I never stopped grieving my previous relationship

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Dear Meredith,

I'm a divorced woman in my 60s who is dating a divorced man, also in his 60s. I believe my situation is very unique. My husband and I separated after more than a decade of marriage and divorced after another decade of living separately, when I finally realized he was not coming back. I never stopped loving him, and he also claimed he loved me but couldn't live with me. (We both hail from families of origin with dysfunctional marriages, and I suspect our mutual lack of healthy role models contributed to our significant problems.)

I also believed I could not make it on my own, so I became involved with someone else soon after the divorce was finalized. Three years later, my former husband passed away after a short illness, and I was completely devastated by his death. Almost 10 years have passed since then, and I still am heavily grieving. I'm still in the "new" relationship, but it has now become purely platonic, against the new partner's wishes. I don't really know why he has stayed with me, but I suppose I'm lucky that he has.

I have received extensive counseling about this, but I have not been able to resolve it. I don't know why I have become stuck and don't know how to move forward with my life, either with or without this person. He is completely devoted to me, and I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life. Do you have any advice for me?

– Confused on Cape

I was warned by a psychologist friend, after a loss, that it's possible to get "stuck" in grief. There was a study in 2008 that looked at grief, and how focusing on a late loved one can trigger pleasure points in the brain.

I think about this a lot. I know that feeling sad about a loss can become ritual behavior.

That's why I'm wondering about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Have you ever tried it?

Let me preface this by reminding you that I'm not a mental health professional. I do read a lot, and I am someone who can get stuck in an anxious thought for a really long time, over and over. CBT can be helpful for that kind of behavior. I have nothing against talk therapy (in fact, I love it), but I do believe that for a person who can't stop thinking about a thing, it makes even more space for ruminating. Please ask your doctor (or insurance people) about specialists. Read up on CBT and its strategies. From what I know, it gives you very specific tools to get your brain into a new routine.

As for your romantic relationship, I do think the two of you can try counseling – mainly to talk about separating, even temporarily. Your partner seems to be part of your grief. You've attached him to the story of your ex – the relationship you jumped into because you weren't making the best decisions. You don't want to be alone, but he seems to be a daily reminder of what you can't have. Give him the chance to find love. Maybe you'll discover it too.

– Meredith

Readers? Advice about how you've moved past grief? Should this "new" romantic relationship continue?