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Miri 5th August 2011 3:07 PM

Boyfriend's mother died, he pushed me away and now won't talk
I'm starting a new thread to focus on a specific issue not mentioned before.

My relationship with my bf was going amazingly well for 8 months. We were incredibly happy and in love and had many plans for the future together. Then his mother died, completely unexpectedly. She had raised him by herself and his father also died a few years ago, so he was suddenly alone in the world and an orphan at age 36.

He seemed fine for about 10 days and we were in frequent touch by phone while he was away taking care of her arrangements, but the night he came home, he was like a completely different person towards me. He seemed confused and said he didn't know what he wanted. Suddenly, he said he needed to take a break because he couldn't be in a relationship with anyone while he was grieving. He said to give it some time and that we'd talk more. Because it happened so abruptly, he said I didn't have to move my things out of his apartment.

I gave him space, just sent flowers to express condolences and called to check in on him a couple of weeks later. He said he still felt like a basketcase and wasn't sleeping well (he used to always sleep better with me). He said that he didn't know about getting back together and that he was taking solace in his solitude. He said that maybe he should be alone for the rest of his life - but this may just be grief talking, perhaps fear of losing another person he loves. He also said that he still loved and cared about me deeply and begged me to stay in his life.

He mentioned that he was going back to pack up his mother's house a few days later and that some friends/relatives who were supposed to come help him had to cancel. I decided to take a leap of faith and try to help him. After asking him when he was flying out, I booked a ticket and showed up at the airport. I told him I was just there as a friend and simply wanted to support him because I cared about him and knew how difficult this was going to be for him. He seemed fine at first, but after we were in the air, he started to get more agitated. When we landed, he bought me a return ticket for the next flight back at the gate. He said all this was just too emotionally raw and confusing and would complicate everything between us. He said we still need to figure out what we are, and he gave me a hug and promised to see me soon.

But I didn't hear anything from him again for over two months! I tried to give him space, but I'd occasionally send him a short and kind text message or email. I read that it was not uncommon for people to withdraw from contact while grieving or in depression (which he had a history of), so I didn't want to press more than that. On his birthday, I sent a card and tried to call, but got nothing. Finally, about a week after his birthday, he sent me an email that just said there's not a possibility of us getting back together, and that there needs to be considerable time and distance between us before we ever talk again. There was no explanation at all, absolutely nothing kind to soften his words. His tone sounded like I had wronged him somehow but I couldn't understand why.

I was so baffled and dumbfounded by the coldness of this message. I can't believe that after leaving me hanging in limbo for so long, and after how much we had both given to our relationship over the last year, that was all he had to say to me. We never had a chance to talk about anything because I was trying to give him space to grieve.

I recently I found out from a mutual friend that he'd been freaked out when I went to the airport and that it had made him uncomfortable, and that could be why he wants so much distance now. But he could have talked to me about it instead of just leaving me hanging and wondering! I only had the best of intentions but it apparently backfired to the point where he no longer even wants to be on speaking terms with me.

This just seems so horrible. I was closer to him than anyone, it's not like I was someone who hardly knew him. I felt that the closeness of our relationship prior to his mother's death had created enough of a bond that he'd understand. If anyone in my life had done something like that for me, I would have been so touched, no matter who it was! How could he not be more understanding?

Friends say that he's been awful to treat me like this and I've done nothing wrong. Is his reaction in any way justified after what I did for him? I want to write him a letter to remind him of how happy we were together and all the amazing memories and experiences we shared and plans we had been looking forward to. And to try to explain that I only had the best intentions when I went to the airport to try to help him. But I don't know if that will be helpful now. I do still need to get my belongings back but I'm not sure if I should say anything more or just say that I need to get my stuff and then simply not contact him any more after that. I don't understand how things came to this when they were going so well until his mother died. It's as if he died as well.

Chi townD 5th August 2011 3:20 PM

As weird as this may sound. I've seen this before. He's lost his mother, actually both his parents are gone. That is very devestating to process for him, because he had and always will have an unconditional love for them and the only other person that comes close to that level of love that he's has for you. His parents left him (obviously, not their fault) and he's pushing you away because (here's the weird part) he can't bare to lose you too and he may not even realize he's doing it. If the two of you don't work out, he'd rather leave you than to have you leave him, and him experience this level of pain again. He put up and emotional wall and you are on the other side of it. Does that make any sense?

stillafool 5th August 2011 3:30 PM

He has been through a life changing experience. When I lost my mom I didn't want to be bothered with anyone for long time. People grieve in different ways.

