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How Grief Affects Your Relationships

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 19 Apr 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Grief bereavement loss emotions

Usually when someone dies those close to him or her will feel intense emotions that can often unsettle their own personal relationships. Grief, or the emotions felt due to a loss, can be particularly hard to cope with for both the bereaved and those who are trying to be supportive. Thankfully, with mutual respect and patience, relationships can withstand and even sometimes grow stronger due to grief.

What Is Grief?

Generally speaking grief is an emotional response to the death of a loved one. Very often grief is equated to sadness, though it is not always so simple. Instead, grief often involves a progression of different emotions and reactions that include shock and/or numbness, anxiety, anger and sadness. It may take days, weeks or even years for someone who is grieving to cycle through all of these stages and some people never experience all of these emotions due to a particular loss, or experience some emotions related to one loss but different emotions due to another. This is perfectly normal. There is no set itinerary for grief, though if there is a distinct lack of emotional response, or an emotional response so overwhelming that it begins to affect a person’s employment, education or personal relationships then it may be best to consult a counsellor.

Grief and Relationships

Grief can take a toll on relationships because it is primarily an individual experience. Partners can try to understand someone else’s grief but they can never experience it or take on the burden themselves. Grief can have a number of affects on relationships. Partners may grow closer as they need each for support or realise that they would like to spend more time together. However, partners may also grow apart if the grieving individual retreats into him or herself, his or her partner loses patience with grief or a combination. Intimate relationships may also experience a slow period if the grieving individual does not feel like becoming physically close to others. Finally, some relationships may not experience any changes if grief is not intense, if it is fleeting or if partners are able to give and receive support in an open and “efficient” manner.

Supporting Others Through Grief

Perhaps the greatest mistake someone attempting to comfort or console another can make is to insist on how the other must be feeling. Instead, friends and relatives of the bereaved should be patient with whatever emotions the individual may be feeling without deciding whether these emotions are “right” or “appropriate”. Talking about how each person is feeling often helps everyone stay on the same page and understand more about what others are going through, and scheduling activities that the bereaved enjoys may help him or her to experience positive emotions. If more than one person is experience grief at the same time, it may be that allowing each to experience their own grief without feeling that they must make the other feel better helps all involved. However, throughout grief, physical affection, tokens of love and affection, and reminders that others will always be there for the bereaved will likely always be appreciated.

Grief is often a solitary, unique experience. Others will never be able to understand exactly how the bereaved is feeling, so patience with whatever may come will help all relationships stay strong. If it is believed that grief is interfering with the bereaved life then counselling may be in order.

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elainekeller712 - 14-Apr-18 @ 8:33 AM
As I've read over these testimonials of grieving people, my heart hurts for them all. Grief is the loss of a job, a relationship (divorce or death), or anything that breaks up the foundation of your life. I am truly sorry for all those in so much pain. My husband died over 3 years ago. We were married 25 years. I miss him very much and have found the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries difficult without him. Today was his birthday and I cried thinking of him. However, I have not "lost" him as I know where it is and will one day see him again, although that day is not today. We loved each other very much and I know he would not want me to stop living because he is not here. I would have wanted him to choose joy and seek happiness if I were the one who died instead of him. I know that's what he would want of me. How do I cope? I choose joy. Everyday, I choose joy. I know I was created for a purpose so I seek God's guidance to light my path to help others and glorify His name. Knowing my life has meaning helps me cope with my grief.
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Jessica - 29-Mar-18 @ 10:21 PM
Please advise us. This year has been awful to say the least. My partners dad died just before Xmas. My step mum died and then my mum's partner died.At the same time my partner had a brain stem stroke. My partners mum is coping as is my dad. However my mum with the loss of her partner is all over the place. I am having to manage my own household with my partner after his stroke and my two teenage sons. My mum is just not coping at all. I know she's grieving but so is the rest of the family with the other relatives dying and my partners stroke. I just don't know what to do about my mum. She comes round every day she calls every day. We are suggesting what to do about every day things that need doing. She listens but then goes to the next person to ask the same questions to them. She is creating so much more work for herself but not achieving anything. I'm worried I will just snap at her because she's not taking on board anything that we are all going through as well.
Jules - 28-Mar-18 @ 7:31 PM
I lost my Dad 3 months ago. I am in a long distance relationship with my Partner of nearly 3 years and I don't feel like he is there for me.He came with me to the funeral and stayed 2 weeks - went home for 2 weeks for work - and came back for 2 weeks and left 20 February.He next plan to come and visit me on the 26 April - we will have been apart for 9 weeks.With everything I have been going through, I feel this is too long.I am so angry with him for not making more of an effort and putting his work before my feelings and well being. I feel like our relationship is going to break down because of this which is just adding to my grief and feeling like my life is spiralling out of control.
Starbucks Sara - 28-Mar-18 @ 12:54 PM
jmcclain3451 - Your Question:
I’m 18 and I lost my mom about 2 months ago. I’m in a wonderful relationship and I love my girlfriend so much but this has been a tough time in our relationship. Specifically I had some problems with being inexpressive during sex, and some erectile disfunction problems which never occurred before. It makes her think I don’t want to be intimate with her anymore and that I’m not attracted to her anymore. It’s something I can’t control and I hate that it has this effect on her and I worry that it won’t get better.

