My partner is grieving

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My partner’s mom died over 5 mos ago from an accidental overdose. She cried and cried for the first two weeks and seemed to get a little better everyday after that. The last month she has been distant and depressed and says she’s just missing and dealing with her mom. She never wants to touch, show affection, or be intimate with me anymore. She gets angry with me over things that were her decisions. I’ve read a lot on depression lately…the problem I am having is that she doesn’t act this way with everyone. She never wants to just joke with me or have fun with me…but she continues to joke and have fun with her other friends. I know that she feels safe with me and maybe feels like when its just us she can just be sad…but i am hurt. i just want to learn to accept this and not get so hurt by it.
I know when I’m depressed…i’m depressed around everyone. She is only depressed around me. I ask her if there’s more and she just says she’s foggy and doesn’t know why her mom did that. I just feel lost and unloved and want to try to figure out a way to keep loving her while she doesn’t show her love for me.

A: I’m sorry for your partner’s loss and for your hurt and confusion. Please understand that she is grieving. Grief is different than depression. The death of a parent, especially such a tragic and unexpected death, can be very, very hard. Her mother has been gone for only 5 months. It is not at all unusual for it to take a year or more for a person to fully metabolize a significant loss.

Your partner’s relationship with you is significantly different than her relationship with her friends. She loves you. On some level, she may feel that to love carries too great a risk. She may think she simply couldn’t stand another loss. To protect herself, she may be distancing from you for a bit.

My suggestion to you is that you focus on her for now. Love her unselfishly. Be there for her. Don’t expect a lot back. Give her time and space to grieve. Ask her what she most wants to do to remember her mother and try to respect whatever activities she thinks will give her comfort. As she moves through the normal stages of grief, she will most likely gradually resume the closeness with you. Every now and then, she is likely to have periods of hours or even a day or two when she will need to revisit her grief fully. Please don’t feel threatened by it. It’s part of the process.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Feb 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). My partner is grieving. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/02/25/my-partner-is-grieving/