You may feel you have a responsibility to support your partner during a time of profound sorrow and grief. And you don't understand why they deny your efforts to comfort them during their time of crisis. All you can do is stand back feeling rejected, wondering what you did wrong. You may fail to realize that the way your partner responds to their grief has nothing to do with you or how they feel about you.
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When your partner rejects your efforts to console them and turn away from you, it's easy to take things personally. You feel hurt and confused by their emotional responses, and you're left wondering if you've lost your connection forever. Undoubtedly, some couples going through the stress of a significant loss will feel the strain of grief on the relationship. Continue reading below if this is happening to you.
Why Would a Grieving Partner Push You Away?
If you’re left asking yourself, “Why is my grieving partner pushing me away?” you wouldn’t be the first to wonder why there’s been a significant shift in the connection to your loved one after suffering a major loss. Everyone who experiences a great loss will uniquely process their grief. Even when the loss affects you both, each individual’s grief reactions will be different.
Your partner may not always respond to their grief in ways that mirror yours. Their reactions will lead you to feel frustrated, angry, and confused. There are many reasons why your partner may withdraw from you as they begin to adjust to their loss and process their grief. Some common reasons why they may reject you as they grieve are:
- They haven’t accepted their loss
- They’re confused about their feeling and emotions
- They fell overwhelmed
- They’re carrying guilt and shame
- They’re not ready to allow you in
What to Do When a Grieving Partner Pushes You Away
While we all wish we had the magic formula for reconnecting to our partners after they’ve pushed us away, rest assured that these grief reactions won’t last forever. There are different stages of grief that most people suffer.
In the early stages, you may find it more challenging to connect to your partner. But as time goes on, those feelings of sadness and despair will begin to lift, and your partner should start to feel better. Here are a few tips to get you through the most challenging time post-loss.
Give them space
When a partner who’s grieving pushes you away, it’s because they’re typically having personal issues associated with their grief. Rarely do their grief reactions have anything to do with you. Everyone needs time and space to process their loss and adjust to the overwhelming feelings and emotions that follow.
Your partner is likely moving through the initial stages of grief related to shock and denial. Once these feelings start to wear off, you should see another shift in how they respond to you. However, don’t worry if your partner hasn’t come around after a few weeks. Some people take longer than others to process their grief.
Pick up the slack
Grief tends to make us feel lethargic even when we’re used to being full of energy and on top of things personally and professionally. After suffering through a significant loss, your partner may feel their power swept away by their mental frustrations and grief-related feelings. They may not feel like or even remember to keep up with their daily responsibilities.
You should expect them to fall behind on household chores and work as they deal with their grief. Everyday decisions might confuse and overwhelm them, causing them to pull even further away. Any way you can lend extra help and support will be beneficial to your relationship in the long run.
Acknowledge their loss
One of the hardest things when your partner’s grieving is removing yourself from the equation of their grief. It’s human nature to want to insert yourself into your partner’s grief experience so that you can understand and help them with what they’re going through. But sometimes, all that’s needed is for you to acknowledge the loss they’ve suffered without expectation or trying to make things better for them.
When someone’s dealing with a significant loss, there’s rarely anything you can say to make them feel better, so it’s unnecessary to try and fix things. Take a step back and allow them to go through whatever they need to as a result of their loss.
Encourage them to grieve
Showing vulnerability amid loss is sometimes challenging to do, especially when your partner sees themself as the foundation of your family. Although gender roles play a significant role in grieving, not everyone falls into the traditional male/female expectations of grieving styles.
All genders are susceptible to stoicism and the need to be strong for their families. This added pressure they place on themselves may cause them to suppress their grief, causing confusion, anger, and shame. A person needs to let out their emotions to find peace and healing after loss.
A grieving person’s capacity to give and be present in a romantic relationship diminishes after suffering a significant loss. You may find yourself needing your partner’s comfort and reassurance, but they may be emotionally unavailable to meet your needs.
Depending on the significance of your partner’s loss, it may be that you’ll need to hang in there a bit longer for them to return to the relationship. Even so, they may come back an entirely different person than before. Only time will tell the total effect of grief on your partner and relationship.
Tap into your support system
You may need to ask your friends and other loved ones to come to the rescue when you’re feeling incredibly lonely, left out, or neglected. Your partner may benefit from having time away from their usual role and responsibilities. They may not want to deal with the added pressure of being a partner and supporting you through your daily emotional ebbs and flows.
You’ll be doing both of you a favor by going outside of your relationship to meet particular social and emotional needs. There’s nothing wrong with spending time with your friends and family, taking on a new hobby, and finding ways of getting your social needs met while your partner deals with their grief.
Ask your partner for advice
Grief affects everyone differently, and it can be difficult to know what your partner wants or needs from you. You may already know that your partner requires time, patience, and understanding when processing their grief, but what do they need from you, specifically?
You may think that you’re doing everything your partner wants or needs by being there for them, being supportive, and asking questions. From their perspective, your actions may translate to being in their space, not allowing them to experience grief on their terms, and needing too much of them. If everything you’re doing for your partner seems like one colossal failure, ask them how they’d rather see you be present for them.
Seek grief therapy for yourself
No one likes to admit defeat, especially when trying to salvage a grief-stricken relationship. When you’ve tried everything within your power to get through to your grieving partner, seeking the help of a skilled grief counselor might be beneficial to you and your relationship.
With the proper guidance, you can learn more about what your partner’s going through, your views around grief, and ways to improve your communication and connectedness. Additionally, your counselor or therapist may connect you with other grief resources within your community for you and your partner to consider.
Suggest grief counseling
Denial plays a significant role in how we grieve and is part of the normal grieving process. Your partner who’s just experienced a consequential loss may not be ready to confront their losses. They may be in denial over their loved one’s death.
Many emotional reactions come into play when grieving. Your partner may be struggling with understanding their loss and their responses to it.
Often, this denial of grief manifests in other, more harmful, ways. Your partner may exhibit signs of anger and frustration directed towards you or other family members. They may recognize these emotions within them but not know how to respond healthily. A grief counselor will help your partner pinpoint specific grief triggers that may help them deal with their emotions.
Continue your support
Reassure your partner that their grief experience is a natural and normal part of the process despite all the challenges they face. Together, you can commit to getting through this setback and allowing the necessary time for your relationship to fall back into place.
Your partner may appreciate the reassurance that you’ll continue to support them despite how rough things may get. The grief process isn’t generally easy or quick to get through. The types of grief your partner exhibits will determine how quickly they’ll bounce back from this experience.
Coping When Your Partner Pushes You Away
The strain of grief on a relationship can be challenging to endure. When you’re the person needing to support a grieving partner, you might feel the added weight of their emotional wellbeing upon you.
This is an excellent time to remind yourself that your partner’s grief reactions are out of your control. Only they can work through their feelings of sadness and sorrow in a way that makes sense to them. When they push you away, it’s generally a sign that they’re having trouble coping with their loss. In time, things will get better, and your relationship will resume its ordinary course.