Our Response:
Try and explain to her that that isn't the case, and that it's a common symptom of the grieving process. There are lots of organisations that can help, the NHS has a page organisations that can help with stress, anxiety etc and there are lots of resources relating to bereavement and relationship counselling which may help you. Keep talking, don't try and bottle it up, you're still young and losing a parent at your age is tough, really tough. Try and look after yourself physically by getting plenty of exercise, sleep and healthy eating. Take care.
FacingBereavement - 27-Mar-18 @ 12:35 PM
I’m 18 and I lost my mom about 2 months ago. I’m in a wonderful relationship and I love my girlfriend so much but this has been a tough time in our relationship. Specifically I had some problems with being inexpressive during sex, and some erectile disfunction problems which never occurred before. It makes her think I don’twant to be intimate with her anymore and that I’m not attracted to her anymore. It’s something I can’t control and I hate that it has this effect on her and I worry that it won’t get better.
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finlabal - 15-Mar-18 @ 10:07 PM
I really don’t know where to start I lost my Mam 7 months ago and have had so much rage and anger that I’ve lost my realationship with my partner. He’s tried to help me however I’ve pushed and pushed him away until it’s come to where we don’t go more than 2 days without me flying of the handle. I’ve became a bit of a recluse and I just don’t know which way to turn.
Kellyjo - 12-Mar-18 @ 7:20 PM
My husband lost his mom on March 25 of 2017. It was a long hard journey his sister was the POA and would not let him know any information on his mother in the nursing home. As it was his dad died when he was 11 his mom had her first stroke 3 weeks later at the age of 30. It was just him and his sister against the world. for 5 years before his mother did his sister and her family only visited his mom once a year on the thanksgiving dinner that the nursing home had for families. He would make the hour trip at least once a month to visit. 6 weeks before his mom died my husband started calling his sister telling her that she was not well and it was not going to make it much longer begging for her to see his mom. she never went down.toward the end he begged her to move her closer he didn't want her to die alone. his sister would say that she didn't want to deal with the phone calls he told her that he would take them he would do it all he just wanted it done. her response was fine but I'm not doing it for her. she died that night he never got to bring her closer. He has a lot of guilt on how his mom died and he feels he didn't fight hard enough for her. he has never said anything to his sister about any of this. His sister walked out of the funeral with his moms ashes and has not talked to him since. In the last year he has started drinking, his personality has change considerably the most loving and empathetic man I know and now he doesn't even act like we exist he will joke or talk out in public but at home he is not the same man i have asked him to go to counseling but he refuses. can you help.
Missy - 9-Mar-18 @ 6:50 PM
Missy - Your Question:
My husband passed away 6 months ago from cancer I loved him very much, He has a relative that he asked to stay here and take care of things for me financially and fix things that I couldn't, He is the same age as me , he started washing dishes just really sweet little things.he sits up late at night and talks with me.we neither one have much family other than our children, no we have not been romantic.but I care for him very deeply.I have tried to explain myself to him but he just don't get it.he is very generous and so so sweet, so is this grief or real feelings and we make plans it's almost like being married but without romance I don't know how else to say it !!!

