When someone we care about is going through a difficult time, our instinct is to be there for them, to comfort and support them. However, sometimes, the grieving individual may not want you around. My friend texted me recently, “My boyfriend is grieving and pushing me away. I know he’s been going through hell after his mom died so suddenly, but I’m confused every day. What should I do? I want to be there for him!”
A study by The European Journal of Trauma and Dissociation found that many people experience negative reactions when they express their grief, which makes them conceal it. If you’re going through a similar situation, I’m here to make sure that both you and your partner get through this. The most important thing to keep in mind is that each person handles grief in their own way. You can give your man the support and comfort he needs during this trying time, but can’t fix or remove his misery.
Today, relationship coach Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couple’s counseling, addresses how grief affects relationships. She will provide us with valuable tips to deal with the “my partner is grieving and pushing me away” scenario that I described above.
Reasons Why Your Grieving Boyfriend Wants To Be Alone
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When a boyfriend is grieving, his desire to not want to meet or be on calls with you can be perplexing and hurtful. But even when your grieving boyfriend wants to be alone, you can handle his sadness and provide him with the consolation and support he needs. With our expert, we’ll go through a few communication techniques that will strengthen your relationship with your mourning partner, despite the current emotional distance between you two.
Nandita says, “Grieving is deeply personal, and everyone copes differently. Your boyfriend needing space doesn’t mean he’s pushing you away; he’s simply navigating his grief in his own way. Respect his need for solitude — It’s his way of processing and healing.”
Here are some common reasons a grieving boyfriend wants to be alone:
- He is overwhelmed with emotions: He needs his time to process these emotions without burdening or upsetting you. Give your boyfriend space to understand the intensity of his sadness. Grief can make people emotionally unpredictable, and you never know how he’ll react to you being in his presence constantly
- He feels an acute loss of control: Grief frequently leaves people feeling as if they have lost control of their lives. They may feel helpless or as if they have no agency over their thoughts, actions, or surroundings. Being on his own allows him to reclaim control, and that’s why your grieving boyfriend wants to be alone
- He’s avoiding judgment: Grief can cause irrational thoughts and behaviors that are impossible to explain to others. Your boyfriend may need some space to be alone during this vulnerable time to avoid feeling judged or misunderstood. If you want to know how to be there for your boyfriend when he’s grieving, try not to make him feel hurt by asserting your own needs
- He needs privacy: Give your boyfriend space because individuals who are grieving may feel vulnerable and exposed. He may require time to cry, scream, or express himself without feeling self-conscious or watched. But don’t let him get too comfortable with this arrangement. Studies have found increased loneliness to be correlated with lower mental and physical health. Three clinical conditions – major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and prolonged grief disorder – are associated with more loneliness
- He’s reflecting on memories: When my friend told me “My boyfriend is grieving and pushing me away,” this is what I thought of. That his mind is probably in the past, reliving moments without interruption. He’ll reach a stage eventually where these memories can provide solace and a connection to the person he lost, instead of cutting him deep
- He’s avoiding additional stress: It is human nature to feel emotionally and physically exhausted in grief. Your presence and your comforting words for a grieving boyfriend, no matter how well-intended, may unintentionally increase stress or pressure. Since he can’t offer stability and comfort to you at the moment, he may even be worried about you leaving him. Breaking up while grieving can be an exceptionally challenging and emotionally tumultuous experience, as it adds the weight of separation to an already painful time
- He’s processing the loss: My friend asked me, “I do want to give my grieving boyfriend space. I’m just wondering, for how long?” Going through the stages of grief is a time-consuming process. Your boyfriend may require a few weeks or months to process the loss and accept some of its impact on his life
- He’s avoiding emotionally charged conversations: Conversations can become deeply scattered or enraged or ‘final’ when someone is bereaved. He’s worried about breaking up while grieving, even though he doesn’t intend to part ways. He is not sure of his emotions in this tragic scenario and needs space until he feels more sorted
- Being alone is his form of self-care: Grief can be debilitating. Without external distractions or pressures, solitude provides the space needed for self-care. This allows him to focus on regaining emotional and physical strength
Related Reading: 15 Proven Ways To Show Someone You Love Them
How To Help Your Boyfriend Deal With The Death Of A Loved One — 9 Tips
We understand. An agonizing and overwhelming routine waits for a person after they’ve lost a loved one. And if you’re trying to help your boyfriend get through this tough time, you need guidance too. Though grief is a deeply personal experience, we’re here to help you understand how to comfort your boyfriend.
