Woman At A Loss How To Deal With Her Grieving Husband's 'Trauma Bond' To His Best Friend's Widow

She's trying to be patient and supportive, but some of the dynamics are downright concerning.

woman wondering how to handle her grieving husband's trauma Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock

Grief is an incredibly difficult thing to navigate even under the best circumstances, and the experience of it goes far beyond mere sadness.

But for one woman on Reddit, her husband's grief over his recently deceased best friend is manifesting in ways that have her deeply unnerved. 

She's at a loss on how to deal with her grieving husband's trauma bond with his best friend's widow.

The trauma her husband suffered was truly staggering. "He lost his best friend of 30 years John… earlier this year and has been deeply grieving," she wrote of her husband of 12 years. After 10 months things were getting worse, not better.


He pledged to John to take care of his wife Sara after his passing but the trauma bond continued to intensify in some worrying ways.

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Her grieving husband's trauma bond with Sara was so strong it superseded even important events like their anniversary. 

Her last anniversary with her husband, which came a month after John's death, was something of a turning point for her concerns. When Sara called him needing help around their house on the day of their anniversary, he went to assist her "instead of asking her to wait 1 day and doing it the day after." 


And their anniversary wasn't just postponed, it was essentially canceled. "We… never did anything special to celebrate our anniversary later on the weekend," she wrote in her post.

Of course, this sent off major red flags, but she genuinely didn't think "there's anything untoward … taking place" between them, especially since they only saw each other a couple of times since John's death. 

But the intensity of their bond was unquestionable. They talked on the phone all the time and she noticed his mood visibly changed afterward. She's also noticed he tended to keep his calls with Sara secret. And he only talked to Sara about John, never his wife. 

She felt like she was in second place to his best friend's widow, especially since her husband said he'd divorce her if she forced him to choose.

His grief was understandable, of course. She deeply felt for her husband and thought his dedication to caring for Sara was admirable. But she felt eclipsed by it all. "I am having trouble accepting feeling like I, as his wife, am in second place to another woman."


Particularly distressing is a conversation they had shortly after John's death. He said that if she ever asked him to choose between her or his best friend, he would have divorced her. "I haven't been able to let myself talk to him about feeling insecure," she wrote. And she wondered if this was just normal grief, or something deeper or more dangerous.



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The body of knowledge on the topic from therapists and other experts would suggest it's a bit of both. Psychotherapist Roberta Temes said that men and women often approach grief differently. Men tend to clam up, while women tend to lean on friends. It's easy to see a sort of combination of those dynamics in the triad between Sara, the husband, and his wife.


Grief makes us do and say things that can seem bizarre or nonsensical. For example, declaring apropos of nothing that you'd have divorced your wife over your best friend fits the bill entirely for the kind of scrambled-brain thoughts that come out during grief. 

I lost my own best friend in 2002. It's been 21 years and I am only just recently beginning to understand the ways it impacted — and in many senses derailed — my life.

I can say from experience that her husband's brain and judgment are almost certainly clouded by sadness, and it likely feels like Sara is the only person on Earth who remotely gets it. Everyone else, even his wife, feels like a stranger in comparison.


This is a long-winded way to say that trauma bonds are very, very real.

But there's an elephant in the room here too, and even the most empathetic people on Reddit saw it as well. Her husband sounds like he needs professional help coping with the loss, and his wife's needs aren't being met. 

One person whose best friend has also recently died said it best. "My grief… around 10 months after was, to me at least, still quite terrible. And it still can be sometimes. But you’re in his life too, and you deserve to have a conversation about this."

Hopefully, they can get the help they need so that they can begin the process of moving forward, together. 


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.