Our Response:
We really can't say whether this is grief or not but it mightbe worth allowing yourself more time. Perhaps doing things separately, even asking him to move out for a while? That way you may be able to tell whether you're subconsciously looking for someone to fill a space in your life or that you genuinely feel for each other.
FacingBereavement - 9-Mar-18 @ 2:40 PM
My husband passed away 6 months ago from cancer I loved him very much, He has a relative that he asked to stay here and take care of things for me financially and fix things that I couldn't, He is the same age as me , he started washing dishes just really sweet little things ....he sits up late at night and talks with me ....we neither one have much family other than our children, no we have not been romantic ...but I care for him very deeply ...I have tried to explain myself to him but he just don't get it ....he is very generous and so so sweet, so is this grief or real feelings and we make plans it's almost like being married but without romance I don't know how else to say it !!!
Missy - 8-Mar-18 @ 5:37 PM
Y partner lost his mum to cancer last year the anniversary is nearly here.....we have 2children a 10 year old and a 7 month old since we had our 2nd child things have never been the same every time she crys he complains with sly remarks he never does anything with her he needs the break all the time I've never had my hair done since last auguest I've ever spent time away from my kids sinc we had our 2nd child.....he's starting to not come home from a night out he's also caused an argument tonight Togo out smashed my house up told me I'm a horrible person and I make him do this .... the for him to leave and message wanting to pick work clothes up to now wanting to stay on the sofa.....we have a very talented son who enjoys sports and I don't want this to knock is confidence and most of all to think this isn't exceptable to treat a woman.....we've been together 12 years and now it's all gone just like that
Quitegirl - 10-Feb-18 @ 9:25 PM
Hello. I am 30 years old, just had my first child 4 months ago and lost my mom the beginning of January. Although my mom raised three other children, biologically I am the only child. My family has turned their backs to me and two of the other siblings stole things from my moms house, cleaned out her bank account, and didn’t even attempt to attend her funeral. They children made my mom’s life a living hell and kept her stressed out. I can’t even look at them as my siblings even though my mom never made a difference between us. I am beyond hurt and not even had the proper time to grieve her death. I have had to decide on taking her off the ventilator, make funeralarrangements, clean her house out and take care of financial obligations alone. Dealing with this has placed a strain on my relationship of eight years. My boyfriend doesn’t understand the feelings that I am experiencing and has threatened to leave me because he can’t deal with chias that is surrounding me. The thought of loosing my family at this time brings on a whole new hurt and I am trying to stay strong for my baby. I am lost and don’t know what to do because my mom would be the one I would call for help dealing with this matter and I don’t have her. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.
Only1Lost - 6-Feb-18 @ 10:34 PM
Hello. I am 30 years old, just had my first child 4 months ago and lost my mom the beginning of January. Although my mom raised three other children, biologically I am the only child. My family has turned their backs to me and two of the other siblings stole things from my moms house, cleaned out her bank account, and didn’t even attempt to attend her funeral. They children made my mom’s life a living hell and kept her stressed out. I can’t even look at them as my siblings even though my mom never made a difference between us. I am beyond hurt and not even had the proper time to grieve her death. I have had to decide on taking her off the ventilator, make funeralarrangements, clean her house out and take care of financial obligations alone. Dealing with this has placed a strain on my relationship of eight years. My boyfriend doesn’t understand the feelings that I am experiencing and has threatened to leave me because he can’t deal with chias that is surrounding me. The thought of loosing my family at this time brings on a whole new hurt and I am trying to stay strong for my baby. I am lost and don’t know what to do because my mom would be the one I would call for help dealing with this matter and I don’t have her. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.
Only1Lost - 6-Feb-18 @ 10:24 PM
shaz - Your Question:
My daughter passed away aged 39 years I am struggling I'm depressed suicidal and I've self harmedI found her dead on her kitchen floor with her face smashed in , she was stiff and smelt of rotten meatI cannot get the image out of my head , I've been asking for help now for 4 months but it doesn't happen I don't know what to do any more I just want to give up

