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Q: What can I do if my partner cannot get past a serious loss?

A: Like falling in love, grief after a loss--be it a break up, a death, or something else--is a powerful processes that can make you seem temporarily crazy. You become a stranger to yourself, do things you never thought you'd do, and experience feelings that you never thought you had in you. But unlike love, grief brings on those sharp and unpleasant mourning pangs of emotional pain, regret, anger and confusion. 

Luckily, for most of us, time really does heal many things. The intensity subsides, you learn something about yourself, and life can even feel richer. You've also probably learned more about the bereavement process of denial, anger, bargaining for just one chance to make things right, depression and finally acceptance. Yes, anniversaries and certain songs, sights and smells can bring back the anguish, but overall you have moved on. 

But what if you haven't? What if you are still depressed or angry or unable to get up in the morning, relate to others and find happiness? For some people, the loss takes them on a detour with few roads back to the main path. This runaway grief can take a big toll on relationships.

10 Common Situations that Trigger Grief

Here are some top events that can trigger mourning.

1.  Divorce, death, or serious illness of a spouse or partner

2.  Illness or impairment in children or yourself

3.  Big financial loss

4.  Death or illness of a parent or primary caregiver

5.  Destruction of your home, city, or country

6.  Long absence of spouse or partner due to situations such as service in the armed forces or work travel

7.  Relocation to a new place

8.  Separation from your family or friends

9.  Loss of your job or career

10.  Victim of a crime in you or your loved ones

Worrisome Reactions to Grief

Now, lets look some of the top signs that mourning is beyond the normal and expected response to a loss.

1.  The mourning pangs, crying spells, and anger happen regularly. They might not occur every day, but they occur often within a week.

2.  Anger, pessimism, crying, and resentment are so intense that a person can't perform daily tasks, be happy or want to connect with others.

3.  Reactions of anger and sadness and lethargy do not really subside. These feelings have now hijacked a your moods.

4. Your life view seems permanently locked on a negative course.

5.  You are snippy and critical.

6.  You have become known as a "difficult" person in the family.

7.  You have withdrawn emotionally from others and have flat responses.

8.  Sleep is disturbed. Falling asleep, staying asleep or stop sleeping are difficult.

9.  Self-medication with drugs, food, alcohol, spending, pornography, recklessness or other compulsive behaviors are frequent.

10.  Dying seems better than living. Suicide or just "taking off" seem attractive.

11.  You retreat into a world of memories, silence, anger or sadness. 

As you can see, it's not easy for you to love and live with someone whose moods--and life--are out of control. You feel helpless, and soon you, too, begin to "check out" emotionally. Your energy and good will decline, and you wonder how much more you can take.  But don't give up yet.  Here are some suggestions that might help you assist your partner--and yourself, too.

If You or Your Partner Is Grieving...

1.  Make overall mood and attitude changes in yourself. 

  • Stop blaming yourself. 
  • Get out of blame or angry mode with your partner.
  • Be willing to adopt a mindset of "playing it forward" and getting solution-focused.
  • Fake the feelings of good will that have eroded.  Become part of the solution at least in your tone and behavior.
  • Be willing, if necessary, to be the "initiating engine," cheerleader or planner.
  • Don't leap to divorce or separation without really having tried to be part of the solution.

2.  Do interventions and take action.

  • Meet with caring family and friends and brainstorm an approach
  • Make doctor's appointment and drag your partner to the appointment if necessary.
  • Establish a "care team" of friends and family who call and visit.
  • If necessary, you might have to become "Head Nurse" and monitor medication compliance and your partner's mood.
  • Watch out for signs of suicidal words, giving away possessions or interest in guns.
  • If necessary, make sure you have access to your partner's computer so you know whether they are researching poisons or bomb-making.

3.  Renew and strengthen your relationship.

  • Recreate your courtship.  If you can't go back to where you met, for example, try to come as close as possible to recreating it where you live. 
  • Leave love notes.
  • Maintain physical affection.
  • Remind your partner of his good qualities.
  • Relive your engagement.  Renew your vows.
  • Give your partner household tasks. Include the person in the normal family activities.
  • Do not stop going to family events, especially holidays or other celebrations.
  • Don't take over activities with the children.  Bring your partner to ballet recitals, soccer matches or shopping trips for things the kids need.
  • Work with your partner on the steps necessary to get back on track. For example, go with him for career counseling.
  • Go with your partner to a support group.
  • Plan intimate pleasure time. Make love or give each other back rubs. 
  • Schedule doctor's appointments if your partner won't.  You might have to drag him there.

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, ED.D., MSS is a noted psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, specializing in relationships.  For her book about women and love, she welcomes women to take her 17-20 minute online research survey at www.lovevictory.com. Also on her website, if you donate $5 to Habitat for Humanity-Sarasota, Florida, you can receive a download of her relationship advice cartoon book for women, "The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie."