, Your man sounds as though he definitely going through some rough emotional issues. He may have focused all of his emotional energy into his mother, which may or may not account for his "falling out of love" with you. As far as being supportive even though there is no romantic involvement, you can certainly be the best friend you can be by listening to him, inquiring after his emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Just being there for him as a shoulder to cry on will certainly be supportive.

Secondly, I agree with Terra that you may not want to put all of your emotional energy into him. Keep yourself open to options. If he says he doesn't love you anymore, then take that at face value and don't read anything else into it, as hard as that may be. Aside from grief, there could be many other issues involved here.

So, certainly be supportive, but center your current emotional energy on yourself and healing from all of your hurts.

ModKonnie

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Elizabeth James

Thank you so very much for your kind responses, especially your warnings to be cautious. It's good to know that I'm already doing all I can - there just didn't seem to be anything else to do! Time will tell on all of it... but it's nice to feel supported.

Elizabeth

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Thank you so very much for your kind responses, especially your warnings to be cautious. It's good to know that I'm already doing all I can - there just didn't seem to be anything else to do! Time will tell on all of it... but it's nice to feel supported.

Elizabeth

You are more than welcome to keep coming here for support and encouragement. We welcome everyone.

ModKonnie

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