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Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5458
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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My husband and his father had always had a close relationship.

Resolved Question:

My husband and his father had always had a close relationship. Unfortunately, he (my husband's father) passed away last year. We were actually living with them temporarily at the time since his death was due to a long and particularly ugly battle with cancer and my husband's mom needed help caring for him at home. I am fortunate to still have both of my parents, so I know that I can't truly understand the depth of his loss, but I think I have done everything possible to be there for him and supportive and understanding however I could. The 1st anniversary of his father's death was yesterday. Somewhat out of the blue (we had been talking about paint colors and other "normal" things) he completely broke down and sobbed for about half an hour, remembering the loss. Again, I completely understand this. I was alarmed, however, by something in particular that he said: "It still hurts just as much." I know that the pain of this loss will never fully heal, but I am concerned by him sharing that he is still in as much pain as he was. Add to this the fact that he has not visited his father's grave since the burial despite it being suggested on some occasions, including yesterday, and I'm concerned that he may not be coping as well as he could. Am I right to be concerned? Should I take him to see a professional? If so, what type of professional?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It sounds like your husband is still grieving over the loss of his father. The grief process is different for everyone. Some people work through their grief quickly and move on, others grieve for a while, sometimes for a few years.

As you may know, there are steps to grief. Some people follow all the steps, some skip a few or feel them in a different order. But it may help you to know what the stages are. Sometimes, people who are grieving get stuck in a stage and cannot move on without help. That may be the case with your husband. So understanding what the stages are can help:


Denial: “This is not happening"
Anger: “Why did this happen?"
Bargaining: "If I do this, then the person will come back"
Depression: “I can't cope. I feel too sad"
Acceptance: “It's ok that this happened."


The important things to look for with your husband is whether or not he seems to be progressing or working through his grief. If he seems unable to face it (such as not being able to talk about it or avoiding the topic) and seems preoccupied or lost most of the time, he may be stuck in his grief.


You mentioned being supportive of him and letting him talk. That is good. He needs to be able to process this so he can work it through. Your support makes a big difference.


Talk to him about whether or not he feels he needs to talk to someone like a counselor. Encourage him to at least try a few sessions to see if it helps. To find a therapist, have him ask his doctor for a referral. Or you can search on line for a grief counselor at http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/.

 

When you seek a professional, look for one who has a Master's Degree or a Ph.D. Either one can help. A psychiatrist is great if you feel he needs medicatons, but otherwise a Master's or Ph.D level mental health therapist can help.


It may also help to get support through on line or in person support groups. Here are some links to help:


http://www.griefshare.org/


http://psychcentral.com/resources/Grief_and_Loss/Support_Groups/


Here are more resources to help you both understand the grieving process and how to work through it:


http://www.helpguide.org/mental/helping_grieving.htm


Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman


On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

 

You can find these books on Amazon.com or your local library may have them for you.


I hope this has helped you both,
Kate

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you so much for your response... if I had to offer a layman's guess, it seems to be that he worked through denial, anger and bargaining fairly quickly but is still stuck in the depression phase. As I said, he doesn't visit his father's grave, he rarely speaks of his death (though he talks about his dad as if he were still here a lot), is overcome with sobbing anytime he focuses on the reality of his dad's death, etc. He also can't bring himself to look at photographs, watch home videos, etc. of his father yet. His mother played him a voicemail from his dad that she had maybe a month ago; he listened for no longer than 3 seconds before being overcome with crying. I would say he needs medication otherwise, but given that he does seem to be "stuck" in the "depression" phase, should I consider having him see someone could prescribe something if necessary?
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

I agree, it sounds like your husband might be avoiding the reality of his father's passing because it makes him feel so sad, just as you said. If he is still feeling that level of depression, he may need mediation. Your best choice might be to have your husband see a psychiatrist for medications then a therapist for his grief. Although psychiatrists can do therapy, most focus in medication as treatment. A therapist uses talk therapy to help someone work through their issues, which is probably what will work best for your husband.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5458
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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