Eddie Edirol 5th August 2011 3:33 PM

Well surprising him by showing up at the airport was a lil much. But it didnt really matter. Some people take the death of their parents really really hard, for whatever reasons. Maybe unfinished business, maybe other things. Ive never had a loss that made me want to ignore my SO. I havent lost my parents yet, so ive never felt that kind of grief either. I have no idea what hes feeling. But Im always suspicious anyway. Usually on this board, when theres a breakup due to depression or some event (death, moving, depression), its because they were looking for a reason to break up for a while.

But like I said, Ive never felt that kind of loss, so i have no idea if I would shut my SO out like that. I cant imagine I would want to just push her away if the relationship was fine. But people experience depression in different ways. Hopefully someone who experienced this kind of loss will chime in here. What chi town says makes sense too.

Miri 5th August 2011 3:40 PM

Chi town, in my soul-searching of the last couple months I've seen that this is not an uncommon reaction to a parent's death. What ended up happening when you saw this before? Were they ever able to overcome this and get back together?

I understand what you're saying, that he's put up walls to protect himself emotionally. And that by turning away from me now, he has some control over things and that is easier for him to handle than the risk of losing me in a way outside of his control in the future.

My question for everyone is, what can I do to try to work this out? Should I be trying to break through to him by trying to communicate with him, or is it best to just stop all contact? Is this something that he will likely figure out in time, after his grieving process (which I know can take a very long time)?

I don't know whether trying to get him to talk will help or make things worse. I can't stand to just let our relationship die and I'm afraid that's what will happen if I let him go and walk away.

Graceful 5th August 2011 3:41 PM

I did see your previous post, and remember your dilemma. I am copying and pasting part of what I previously said, b/c it still stands, and you did not seem to go back to your last thread, I'm not sure.

It seems the focus here is about the reasons your ex's feelings took a radical turn against you and proceeding with your relationship that were caused by the death of his mother. So the focus is not a breakup, but more about the serious repercussions, reactions, grief process, and aftermath of the death of a parent.

You might want to consider getting information or support more from that standpoint, than about your breakup, which really seems to be an entirely different issue, as strange as that might sound.

He feels dead inside. Something died when his mother died. His sorrow is overwhelming.

You have not lost a parent. I have. I know what I'm talking about.

Additionally, I had a BF whose father died years before we met (his father died when my exBF was only 14 years old). He talked about it, and I thought I understood at the time. I didn't have a clue, I know that now. And I don't mean to sound harsh when I say this, but you really do not have a clue what he is going through. You really don't.

With you, it's almost as though he doesn't know how to be "normal" or resume the "role" of a boyfriend. He doesn't know how to be supportive, because he lost his infrastructure and ability to care about anyone else right now. He's shut you out, so anything to do with your success, your failure, how nice you are, how thoughtful you are, it's all shut out.

He might even feel like he is betraying his mother's memory to be in a romantic relationship right now, because it's disrespectful in some way. He just can't handle it. It takes a long time to resume anything even close to "normal"after the death of a parent.

The worst part, of course, is that he didn't just say the words and tell you, it's NOT YOU, it's him. And try to describe how he's feeling. But he didn't. Chances are he doesn't know how. It's too painful.

So again, maybe seek information and support from the standpoint of what he is going through, and cut your losses regarding the relationship right now.

Consider keeping a journal, and writing a letter -- not necessarily to send -- to express how you're feeling. I'm very sorry for his loss, it's huge, but I'm also sorry for the abrupt ending to your relationship, and can fully understand your feelings of helplessness and utter shock. It's a lot to absorb, I'm sure. Hope this helps. Peace.

ETA: I just saw your last post in terms of what to do, if anything. I would suggest leaving him alone for now. In a few weeks, you might consider sending him a card with words of support and letting him know that you are thinking of him. But I would tread very lightly. You need to be very, very self-less right now, and that's very difficult, I'm sure, b/c you want to help. But he's made his wishes known, and you have to respect him, you really do.

Miri 5th August 2011 3:47 PM

I also know that he was so in love with me, especially just before his mother died. I doubt the thought of breaking up had been a possibility at all in his mind. We'd just come back a couple of weeks before from a romantic getaway across the country and things were better than ever. The night before she died, he took my hand at dinner and said he wanted to start making all these plans for this year and beyond. He wanted to take me to Europe and wanted me to meet his family (most of whom live in other states). He was excited about all these plans he wanted to make together. Afterwards he kissed me in the middle of the street and told me he loved me more than ever.

