How to support someone you are dating through tragedy
September 6, 2012 6:00 AM Subscribe
Dating someone who just had a friend commit suicide and has now gone to ground completely. How can I best support them now? They were already having a troubled time and weren't sure whether they could commit to dating, so I want to be supportive in a way that does not put more pressure on them around our relationship (if it still exists).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have found this situation difficult to deal with when there has been absolutely zero phone contact and so I have no idea what state they are in or what is happening. I feel like I am sitting in a complete vacuum.
We have been dating about six months and have had a lot of fun together in that time and I am very fond of them. But they would get very close and then pull back from me repeatedly, I think due to the issues going on in their life. They lost a sibling about a year ago (accidental overdose, with the anniversary of the death only weeks ago), and while they were not close, the rest of the family has needed a lot of support and has relied on them heavily.
They now just a lost a friend to suicide. Aside from one text message to say what had happened, I haven't heard from them in a week. We had been texting or calling every day before that.
The first sign that something was wrong was that they missed a date we had planned and didn't contact me. I called or messaged them a few times over the next day to find out why, but did not have my calls or messages returned. They have previously done several very flaky things around cancelling/no shows for dates, which has really hurt me.
I waited for nearly two days to see if they would contact me about the missed date. I still had no response. I thought they had done the flaky thing again. So I sent two cranky text messages, basically suggesting it was over between us (this isn't what I want, but given what has happened in the past, I didn't think I could keep dating them if this was going to keep happening). I don't normally react in an overly dramatic way like that - the other times, we talked through it calmly and honestly, but I felt frustrated and upset.
After 48 hours, I got a brief message from them saying it wasn't do to with us, but about what had happened with their friend. I don't know this particular friend. One of my friends asked whether it was possible this was someone they previously dated - it hadn't occured to me, but I suppose it is possible.
I felt horrible about the messages I sent when I found out what happened. But I had just let my guard down again and felt so hurt. Of course, in the context of their friend dying, this is now so unimportant and I feel dreadful that I just added drama such an inappropriate time. I hope they will understand, though, why I reacted like that at the time.
I responded to their message saying that I was very sorry to hear about their friend and hoped they were ok, and hoped they understood why I reacted that way. I have had no further messages from them and they have not answered or returned any of my calls since.
Their response to previous events, e.g. a stranger had a heart attack and died in front of them recently, has been to more or less disappear and be alone. I feel bad that such a lovely person has spent a year that is so focussed on tragedy.
Weeks ago they said that with what was going on in their life, they weren't completely sure about committing to a relationship (with anyone), but then started to be more engaged in our relationship again. I think it is possible that this event will tip them into a state of feeling they are not in the mental space to be dating (or dating me). I am sad about that possibility, but understand too, and just want to be there for them in whatever way would be helpful. I know that our relationship is not the important thing right now.
I have sent a few messages of support - not more than one a day. I have tried to call a few times. Should I keep sending regular messages to let them know I am thinking of them, or should I just wait a while now and give them space?
And when they do get back in contact with me (I hope), what support can I offer, either practical or in words to them? Suggestions of ways I can offer support as a friend, or reduce the pressure of what is happening in terms of us dating (or not, for I have no idea whether this is even still a possibility) would be good too.