Our Response:
Who have you been asking for help? Has your GP referred you for counselling etc? If not try asking again. Alternatively, contact bereavement support groups in your area, or try organisations like CRUSE or Child Bereavement UK
FacingBereavement - 5-Feb-18 @ 2:17 PM
M y daughter passed away aged 39 years I am struggling I'm depressed suicidal and I've self harmed I found her dead on her kitchen floor with her face smashed in , she was stiff and smelt of rotten meat I cannot get the image out of my head , I've been asking for help now for 4 months but it doesn't happen I don't know what to do any more I just want to give up
shaz - 2-Feb-18 @ 8:55 PM
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PetrA - 25-Jan-18 @ 1:24 AM
Hello, I met my girlfriend 5.5 years ago, I had met her 7 days after her mom had died from a wreck, then recently November 2017, her dad passed away from liver failure. As her partner the last 6 months have been hard and has only turned worse, we have been going to couples counseling and have found this intense feeling of Nger(me) and her running around recklessly getting drunk and not coming home. I was ready to leave her, so tired of hurting... but we went on a cruise and for some reason I stoped this hurt/anger and she didn't act out recklessly. It's like we both valued each other, loved each other. I know that there's much to do now we are back home, I hope to god she sees a bereavement counselor, and maybe do couples counseling every other week. But to those supporting some one of grief I found taking off for a week together helped put some glue back on the relationship. Btw her.mom was killed when she was 24 and her dad passed being 29 years old. Please pray for us. Thank you
The struggle - 22-Jan-18 @ 11:31 AM
Lou, reading your comment was like reading what my heart is saying. My boyfriend (aged 44) has just lost his mum and I feel exactly the same. The thought of losing him makes me feel sick and I feel terrible for feeling this way when he is grieving. I lost my mum many years ago and I too pushed people away and even separated from my boyfriend at the time but I was only 23. I've been there for him but he's gone..and it's killing me. Everything's changedo and it's totally out of our control.
CorrieB - 17-Jan-18 @ 11:04 PM
My Boyfriend of one year has just lost his mum and is obviously devastated. He is 55 and the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have lost him as he is grieving, and wants to spend all his time with his family. He is continuing to work and play music in the bands he’s in, and although he is trying to not push me away, it seems really hard for him to be with me. Please, please, any advice on how I can help him, and not loose him for ever. I’m grieving for our relationship and what we had, but all alone as I don’t want to put any more pressure or worry on him. I know things will never be the same again, he will never be the same again. I’m in relationship limbo and it’s crushing me daily, I know this could go on for some time. How do I keep sane, so that I can be there if he needs me.
Lou - 17-Jan-18 @ 10:07 AM
Update from my last post (December 2017) I had my first private therapy session. It was enlightening and helped me question what I want to do to change the way I feel. The grief that I'm currently going through has almost doubled since Xmas and New Year, because all the stress of the festivities is over. The therapist believes I'm finding it so difficult, because of my childhood memories of my mother, which wasn't great. I was always seeking her approval. I don't think I ever got it, but I told her after she died how much I loved and appreciated everything she did for me. Went to the gym today, which my husband insisted I join to clear my head. Someone mentioned the name 'mum' and I just burst into tears. Everytime I think I'm going 3 steps forward, I'm actually going back 10 steps. On the bright side... I haven't had an affair. I know I need a distraction, which is why I'm getting 2 chihuahua puppies to love and pamper. Apparently, pets are the best therapy one can have! Trying, to keep myself super busy, as the fear of stopping to think for one moment has turned into anxiety. I still have my mother's ashes in my front room on a table, decorated as a shrine to honour her. I know I have to let her go and bury her with my father, but I'm not ready to let go yet. I hope and pray this veil of grief lifts, so I can see some light and joy in my life.
TM - 12-Jan-18 @ 10:14 PM
My story started 15 years ago when we were madly in Love the first time. We split and did not see or talk to each other for 15 years. We reconnected just over a month after his wife died. It’s like a day never passed for us all of our past emotions but he’s mourning and feels so guilty he’s so happy so quickly. He loved her and I knew her it’s a very sad situation. I’m being supportive but my heart is breaking. I don’t know how to help.... I told him to take some time but he insists he doesn’t want to not see me... any advice is welcome
Shell - 9-Jan-18 @ 12:27 PM
Thank you for your reply. I have contacted a bereavement councillor. Just waiting word back. I willtake your advice on doing something nice for him each day. Hope all on this chat will find peace of mind and Say a prayer to your loved ones I no they are listening. I let you know how I get on. Thanks again. Good luck ??
Cathy - 4-Jan-18 @ 3:28 AM
Anyone - Your Question:
I’ve been with my boyfriend for 7 years. 18 months ago his mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she died a year ago. On Christmas Day, my partner told me he cheated on me in October, in an alleyway outside a bar, says that a cloud of white smoke came over him and he doesn’t know how/why it happened. I honestly feel I’ve done everything I could to support him and his mum the last 18 months and feel so broken that he betrayed me. He says that he’s felt sad since summer and doesn’t feel he deserves anything in his life and really misses his mum, I’ve arranged an appointment for him with a councillor but I honestly don’t feel that I can speak to him myself. I don’t know whether to be there for him or to go.

Our Response:
We can't tell you whether to stay or go unfortunately but @TM's post below might help explain why your boyfriend had the urge to cheat on you.
FacingBereavement - 3-Jan-18 @ 11:23 AM
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    I watched my Grandma slowly die of kidney failure and she passed on 9/2/16. I was extremely close to her and she was…
    16 April 2018
  • barrywest
    Re: How Grief Affects Your Relationships
    If you notice some changes about your spouse try and find out what your spouse is up to.my spouse has been a big time…
    15 April 2018
  • elainekeller712
    Re: How Grief Affects Your Relationships
    Any relationship starts out as a mutual agreement. You both entered a beautiful journey with pure intent and…
    14 April 2018
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