The next day, his mother died, and at first he did want to talk to me about everything and wanted me to be there with him, but after a while he just withdrew. I don't know why his feelings changed and whether they'll ever be back to "normal" again.

Miri 5th August 2011 3:53 PM

Graceful, thank you for posting again. I did read your reply to my first thread, and I appreciate your advice and have thought about it. I just wanted to post again because of the new info I hadn't mentioned before (about the airport incident and him being upset about it), thinking maybe that would change the circumstances or advice given. I do understand that the grief is the primary force here and that our relationship is perhaps almost an afterthought in his life now. I have learned in the last few months to respect the power of grief.

I think what's been hardest for me though is to just understand how a deep love can just die so suddenly. I want to believe that the feelings he had for me were real and surely must still be there somewhere underneath.

I made an appointment to speak with a therapist soon, and hopefully that will help me to understand both his grief process (I've done a lot of reading on my own as well), and what I can do to cope with what has happened. I have never seen one before and am not sure what to expect, but I hope that it will be helpful.

Eddie Edirol 5th August 2011 3:56 PM


Originally Posted by Miri (Post 3551445)
I also know that he was so in love with me, especially just before his mother died. I doubt the thought of breaking up had been a possibility at all in his mind. We'd just come back a couple of weeks before from a romantic getaway across the country and things were better than ever. The night before she died, he took my hand at dinner and said he wanted to start making all these plans for this year and beyond. He wanted to take me to Europe and wanted me to meet his family (most of whom live in other states). He was excited about all these plans he wanted to make together. Afterwards he kissed me in the middle of the street and told me he loved me more than ever.

The next day, his mother died, and at first he did want to talk to me about everything and wanted me to be there with him, but after a while he just withdrew. I don't know why his feelings changed and whether they'll ever be back to "normal" again.

You seem to have a hard time understanding that its not about you. Its not about what he said to you, what your relationship was, how it made you feel, and what he said he wanted it to be. Just as Graceful says, he is a shell of himself right now, and pretty much everything about your relationship has been erased from his mind right now, so what he did with you in the past has nothing to stand on right now.

Your best bet is to forget about him for now and do not wait for him to come around. he might, he might not, and also remember this could make him feel similar to parents that lost a baby. They cant bear to look at each other because they remind each other of the loss, and they breakup. Right now, and in the future, being around you might remind him of his loss even when it has nothing to do with you. So do not contact him, youve done what you could, sent many flowers and cards, its not going to make his or your situation better.

Chi townD 5th August 2011 4:14 PM

I agree with Grace. Give him space. You can consider writing him a letter stating that you apologize for over-stepping your boundries by trying to go with him on the trip to handle is mothers affair; however, that you had nothing but good intentions in mind. That you love him and you hate to see him in so much pain and you don't know what to do to ease the suffering his been going through; however, it made you realize that right now, there's nothing you can do or say that's going to make him feel any better right now. But, reassure him that you will be there anytime he needs you. Be honest, be heart felt and nothing about how YOU are feeling. Then, leave him be and see what happens. People grieve in their own way and in their own time.

carhill 5th August 2011 4:18 PM

Well, as someone who lost his mother about eleven months ago and whose divorce was final two months after that, I'll offer my perspective, but first, a question:

How does BF handle emotion? Is he openly demonstrative and transparent or subdued and closed-off? In my experience with men, those who are 'in control' all the time go 'tit's up' when a life altering event blows their control up, resulting in an exaggerated desire for 'cave time'. I'm the opposite, and sought out friends (I wasn't dating anyone) during my period of grief. If anything, I engaged more, rather than retreating to a cave. It's a different emotional style.

Also, perhaps less likely, this traumatic event has triggered something in him which impelled him to revisit feelings from the past, feelings which now have de-prioritized you. Men also can have their deep oceans of secrets.

In any event, it is what it is. The relationship was a positive and apparently healthy one which has been suspended due to his inability to engage. No prejudice. Leave him to his process, heal, and move on. If he should seek you out again in the future, be clear that you wish to have a full and intimate relationship with him, or nothing, should you not already be involved with someone else. You've both proven that your intimacy works; there's no need for middle ground or partial relationships. Either he's in or he's out, at that time.

Good luck and my sympathies.

