Experiencing a significant loss is a life-changing experience that alters a person, changing who they used to be. Your role in supporting a significant other who's suffering through loss also evolves, leading to difficulty finding where you now fit in in that relationship.
Perhaps you've discovered that your partner's grief is too much for you to deal with, or you made your decision to leave the relationship before tragedy struck, and now you're stuck with needing to move on despite their grief.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Consider Before You Break Up With Someone Who Is Grieving
- How to Break Up With Someone Who Is Grieving
- How to Save a Relationship With Someone Who Is Grieving
Being in a relationship takes a lot of emotional energy, and the pain of losing someone is often enough to lead to a relationship breakdown after loss. Your partner will need a lot of emotional energy to grieve because the pain of losing someone is often devastating and overwhelming. If you think it's time to move on, keep reading below for more on how.
What to Consider Before You Break Up With Someone Who Is Grieving
Before pulling the plug on any relationship, consider the reasons why you've decided that doing so is the best option. Often, a person who's experienced a significant loss will need extra comfort and support to help them get through the initial shock of their loss. Breaking up with someone grieving may result in their downward spiral leading them further into despair.
Experiencing an emotional disconnect from your partner after loss is a natural part of the grieving process. You can expect your relationship to suffer this stage of grief from one to two years before you see a turnaround in your bond. Where one person wants to withdraw and be alone, the other may wish for stronger communication and togetherness.
Neither of you is wrong to want and need these levels of separation or commitment. However, you may feel frustrated when you're not getting the support you desire from your partner. Giving them the needed time to mourn and heal may strengthen your connection in the long run.
How to Break Up With Someone Who Is Grieving
When deciding that a breakup is inevitable, make a firm commitment to that decision and stick to it. Safeguarding your partner’s feelings and shouldering their burden of grief isn’t your responsibility. Break up with them if you want to and are ready to leave them. You don’t need any reason to leave someone if that’s what you want to do. You don’t owe anyone a reason for leaving.
Personal tragedies can and often change the way we see the world and view our relationships. And, as a result, some relationships end. Here are a few tips to help prepare you for the breakup.
You don’t need permission
Knowing what you have to do and acting on it is where our most incredible agony lies. Learn to accept things as they are without adding stress and drama to an already sensitive situation. If you know that you no longer want to be in your relationship, there’s no point in dragging the breakup out.
Your partner may feel hurt and abandoned initially, but they’ll also start seeing things from a new perspective once they move through their grief. A relationship that wasn’t working out before a tragedy won’t likely survive the highs and lows of grief.
Breaking up with your grieving partner because you want to is all you need to decide on as you consider whether you should stay or go. Everyone deserves to be treated with love, compassion, and respect regardless of what their partner is going through. When someone is in the throes of grieving, it’s natural to take their grief out on their partner.
Grieving is hard work and takes time to adjust to. You don’t need to subject yourself to the agony of your grieving partner, whether you’re many years deep into your relationship or just getting to know each other.
Skip hurtful details
Feeling compassion for your partner’s grief yet remaining unfulfilled in the relationship can leave you confused about what to do. You may be struggling with one of the most challenging decisions you’ve ever had to make. The easiest thing for you to do is accept the situation for what it is and move on from the relationship.
Avoid going into the reasons you’re leaving, but do give enough information for your partner to understand the finality of your decision. They don’t have to accept your decision or that you’re leaving, but they shouldn’t be confused by your message. Leaving the relationship on good terms requires you to avoid blaming anyone for your decisions.
Be honest about your feelings
End things as soon as they’re no longer working out for you. Honesty is the best policy, even when you need to deal with your feelings. Nothing’s gained by delaying your decision for a better time or circumstance. Of course, you’ll want to practice compassion when deciding the exact moment to break the news.
Don’t casually blurt out your decision when your partner has a grieving episode or when you’re mad at each other. Choose a time of relative calm to state your decision firmly.
Let your partner process the news
Knowing what to say to a grieving partner is as essential as when you decide to break things off with them. Grieving individuals experiencing the early stages of grief will have several emotional ups and downs, and they will need time to process their emotions to make sense of their loss.
Leaving a relationship within the first few days or weeks after your partner has gone through a significant loss may send them into a tailspin of emotions. Recovering from a downward spiral after getting bad news on top of bad news may be too much for some people to bear.
Set clear boundaries
End things as soon as they’re no longer working out for either of you, and be clear about each other’s boundaries after the breakup. Discuss each other’s expectations concerning post-breakup communication, including texting one another and providing continued support as the other grieves their loss.
Ensure that there’s no ambiguity remaining in whether you will continue to stay friends and whether they can count on you for emotional support related to their loss. Other considerations are social media announcements of the breakup, navigating shared friendships, and social settings.
How to Save a Relationship With Someone Who Is Grieving
Not every tragedy ends in a bad breakup, and some relationships are worth saving and working through the ebbs and flows of the stages of grief. Your significant other is in a vulnerable state, and their grief reactions may be more complicated than experiencing the death of someone close to them or whatever loss they’ve experienced.
If you’re prepared to make a go of it, sticking by your partner through rough times may prove to be the best thing you can do for them and yourself.
Consider if the relationship’s worth salvaging
Is there still love between you, and are you both in it to try and work things out? These are two questions to ask yourself when considering if a relationship is worth salvaging. Both partners must be willing to make sacrifices and learn to give in to each other’s needs even when one person is grieving.
There’s no easy way out of grieving, and you must work through it and maintain hope that things will eventually get better. Allow yourself ample time to adjust to your new reality before making drastic decisions.
Allow them their space
Your partner may need room to process and grow from their grief and benefit from having space to themselves to understand their suffering. We all deal with tragedies in unique ways, and it's not fair to project your expectations for yourself on your partner's suffering when it comes to grieving.
When you build a relationship out of love, trust that your feelings for one another will remain or become stronger after suffering through a major tragedy. Often the partner who isn't grieving feels their needs neglected as the other deals with their suffering, but the emotional roller coaster of grief doesn't last forever.
Take your needs into consideration
Grieving individuals often suffer extreme bouts of emotional ups and downs, including anger and depression. Your partner may project these feelings on you, causing them to take their grief out on you unfairly. As a loving and understanding partner, you want to give them your love and support as they learn to navigate through their grief.
Still, their grief reactions start to overwhelm you, and you’re no longer benefitting from the relationship as before. Remember that you don’t need to suffer with them and accept abuse. Consider taking time off from the relationship for a few weeks or months to give your partner room to grieve.
Ask for their input
Understanding that everyone grieves differently is essential in making a relationship work after a significant loss. Your grieving partner may not have enough emotional energy left over to dedicate to you and your relationship in the beginning. Still, after a few weeks, things should begin to get back to a new normal slowly.
Ask your partner how they view your relationship and anything they wish to improve. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in what we need and want out of a relationship without considering the other person’s expectations.
Seek grief counseling
The often overwhelming pain that accompanies a major tragedy creates a wedge between many couples that can permanently drive them apart. Coping with changing relationships after loss may seem confusing because the person and relationship you once knew are now forever gone.
To salvage a relationship devastated by grief, it'll take work and understanding. A grieving person's capacity to give to you and the relationship drastically diminishes after loss, leaving you feeling unloved and neglected. A professional grief counselor or therapist can help you both get your relationship back on track after a significant loss.
Knowing When to Leave a Grieving Partner
The beginning of grief is not the automatic end to every relationship. While some couples will suffer through devastating changes to their connection, others will thrive through grief and survive loss stronger than they were before. Trust yourself to know when it’s right for you to walk away from a relationship that isn’t working for you any longer.