From providing a listening ear to showing respect for his need for solitude, we have nine useful tips on how to help your boyfriend deal with a death. You can become a source of comfort and strength for him as he handles the complex and often unpredictable process of loss. In this section, we’ll address the “my boyfriend is grieving and pushing me away” dilemma you’re currently facing. Not every tip will work for you; it all depends on how much space your partner needs at the moment.
1. Offer him your presence
Your presence is one of the most fundamental and immediate ways to support your boyfriend through his grief. Simply sitting beside him (if he lets you) or being in the same house as him, can help him feel less isolated and more understood.
If you can’t be with him physically, try leaving a loving voice clip every day — but without urging a response from him. Check in on him regularly. It’s okay if he doesn’t reply every time.
Related Reading: 21 Beautiful Prayers For Your Husband For Everlasting Love
2. Make sure he has a safe space where he can talk freely
When comforting words for a grieving boyfriend are not welcome, listen instead. Listening is a crucial aspect of supporting someone through grief. Support groups might work if your partner is not ready to open up to you. According to a participant in research, “Support groups have been most helpful, knowing there were others who truly understand.”
Another person in the study described social support as “having a community of people who are safe to share your journey of grief with; who don’t try to fix you or hurry you … people who let me say her name and tell stories about her.” Here’s what happens when the focus is on listening, not guidance:
- Encouraging your boyfriend to express his thoughts and emotions, with you or in a support group, provides him with a safe and non-judgmental outlet
- It allows him to articulate his feelings, helping him process and make sense of his grief
- An active listener gives their full attention, validates his emotions, and responds with empathy
- This creates an environment where he can open up without fear of criticism or misunderstanding
- He feels seen and less lonely because the people in the support group relate to what he’s going through
Nandita suggests, “Active listening can play a vital role in this situation. It means being present and understanding your boyfriend’s emotions, even when he’s screaming. Sometimes, it’s not about encouraging him to share, but rather comprehending the underlying emotions beyond his words and tone.”
3. How to help your boyfriend deal with a death? Respect his grieving process
Is your boyfriend grieving by going through the five stages? Such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Or maybe his journey is not linear? Acknowledge that there’s no “right” or “wrong” way and pace to grieve. By understanding and accepting his emotions and actions, you allow him the freedom to navigate his grief in his own way — according to his needs, capacities, and emotions.
Related Reading: 17 Death and Love quotes to Ease Your Pain
4. What to text a grieving boyfriend? Offer comfort and specific help
When traumatic events like these take place, it’s natural to feel hurt all the time. Send an occasional message (and specify that he doesn’t have to respond) to let him know you’re thinking of him and are available to talk or listen whenever he’s ready. This approach shows your ongoing support without overwhelming him or making him feel isolated.
Also, practical assistance can be a tremendous relief during a time when daily tasks seem overwhelming. Share some household chores, offer him help with cooking, or with funeral arrangements. These tasks can be physically and emotionally draining and can make things worse for him. So your practical support allows him to take his space as well as focus on his emotional well-being, without the added stress of daily responsibilities.
5. Be straightforward while offering support, and go the extra mile
Instead of asking, “Is there anything I can do for you?” which can be overwhelming, offer concrete and specific forms of assistance. For instance, it will be more empathetic if you say:
- “I have made a list of groceries. I’ll get them in the evening”
- “I can email your workplace to tell them you need some time off”
- “I’m here to listen if you want to talk”
- “I will cook dinner for you tonight. Is pasta okay?”
- “I can make all the calls today”
- “I’ll do the paperwork tonight if you’re okay with it”
- “I’ve verified a support group and kept the details at your bedside. You can call them and book a session whenever you feel ready. Or I can do it for you”
This shows that you’re proactive and it reduces the burden of decision-making during a challenging time. Nandita adds, “When your boyfriend is grieving, offer specific forms of support, like helping with daily tasks and being a comforting presence. This can make a significant difference. Avoid overwhelming advice and focus on practical assistance and emotional presence while he mourns.”
Related Reading: Secure Relationships – What Are They And What Do They Look Like?
6. “My boyfriend is grieving and pushing me away, what do I do?” Respect his need for solitude
A Reddit user says, “The guy I was dating recently lost his best friend. He just broke up with me saying he wants to be alone and can only be friends.” Now this kind of scenario is pretty scary to think of. Hopefully, your partner doesn’t want to let his grief break up a relationship, and neither do you.
