Boyfriend lost parents and now turned on me. Help?

Hi all. I’m hoping for some insight. I posted before, but things have taken a turn. My boyfriend (he’s 51, an only child, and very type A) lost his mom in December 2021 and his dad three months later in March 2022. He was very close to mom, but had a tenuous relationship with dad.

After his dad passed, he began having random outbursts of anger about random inconsequential things. But he wasn’t dealing. I waited silently by waiting for him to move past the shock and maybe express something. For context, his dad passed on March 2nd and we had concert tickets for March 9th which I was going to give to a friend bc there was no way I thought we would go. We went. And to look at him there, you couldn’t tell what huge losses he had experienced.

Every now and again he would get emotional, typically alcohol induced, and he would say things like “I miss my mom” or “My dad didn’t love me, but it’s okay bc I didn’t love him either”. After his dad’s funeral his family gathered at his aunt’s house. I knew that was overwhelming for him so I gave him an out and said we could meet later if he wanted. We saw each other later that evening and he just spoke about the people who had come to the funeral (I had been there, but in Islamic funerals men and women are in separate areas so I didn’t see who was in attendance in the men’s side). He spoke so disconnected as though he was narrating a story. Then he was quiet for a while and looked me straight in the eyes and asked “Does this mean I’m an orphan now?” My heart broke for him.

Over the next 6 months, I was there. I was his entire support system. If he called at 2am, I answered. If he wanted to meet spur of the moment bc he was sad or lonely, I was always there. We had “normal” times too, went on a few trips, etc., but those random angry outbursts would come out of nowhere and I was almost always at the receiving end. I would remind myself each time that whatever hurt I was experiencing was nothing compared to the grief and loss he was experiencing.

He also began drinking quite heavily. We would go out and I would watch him order drink after drink. Going through each glass to just get to a point where he was numb. I started counting and several times closed out his tab to end it.

His mom’s headstone was placed in June. Her birthday was also in June as was Fathers Day. He had planned to go to the cemetery that Sunday but has been very sick for days before then and couldn’t. I knew how important it was, so I went. I took flowers for them on his behalf and discovered the headstone when I arrived. I knew he didn’t know it was there bc he would have told me, so I was the one who had to tell him. I waited a few days and met him in person and told him. I had taken a picture bc I knew he would want to see. He stared at it for what seemed like hours. I asked if he wanted to go see it (he had only been to the cemetery for both funerals and one other time at this point). He said yes but asked if I would go with him. We went a few days later and on the drive i mentioned getting plants to plant in front of the headstone (the design he chose has an opening in the marble where plants can be planted). He was evasive and changed the subject and I let it go. We got to the cemetery (his parents are buried side by side) and I went with him, brought flowers. I asked if he wanted time alone and I could wait in the car. He looked at me, the pain so apparent on his face “I can’t, this is too much. Let’s go.” We left and didn’t speak of the cemetery the rest of the day.

I also realized that there was no way he could devote an afternoon to planting flowers. He wasn’t ready. So I decided I would take care of it. He was already dealing with their estate on his own and even though I had always offered help, I knew rationally there was nothing I could do. But I could do this for him. I could complete the vision he had for his mom’s final resting place. So I went and bought rose bushes and spent an afternoon planting them.

I have grown up listening to my mom talk about the importance of honoring those who aren’t with us. My grandparents all passed away at different times in my life so I always witnessed my mom praying for them. She would always say that the sacrifices, obstacles, and choices made by our elders have allowed us to have the life we have today. And just bc they are no longer with us does not mean we forget them. She always prayed for my grandparents regularly. They are all buried in another country so she couldn’t visit and offer prayers at their grave. Bc I knew he wasn’t ready to visit his parents grave, I stepped in. I would go weekly, offer prayers, water the roses, talk to them (I know some people think it’s odd, but I found it to be very peaceful).

I continued being his support system, knowing full well he needed professional therapy or grief counseling. But I also knew him and knew he had to come to that on his own bc my saying it would probably set him off. And he did. Early in September we went on vacation. He was in a bad way the whole time, drinking, day drinking, I found him on the hotel balcony one afternoon passed out and genuinely thought he was dead. The last day of the vacation (the day after the balcony incident), he admitted that the grief was more than he even knew and he thought he should get professional help. He also apologized to me and told me he loved me and wanted to spend his life with me and thanked me for not giving up on him. I truly thought we had turned a corner.

I was wrong. A week after we returned home was what would have been his parents 57th wedding anniversary. He was rightfully upset and to add to it, he had to attend a cousin’s wedding that day. Later that night he text me and said he needed to get out for a bit (aka go drink) and he knew I was probably in bed and couldn’t meet last minute. I was in bed, but I got up, got dressed, and met him. I knew he was in a bad way and as I had done hundreds of times before, I never wanted him to feel like he was alone and didn’t have anyone. He was quiet most of the time. The place had a band and I asked him to dance when they played a slow song, just trying to make him feel a tiny bit better or atleast just get him up and moving. He said no, I asked again, and he snapped at me. So I sat quietly knowing he wasn’t in the mood to talk. I drove him home and typically when I had so ma y times before his routine was kissing me goodbye, telling me he loves me, asking if I was ok to drive, and to call him when I got home. None of that happened. He got out of the car without a word.

I text him the next day and he didn’t answer. On Monday he did with such an angry text, telling me that I was selfish and only cared about myself and that just bc he hadn’t wanted to dance with me on Saturday, I was being a brat and not talking. I assure you none of that happened but he had rewritten the narrative in his mind. For the next three weeks he refused to take to me on the phone or in person. He would text mean things, lashing out, insulting me. When I would ask him what exactly I did, he ignored the question. Bc there’s no actual answer.

I understand that anger is a stage of grief. I’m assuming the anniversary pushed him from denial to anger. And there’s no actual recipient of the anger. His relationship with his dad was tenuous and unresolved (he also found him when he passed away in his sleep). The anger and hurt he felt bc of his dad is still very much alive but the man who caused it is not. And his mom was the light of his world. So the anger was directed at me. The only other person he’s close to. The only other person he knows loves him unconditionally as his mom did.

But now, I haven’t seen or spoke to him in three weeks. He has villianized me and gone from I love you and you are my forever to me being the devil incarnate. When I ask him why or remind him of the countless acts of love and support, he ignores that and throws our random unrelated responses like “you’re a liar”, “you’re a mess”.

And now he’s alone. And I’m worried from a distance. He’s drinking alone, with no one to count drinks and make sure he’s safe. He has shut out the one person who he’s leaned on (me) from the beginning. To the word he portrays a “I’m okay, I’m in control” persona, but I know the reality.

I don’t even know what I’m asking. Is this typical? I know I have to just let him be, but my heart is breaking for him and I’m at a loss and feel defeated. I feel like I let him down.

I am an only child who lost both parents.

if I had someone I loved my experience would have been manageable.

Drinking a lot is “normal.” And being angry, too. Another woman posted a similar story on here. Her b.f. too was hard to deal with.

You have been there enough. I would leave him be. Just because he lost his mother and father does not mean you have to be a punching bag for his emotions.

I would step back. You did NOT let him down. I think it would be unwise to contact him. Maybe he needs to be alone. And to call you names is not love. I should not give advice but if it were me and I really loved this person, I would cling to them harder. Not push them away.

But who knows. Leave him be. No one deserves to be verbally attacked not even if this person is grieving. Nature would not condone what he is doing.

@berit Thank you so much for your insight. I have stepped back and rationally know he needs professional grief counseling.