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Alicia_MSW
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 587
Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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My son died in a mbike accident in October. Everyone is getting

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My son died in a mbike accident in October. Everyone is getting on with their lives, my husband included (who is not his dad) he cannot understand why I cant just "get over" this - I will never be the same person, I get up, I work, I carry on with my life, I am just so sad to the bottom of my heart, why cant he understand this and understand that sometimes I am ok and then without warning I am in floods of tears.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.

Alicia_MSW :

Hello, I'm Alicia. I'd like to help you with your question today. I'm so sorry to hear about the tragic loss of your son. I can only imagine the pain and grief you must be experiencing.

Alicia_MSW :

Everyone grieves in their own way, and to be completely honest, a loss like this is not something you just "get over".

Alicia_MSW :

October is not that long ago, after all, and I would be surprised if you weren't still experiencing feelings of grief and loss. And you will probably always experience these feelings to some degree for the rest of your life. It's completely normal.

Customer:

yes I understand that but how can i make my husband understand that I am still grieving, he thinks I should be getting on with life now and putting it behind me. My friends say that I am doing amazingly well considering and he is just a bloke who doesnt know what to do

Alicia_MSW :

Since your husband isn't his biological father, (and I'm not sure what their relationship was like, so perhaps they weren't close, for example, and the loss isn't impacting him as much), he may be having a hard time fully relating to what you're going through. And no one can understand the loss of a child like a mother can.

Alicia_MSW :

I'm imaging that he is probably just feeling frustrated because he wants to help you feel better and he can't bear to see you in pain, but he doesn't know what to do.

Customer:

i just wish he could have some empathy with me. No they didnt get on that well, Jake was a typical lad, and my only son, the only thing I live for now is my daughter who is being amazingly positive and helpful. I dont know how to explain to my husband what I feel

Alicia_MSW :

There's no way to "make" him understand what you're experiencing except by explaining it to him and letting him know what your needs are (emotionally, if you need support, or physically, if you need extra help). Can you tell me what you've tried so far in terms of talking to him about it? Have you sat down with him and tried to explain that it's normal for you to feel this way, that this is a normal grief reaction from a mother who's lost her son?

Customer:

and now because I spend time with my daughter, he doesnt like it and feels left out! I cant win, i think he would like me to completely go off the rails so that he could be "seen" to be the only one to help me. I cant let myself sink or I will just leave this world and my daughter who has nobody else - her father died when he was only 50

Customer:

he says he understands but he doesnt, he just makes me feel guilty for being so miserable

Alicia_MSW :

You and your daughter have had a number of serious losses in your lives, and the loss of your son can be triggering feelings of grief over your daughter's father as well, so in this case especially, it's completely normal that you and your daughter are relying on each other even more now.

Alicia_MSW :

He - your husband - might feel left out because he would like to help you through this too, and he might need some direction as to how to go about doing that. It could simply be the case that he doesn't know "how" to help you, and reacts in frustration by saying you should "get over it". That being said, your needs are the priority in this situation.

Customer:

that is what I say to him but he just huffs and puffs and takes himself to bed! then sulks because I pay him no attention. I have no time or space in me for anyone else but my daughter at the moment and he cant seem to get this, he is acting like a spoilt child not getting his own way

Alicia_MSW :

and the needs of your daughter, of course.

Alicia_MSW :

I know that this situation is complicating matters in terms of handling your own grief, and there's only so much one person can handle at a time.

Alicia_MSW :

I think the best thing to do is to try to educate your husband, first in terms of what's "normal' in terms of the grieving process. (So you might share this information with him, as an example: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/helping_grieving.htm)

Customer:

and thats my problem really, I just dont have space in me for his silly games and I feel it is so unfair of him to do this to me

Customer:

i am starting to resent him even being here

Alicia_MSW :

It is unfair, in a sense because you can't be expected to "teach" him how to help you, you feel like it should be something that should come naturally. But for one reason or another, it's not coming naturally to him right now, so you might need to explain things to him in black and white terms. You have a right to feel how you feel, and you might need to explain to him that you need his understanding and support more than anything right now. And that includes understanding that you need to be there for your daughter and that you both need each other to get through this.

Alicia_MSW :

It's not a matter of him feeling hurt that he's not being useful to you, but you could help by explaining how he could be useful to you. That may mean giving you time alone, that may mean listening to you talk about your son, whatever it is that you need.