Miri 5th August 2011 6:49 PM

Today's been especially hard because it would've been our anniversary. Thanks everyone for your thoughts, especially from those of you who have experienced this kind of grief. I am sorry for your loss; I know it must be hard to come to terms with such an emotionally traumatic event and I am grateful for your insights.

Eddie, I understand that it's not about me or our relationship, that it is because he is grieving. I mentioned the romantic stuff from right before his mother's death to show that I sincerely do not believe he is using this event as an excuse to break up. It was not what he wanted for us.

carhill, you asked a good question about how he handles emotions. He's always been the stoic type and keeps his emotions to himself. He would talk to me about his feelings and fears, and he was super sweet and almost child-like with me in private at times, but always put on a tough act around his friends. I know that when his father died, it was horrible and he went through periods of debilitating depression for years afterward. But one of his closest friends told me that he never talked about it. So it does seem like he's the kind of person who compresses all his emotions internally and doesn't like to share them.

I understand grief can be very personal. He spoke to me about revisiting all his memories of his childhood, and I know that's a lot of process. I don't know if there was anything I said that made him pull away but when I think back to it, it seemed like a mood shift rather than anything I could have said or done.

I appreciate the advice about leaving him alone and giving him space, and that is what I will try to do, except for maybe sending one more heartfelt letter as Chi town suggested.

I am a bit concerned about getting my belongings back, though of course I don't want to be insensitive about how I handle it at this time. He made no mention of them and it's been 4 months. The things are valuable and irreplaceable and I do need them back eventually though I'm not in a hurry. I just don't want him to assume they're abandoned or that I'm using them as an excuse to contact him. Should I ask for them back now or just wait? Or mention that I will want them back eventually but that I don't have to get them until he's ready?

carhill 5th August 2011 7:15 PM

Yes, I would make clear arrangements to retrieve your valuables. You're not married and you have no legal rights to his premises while he figures things out. I can't imagine him inhibiting you. Even when dealing with my mom's death and estate, when my exW remembered some stuff which was still floating around the place, she let me know and I took care of making sure she got it. That kind of stuff is pretty basic human consideration.

If he had periods of depression for years :eek: after his fathers death, and is a stoic personality, my prognosis is not good. However, that's from an armchair. Ring him up and ask to get your stuff. His response will be telling. If you have personal contact, be honest and direct. It's admirable to be so sympathetic and understanding; it's healthy to be mindful of your needs and your priorities. Life happens; you've both made choices. All of them have consequences. He needs to own his. Good luck.

ConfusedT 5th August 2011 9:05 PM

this is completely different than my situation, but maybe this has to do with the type of person he is.

i had a relative try to commit suicide and i LITERALLY lost it & before I could even tell them what happened, he broke up with me, but instead of withdrawing, i begged and pleaded for attention because I was so wrapped up in all these emotions that i couldnt handle it, i just wanted the person who was supposed to keep me stable, help me stay stable.

this is really fresh for me, so i guess on the other side, he is emotionally hurting and so he is withdrawing. give him his space and let him come back if he wants/needs to...

robaday 6th August 2011 8:06 AM

Ive been in your boyfriends position, although I continued the relationship. And I hate to say I deeply regret carrying on the relationship, because when that ended I was broken completely and dealing with two significant losses.

With me I used a relationship, drugs, alcohol, and overwork to distract myself rather than facing the loss directly. It was a bad mistake. It was only a year after the loss that I actually confronted it, went to counselling, and two years before I felt truly alive again. Totally emotionally unavailable for two years.

It starts with shock and denial - I was fine for two months, upbeat and positive. Then the insomnia started. Then the anxiety. Then the loss of appetite. 3 months of intense anxiety (with little depression followed), as well as weight loss. Then the depression set in. And it got deeper and more serious for nearly a year. Then after a year and a half I was able to cry for the first time after the even, and was able to look at pictures again.

Instead of distracting himself hes facing this head on. Its brave, but also risky pushing someone away. But if he's like me he doesnt want you to see him weak - no man does. He doesnt want to appear weak for risk of losing you. Becoming dependent on someone during grief is dangerous for a man, because if that doesnt work out hes bared himself emotionally. So your boyfriends shut down. Id leave him well alone for the time being. If hes a good guy he will be back in touch - it might take a long time. It took me two years before I was emotionally healthy again. Im sorry if that is negative, its not - dont blame yourself over this I doubt you did anything wrong at all.

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