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After a loss, she's pushing me away

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  June 12, 2013 08:45 AM

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We chat at 1.

Also, this person wrote in after reading that I lost my mom. He admitted that he wondered whether I might have some extra insight about his situation. I think my advice probably would have been the same two months ago ...

Q: Hi Meredith;

My girlfriend and I have an awesome relationship. We met two years ago and have basically been inseparable ever since. If we aren't together we are in constant communication through phone, email, or text. We're in our late 20s and we've talking about living together. Everything was fine until she lost a family member.

It was sudden and horrifically tragic. This person was a huge part of her life. I was with her through the process and helped her with everything she needed.

Since this happened, she has not been herself. She basically told me she needed a break to think. I totally get this and I know I need to give her all the space she needs. But I also know that she's not in her normal state of mind and maybe doesn't know what’s good for her at the moment.

All I want is for her to be happy, and I know time heals all wounds but I can't just back away from her at this point. I'm too involved w/ her family and can't imagine not being in contact with her if it's only just to hear her voice to make sure she's OK. She says my constant presence is making her feel overwhelmed.

Should I leave her alone? Or should I push back when she pushes me away? Should I just let her go and just hope that when and/if she gets better she'll come back to me? The thought of that makes me nauseous. We were just madly in love! But the world has changed since then and I don't know how to navigate this unknown territory. Please help!

– Lost in Boston

A: If she wants some space, that's OK. But if she's demanding a real break and it's been more than a few weeks, ask her whether she's really just letting you go. You need to know.

I can't even begin to imagine what she's thinking. We all grieve differently. What I can say (since you asked about me) is that losing a close family member (in my case, a parent) does make you think about who you want in your community and who brings you joy. It makes you think about who will be around in five or ten years. It's possible that your girlfriend loves you quite a bit, wanted to cohabitate, but never thought that the two of you would spend your entire lives together. Maybe that's a more important concept now.

It's also possible that your presence highlights the loss. You say that you want to be there for her and that you helped her with the grieving process. I'm sure you were amazing. I'm sure you doted and cuddled. But maybe she just wants to be normal now. Perhaps she's looking for a new audience -- people who aren't giving her sad eyes. Have you suggested hanging out and just doing something fun?

Again, I don't know what's going on here, and I will admit that after surviving the past four weeks, I've wanted alone time. I've wanted to just sit around and watch TV, read Love Letters, and look at old pictures. I've felt lucky that I haven't had to alienate a spouse during the process.

But no matter what, I've wanted to remain accountable -- and so should your girlfriend. This loss doesn't excuse her from communication. Part of celebrating life is being good to the people around us. If she wants a break, you can ask her for answers. If she wants a break up, you have to take that seriously, walk away, and protect yourself. Her loss doesn't entitle her to ask you to wait. You can't assume that she's going through a phase.

Readers? Is she in her right mind? Should he wait? Does she want to break up? Help.

– Meredith

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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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