Customer:

i have said that to him and he is fine for a couple of hours and then the next day he is back to the same old thing

Customer:

he thinks i should go on anti depressents, my doctor says I am doing just fine and being "normal" in this situation and i do not need antidepreseents

Alicia_MSW :

That may be the way he handles it, but then the thing for you to do is change the way you react to him. If you can't change his behavior (even after talking to him and trying to educate him and so forth), then the only thing you can change is the reaction you have to him. If he sulks, then he sulks, but you can't pay attention to it. You focus on yourself and your daughter - just as an example.

Alicia_MSW :

Anti-depressants aren't "anti-grief" pills.

Customer:

i know that and that will be my next reply to him, thank you. I try not to pay attention to his sulking but it is so hard when i feel he is being so unfair to me and if the shoe was on the other foot i would be helping him all i could

Alicia_MSW :

Feelings of grief and depression are normal - to an extent - after any loss. If you were feeling like you couldn't get out of bed 10 years after the loss, then I would say perhaps medication would be helpful. But if your doctor is also in agreement about this, I would say your husband is just saying this out of frustration and because he just simply doesn't know what "normal" is in a situation like this.

Alicia_MSW :

Of course you would - and most people would, as a matter of fact.

Alicia_MSW :

I don't understand why he is not being more supportive of you - and it's not something we can figure out now, of course. But support is important right now - whether it's from your daughter or other family members or friends. You might consider joining a grief support group, for example, especially since it can help to be around others who have also experienced a loss and can relate to what you are going through.

Alicia_MSW :

(A list of bereavement groups, if you are interested: http://www.hospitalhelp.co.uk/general/griefandbereavementcontacts.html, just as a side note)

Customer:

i just feel that I need to feel the pain in order to come to terms with this, I have even written him letters explaining how I feel because i get so upset when i try to talk to him about it and angry

Alicia_MSW :

Yes, exactly. You have every right to feel the pain - and if you don't, you could actually end up feeling worse, feeling depressed, becoming physically ill, even (that is to say, people who suppress their pain and feelings of loss often manage to express these feelings in other, often less healthy, ways)

Customer:

i suppose that I always have thought of him as the "stronger" of the two of us but maybe I now know that he is actually the weaker of the two of us. Doesnt bode well for the future though

Alicia_MSW :

I wouldn't jump to any conclusions just yet about that, but it can be that this is affecting him in ways that aren't easily apparent, too.

Customer:

is it unusual for men to react like this or is it the norm?

Alicia_MSW :

It is normal for a lot of men, more so than women, to deal with grief by pushing it aside or trying to make it "small". Perhaps he is just as affected by the loss as you and is just having an opposite reaction by acting like "you should all get over it" because he can't manage his own feelings of loss (just a thought.)

Alicia_MSW :

I should say, it's not "normal" but it's "common".

Customer:

well one thing is for sure I shall never marry again!

Alicia_MSW :

You are justified in feeling angry about this, that's for sure. But don't give up hope on him too soon.

Customer:

i have tried to get him to talk to my doctor to see if she can explain things to him but he wont go

Alicia_MSW :

That's also common for a lot of men, unfortunately.

Alicia_MSW :

Perhaps if you asked him to accompany you to a grief support group, he would consider it?

Customer:

it just makes this massive struggle so much harder for me

Customer:

i dont think so

Customer:

but ... i can ask

Alicia_MSW :

Yes, the lack of support complicates matters for you. You can't move mountains, all you can do is try as best you can. Again, it can be the case that he's just handling this ... differently... than we would like, and he doesn't realize how his behavior is affecting you.

Alicia_MSW :

But it's not up to you to be the caretaker for his emotions right now.

Customer:

when my son was alive, he always criticised everything he did however big or small, maybe he is feeling guilty? i have tried to suggest this to him but he wont have that either

Customer:

and that is how I feel, whilst grieving for my son and my daughters emotions, I feel he expects me to be there for him too and its not right

Alicia_MSW :

Yes, that is also possible. As I mentioned earlier, he could be feeling a whole mix of emotions now and he's masking it by seeming "not" to care. He could be feeling guilty, angry that this happened, helpless because he doesn't know how to help you - and a lot of men handle these emotions by closing down.

Alicia_MSW :

You can just be blunt with him and tell him that.

Customer:

I have also tried that but he just looses his temper

Alicia_MSW :

You can tell him that you can't caretake for anyone right now, and that the priority is your daughter (and your feelings, of course) and that this is something he is going to have to accept.

Alicia_MSW :

How does he lose his temper? What does he do?