It’s true that the grief of losing a dear one sometimes impacts a relationship adversely. In your panic, you may start thinking about what to text a grieving boyfriend. But maybe he doesn’t want that, maybe he just wants a little alone time. Grief can be emotionally overwhelming, and he may require moments (or days) of reflection and solitude to process his emotions. Recognize that these periods of aloneness are part of his coping mechanism. Let him come to terms with his loss and find solace within himself, but continue to check in on him gently.
7. As he mourns his loss, take care of him as a community
Grief can take a toll on one’s physical and mental health, and it takes more than one person to take care of the affected person. Dr. Eric Bui, associate director for research at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders and Complicated Grief Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, says in Harvard Health Publishing, “Men may try to resist grief, but it’s important not to ignore these symptoms, as constant stress can put you at greater risk for a heart attack, stroke, and even death, especially in the first few months after losing someone.”
So, how to help your boyfriend deal with a death? His loved ones should encourage him to prioritize self-love and self-care. Include friends and family in this, so you’re not the only one who’s taking care of him. Ensure that he is:
- Eating well and drinking water regularly
- Getting adequate rest and taking time off work or studies
- Engaging in activities that provide comfort and relaxation
- Meeting people whom he trusts and who can understand his grief
If he’s pushing you away, keep in touch with his family members or best friend in order to keep track of his health and routine.
8. “My partner is grieving and pushing me away, what to do?” Be patient and non-judgmental
There is no fixed blueprint for how grief affects relationships. It can lead to mood swings, hours of fun or tears, and irrational behavior. Be patient and understanding. Try not to judge his actions or reactions, as these are often the result of overbearing emotions and not a reflection of his character. Keep in mind that everyone grieves differently, and your unwavering support can help him navigate this challenging journey.
Nandita explains, “Build your emotional resilience. It’ll equip you to be a stronger, more understanding partner during this challenging time. It’ll even create a healthier relationship dynamic.”
9. “My boyfriend is grieving and pushing me away, how can I help him?” Offer unconditional love
Whether it’s a beloved pet who passed away or a brother who died recently with whom he wasn’t even on speaking terms, life may not be the same for your boyfriend after this sad news. Reiterate your love and commitment to your boyfriend, even when he’s pushing you away. Let him know you are there for him.
A study mentioned above states that “much of the support offered in early grief diminishes quickly, while the need for support continues.” Thus, your continued reassurance can provide a sense of emotional safety and comfort, reminding him that he has a steadfast source of support during a turbulent time.
And now for the other concern you’re grappling with: Our reader, Lamya, a regional leader in the renewable energy industry, shares with us, “I understand what he’s going through, but I don’t know how to give my grieving boyfriend space when all I want to do is go meet him or call him every two hours. How do I ensure our relationship goes on when my partner is grieving and pushing me away?” Lamya, and dear readers, we got you.
How To Cope When Your Grieving Boyfriend Pushes You Away
Don’t let grief break up a relationship. It’s essential to remember that his actions are likely not a reflection of his feelings for you. A Reddit user says, “Grief is extremely hard and hits people in many different ways, it may not hit for years or may hit instantly.” True, grief is certainly a complex and individual process. Hence the mess and confusion.
Here are some strategies to help you navigate this difficult situation:
Related Reading: When A Good Marriage Is About Supporting Your Partner
1. Be patient with him
Patience is a virtue when supporting a grieving partner who may be pushing you away. Understand that his behavior is not a reflection of his feelings for you but rather a manifestation of his grief. Grief can be overwhelming, so give your boyfriend space even though it’s hard. Allow him to take the time he needs. Don’t pressure him to respond or engage with you when he’s not ready.
In an article for Cake, Dr. Alejandra Vasquez, a certified grief counselor, wrote, “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 as an entirely different person than before. Only time will tell the total effect of grief on your partner and relationship.”
2. “My boyfriend is grieving and pushing me away, what to do?” Respect his boundaries
While your intentions are to provide support, it’s crucial to respect your boyfriend’s boundaries. Express your availability to him and let him know you’re there for him, but avoid intruding or pushing yourself into his space if he’s not receptive. Nandita says, “Respect his emotional boundaries and mood swings without taking them personally. Be there for him without sulking. Offer your support, whether it’s a call or in person. Stay patient and understanding during this challenging time.”
