I met someone wonderful during the pandemic and we dated for 11 months before he broke up with me last week. His father had just passed away after four long months in the hospital. He said that it wasn't at all about me – that the overwhelmingly complex situation of dealing with the death of a parent meant he needed to step back from the relationship. I lost my own father 10 years ago and I empathize completely with how harrowing and disruptive this is to one’s life.
Still, I am feeling the hurt of being romantically rejected by someone I’d go to the ends of the earth for. I tried so hard to be patient, supportive, and understanding during the four months his dad was in the hospital, and now I feel so hurt that the person I care for so deeply can't love me back right now. I feel so unrewarded for my loyalty and steadiness – not to mention that I thought this relationship had long-term potential, and I'm grieving the loss of hope that it could ever be a more closely entwined relationship. I feel absolutely despondent about all of this. How do I get over it – or get through this break if it's temporary? Grief is shredding me right now.
– Just Can’t Let Go
First, let me do the thing where I validate the feelings. I'm so sorry this hurts so much. You spent a lot of time trying to be a loving, supportive partner, and after so many months, he let you go. Suddenly, you've been removed from the narrative, and that is devastating.
Also, I'm glad you understand that you can have empathy and be disappointed at the same time. You know why he needs to pull away, but it doesn't mean you're not miserable for yourself.
You ask how you get over it. All I can recommend is planning more things that are all about you. So much of your life has been about being there for a partner. Now you're the center of your own attention. Treat yourself to nights eating your favorite foods, watching good TV, seeing people who can make you laugh. It won't make the grief disappear, but it might help with a reset.
Also, don't call this a break; let it be a real breakup. I find that grief is more pronounced when there's hope it might be temporary. You wind up spending more time wishing and hoping than moving on.
The difficult thing to say here is that you're going to feel this way for some time. There will be some better days, and then some horrible days where you're desperate for him to show up and take everything back. Some people have an easier time moving on when they have new options for romantic possibilities to distract them. Others have more success when they make new memories on their own and remind themselves how great it can be to be single wth all possibilities in front of them.
All you can do is make space for the grief without allowing it to take over, and stay distracted with good company and activities. Eventually you will move from despondent to disappointed to ... something better. I swear.
Readers? How long will it feel this way?