“I was seeing a guy for about a month, and things were going really, really well—the best connection I’ve had with someone in a long time. I thought we were definitely heading toward a committed relationship. Then, in a tragic turn of events, his last girlfriend of two years passed away suddenly. I went from talking to this guy every single day to him texting me just sporadically to completely dropping off the map. I am heartbroken. It’s clear now is not the best time for him to be starting a relationship and that’s totally understandable. But should I stop trying to see him or communicate with him entirely?”
Your budding romance is still pretty new, and it seems this turn of events has suddenly stopped him from pursuing anything with you right now. Would it have been great to have more information about what he’s feeling and where he’s at right now? There is no roadmap for grief, and people handle it in dramatically different ways. The stalling of an early relationship after loss is normal, and, personally, I think his disappearing act is forgivable.
If you want to leave the door open but don’t want to stall your life waiting for him to text or call, you’ll need to communicate in very clear language that you are open to seeing him again in his own time. It’s the most honest, caring, thoughtful way to handle things from your side if you want to give your budding connection a shot in the future.
Send one—I really mean one—email or text that reads something like this:
I am so sorry, again, for your loss. I totally understand that you may need space to sort out your feelings. I really want to take the pressure off our relationship and give you time to heal. I want you to know that I’m here for you should you ever need to talk to someone. If you just need to get out of the house, I’d be thrilled to meet up in the coming weeks and grab a coffee. Please take care, and I’d like to connect in the future when you’re ready for that.
Hit send, then let him go. Do not follow up. I repeat: Do not follow up. You’ve put the ball in his court as graciously as possible. Part of that grace includes allowing him to take things at his own pace.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want you to wait for him.
Expect nothing back. Get back to your life. Get out of the house; see your friends. Date other people if you want; this is not your boyfriend, so you don’t need to be exclusive with the idea of him. I’ve seen a ton of people take themselves off the market for people who are not committed partners, holding on to the trajectory of a relationship that is no longer actively moving forward.
There’s no guarantee you’ll ever hear from him again. Even if you do, there’s no guarantee he’ll come through this loss the same person, or that your romantic relationship will feel the same on the other side. It’s OK for you to hurt from this loss too.
Keep your relationship in perspective—it was good, but young—and keep your head up. If you met someone great like this guy once, you know it’s out there now. You’ll encounter it again.
Jenna Birch is a journalist and the author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women, as well as a dating coach (accepting new clients for 2020). To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at email@example.com.