3. Repeat after us: “I’m not abandoning him”
Keeping the door open for communication, even when your boyfriend is pushing you away, is essential. But what’s important to remember is this: You are not at fault. Snip away the thoughts of guilt and remind yourself that you’re doing what you can. It’s okay to go about your day sometimes and do the things you usually would. You need to be able to live your life while he takes space from you.
4. Seek support for yourself
Caring for a grieving loved one can be emotionally demanding. Ensure you have your own support system in place to share your own feelings and seek guidance. By taking care of your emotional well-being, you’ll be better equipped to provide the necessary support for your boyfriend without becoming emotionally drained or overwhelmed. Just so you know, skilled and licensed counselors on Bonobology’s panel are always here for you.
5. Educate yourself on the contradictions of the grieving process and its expression
Grief doesn’t follow a set pattern, chronology, or timeline. By familiarizing yourself with the stages of the grieving process, you can better understand your boyfriend’s emotional ups and downs. Understand that grief is often irrational and unpredictable. Your awareness of this complexity will enable you to offer advice and compassionate support in a more effective and less draining way.
According to a survey by WebMD, while half of the people in grief turned to music and social settings to cope, the other half relied on alcohol, isolation, and excessive eating. Have you noticed your partner doing any of these during his own grieving process?
Nandita adds, “Keep track of his actions. Understanding grief provides invaluable insight into your boyfriend’s emotional journey. Recognizing his feelings allows you to offer targeted support. It shows empathy and patience tailored to his needs, and fosters a deeper connection during this time.”
6. Don’t miss out on self-care
Being available for your boyfriend is the most important thing while he is grieving. But grief can take a toll on both of you. Prioritize self-care by getting enough rest, maintaining a healthy diet, picking a new hobby, and engaging in activities that bring you ease. Taking care of your own well-being ensures that you have the emotional resources to support him effectively.
Nandita says, “Take time for yourself to recharge and break away from the routine of grieving, as it’s essential for maintaining your mental balance. As for your partner, give him space initially, then help him return to his daily routine when he’s ready.”
Related Reading: 16 Ways To Show Affection To Your Partner
7. Consider professional help
Nandita suggests, “Empower your boyfriend to prioritize his mental health by urging him to seek professional assistance. Concurrently, actively engage in your own support network, whether it’s professional help, friends, family members, or support groups.”
If your boyfriend’s grief is severely affecting his mental health or straining your relationship, a therapist or grief counselor can provide specialized support and tools tailored to his needs. Therapy can also assist both of you in addressing the relationship challenges that may arise during this grieving process.
8. How to be there for your boyfriend when he’s grieving — Remember the loved one together
This step can only take place when he’s ready to open up to you. If you knew the person who’s passed away, but not as intimately, you may need to find space for your own grief too. Commemorating their life and memories is a touching way to honor their legacy. Share stories, photos, or mementos to keep their memory alive.
This not only allows your boyfriend to reminisce but also aids in the healing process by preserving the connection to the loved one. It can be a comforting and healthy way to cope with the loss, for both of you.
- Grief is a complex and individual experience that can significantly affect relationships. It’s crucial to grasp how grief can influence emotions and behavior, which might even result in your partner pushing you away
- Your role as a partner is to offer understanding, comfort, and support to your grieving boyfriend
- He might want to be alone, though. This article dives into the emotional and psychological reasons behind his need for solitude
- When grief leads your partner to push you away, it can be emotionally challenging. Understand his actions, respect his boundaries, and maintain communication and love while also seeking external support for yourself
- These components play a crucial role in strengthening your relationship and facilitating healing
So, if you resonate with my friend’s “my boyfriend is grieving and pushing me away” situation, know that patience, active listening, and respecting boundaries are essential components of supporting your grieving partner. Offer specific forms of concrete help, speak comforting words for a grieving boyfriend even when he is withdrawn, and seek your own support network.
Let him know you’re there for him, no matter how he chooses to cope with his grief, and that your commitment to his well-being and your relationship remains steadfast. As time passes and his grief evolves, your unwavering support can serve as a beacon of hope and comfort, ultimately deepening your connection and healing.
Grieving can strain a relationship due to emotional challenges and changes in priorities, but it doesn’t inevitably ruin it. Open communication, patience, and support can help couples navigate this difficult journey and emerge stronger.
Yes, it’s normal for some people to push others away when grieving. Grief can lead to a range of emotional responses, including a desire for solitude and processing emotions independently