Dear 100 Hour Board,
Have any of you been dating/married to a SO when a loved one of theirs was hospitalized or seriously ill? What did you do/say that helped them while they were going through this?
-My Name Here
Yossarian cared very deeply about his family and his relationship with them, and unfortunately two of his grandparents passed away while we were together.
Unfortunately those circumstances played a large role in the end of our relationship, so I can't say for sure that I have the best advice. But hopefully at least my experience will be slightly helpful for you.
Probably the most important thing that I did was ask Yossarian directly what he wanted from me. When his grandfather passed away, we had only been dating for around two months, and I didn't know him well enough to know what he would need in that situation. So I decided to be direct about it, letting him know that I wanted to help him in any way I could, and asking what he wanted from me. He told me I should just keep checking on him, letting him know that I cared and that I would support him.
I tried my best to support him in that manner, letting him know that I cared about him, trying to appreciate him, and reminding him that I would be there to help with anything he needed. However, when going through that hard time, his reaction was to push me away instead of letting me be there for him. I tried to be patient and supportive anyway, but because he wouldn't let me in, I felt helpless. However, I still did have a few goals, because I was trying to be the best girlfriend I could be despite the strain on our relationship. Also, as a disclaimer, I hardly saw Yossarian in the last few months of our relationship, so most of my attempts at being supportive were conducted via the phone.
1. Make him smile
2. Let him know that I care about him
3. Compliment him
Sometimes those three general goals all blended together, but the gist of it was to distract him from the pain he was in and let him know how much I admired his strength in hard times. Sometimes that meant leaving him a message telling him a funny story from work that day, sometimes it meant sending him a text about how much I missed him and how amazing he was. I tried to do something of that sort every day, interspersed with offers to help out with anything he needed.
I was trying to make him happy for at least fleeting moments during hard times, and I hope I was successful. But my best advice is to listen to your SO's needs and be respectful of their boundaries. If they want to talk things out, then be there for them, and if they want to be left alone for a while, respect that choice too. Give them time to heal, because healing takes time. If you feel the need, and if you're able, you might have to carry the relationship for a while, being loving and supportive and not necessarily receiving that time and attention in return. That's okay, but don't burn yourself out doing so, because it's exhausting to constantly give without receiving reciprocal support. Take care of yourself too.