He wants to be alone with his grief

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My boyfriend of the past three and a half years lost hid dad unexpectedly seven months ago. He now takes care of his mom all the time, and I think he is experiencing real grief now. He shows many signs of the depression stage.

It has been hard on our relationship – no fights, but just the love factor. A week ago I brought up the love between us and he just started to cry and said he wanted to break up. He said he wanted to take time for himself and didn't have the strength for our relationship. He doesn't know how to do it right now. He said he loves me and he wants to, but he simply can't and that I deserved better. It was so difficult to hear, especially because we've had a strong relationship. But after the death, he's held his emotions in.

We have met up a few times now, and he doesn't want us to divide our things in our apartment yet, because he has hope for us. He also said that his hope is that we will get back together. He wants to talk to me often and meet up sometimes. He has been more open than ever since "the breakup" and says that this is something that we are going through this together, not separately. He is being very honest, saying that he kind of feels like a vegetable with his emotions right now and that he is so sad and tired.

We have also talked about him seeing a therapist and we have talked about how normal all of this is during grief. What should I do? Give him space? Is there a possibility he wants me back or should I just give up?

– Separate, Together


He seems to be asking for patience. On your end, it sounds like there's room for that, for now.

There are limits to this kind of space, though. If he sees you getting back together in a year ... or more .. you might not be interested in waiting. Also, you want to know that the next time he goes through a major life event, he'll know how to do it with you instead of around you. You want to be able to count on him, too.

That's why I suggest seeking counseling together. It sounds like you both need a guide for getting through this as a couple. For you, it's also about figuring out whether this person wants to be a full partner. If he plans to press pause during life's big events, you can't jump all in. Ask for this next step.

I know grief plays out in complicated ways. For some, it's hard to look at a partner – especially a worried partner – while caring for others. But this is an opportunity to learn how to do that as a team. You'll know, day by day, whether you're both headed in that direction, or whether you're simply being put on reserve for later – or never.

If he says you're going through it together, it should feel that way. If it doesn't, that's when you walk.

– Meredith

Readers? After more than three years, what does a break like this mean about the relationship?