Customer:

think really he is just a lost cause! I am going to concentrate on me and sammy (right now we are the important ones). He doesnt hit me or anything like that - just shouts and goes to bed in a strop!

Alicia_MSW :

Oh, okay, I just wanted to check to make sure you were okay then. If he gets angry, then it could just be that you have to let him sulk and simply focus on yourself right now. Don't react to him, in other words.

Alicia_MSW :

Don't try to caretake or ask if he is okay - and eventually, hopefully, he will get the picture.

Customer:

think he is just sulking because he is not the no 1 priority in my life in his eyes

Customer:

ok, that is what I am doing at the moment but we just seem to be getting further and further apart, he does anything possible to avoid being with me on my own

Alicia_MSW :

Well, I can understand that to an extent, but that can't be your problem. You're not responsible for his feelings, after all, he is.

Alicia_MSW :

He doesn't want to be alone with you?

Customer:

i just need to get that in my head

Alicia_MSW :

It's not easy!

Customer:

no - he obviously finds it uncomfortable, I was quite a bubbly chatty person but now I am very quiet and sad

Customer:

i have suggested going away with him but he wouldnt so i went with my daughter

Customer:

I suggested going out for a day but we were back 1hr later

Alicia_MSW :

You will eventually, return to "who you were" - although that "who you were" is also irrevocably changed, too.

Customer:

he said we had nothing to talk about

Alicia_MSW :

It sounds to me like you're doing a lot of the caretaking, though. I can appreciate that you're putting in the effort to make arrangements to go away or try to pacify him or make him feel better, but it sounds like that's just counterproductive for you right now.

Customer:

I keep telling him that but i think he thinks I will get over this and be back to normal and i should be by now - after all as he says 7 months have passed which is no time at all

Customer:

so what should i do

Alicia_MSW :

Relationship issues aside, I think you deserve at least (at LEAST) a year of uninterrupted grieving after a loss like this.

Customer:

that is how i feel too

Alicia_MSW :

It's not what you can do, it's what you shouldn't do, I think, that is most helpful for you right now.

Alicia_MSW :

To me it seems that you're looking for the answer as to how you can change his behavior, or how you can get him to support you more.

Alicia_MSW :

But I don't think that is something that is going to happen by force or by having the right words, of course, as I know you realize.

Customer:

so are you saying i should just ignore him totally until he begins to behave as you would a small child?

Alicia_MSW :

Well, in a sense, he is acting like a small child!

Alicia_MSW :

If you don't mind me saying so...

Alicia_MSW :

So I think that is exactly how you should treat the situation, when he reacts with a temper tantrum or tells you you should be over this by now, ignore the behavior. (As much as you possibly can.) Walk away without responding, go for a walk and physically leave if you can, call someone else to talk to...

Alicia_MSW :

You can explain to him as you've explained to me that you've tried being nice about things and you've tried to be understanding of his feelings, but there's only so far that can go and there's only so much you have left to give.

Customer:

not at all, it is what i think too but when he talks to other people he tells them how awful it is and how i am not coping well and actually i feel i am coping as well as i can under the circumstances, he tells people not to come to the house because i dont want to see anyone which is not right - anyone who calls is welcome and if i cry on their shoulder surely that is helping me too, and its not as if i do all the time anyway

Alicia_MSW :

That is absolutely not okay for him to do this. Then you have to try to explain this to him. It's disrespectful of you and your feelings to portray you in this light to the "outside world".

Alicia_MSW :

He can't do the speaking for you, after all. It's not okay for him to do that.

Customer:

do you now see how I think he wants to be the one who is being seen to help me? when actually all he is doing is making it worse?

Customer:

i have tried to get him to see my doctor about this but he refuses to go.

Alicia_MSW :

Yes, because by pushing away people on the outside (well-meaning neighbors, friends who come to visit) he is making you - or wanting to make you - completely dependent on him. Which is ironic because he doesn't want to help you in the first place (or so it seems.)

Alicia_MSW :

The thing is, you can't make him get help if he doesn't want it, but you can strongly suggest it. You might even suggest that you think it would be helpful to see a couples counselor for a few sessions to discuss this with someone who can act as a "mediator".

Customer:

exactly! and how can i possibly be dependent on someone who wont help me

Customer:

ok will try

Customer:

bloody men!

Alicia_MSW :

Yes! Ha ha :)

Alicia_MSW :

Seriously, though. I think that you are basically doing a very good job handling this and everything else from what you are telling me.

Alicia_MSW :

And it is VERY difficult to handle someone who is trying to keep you reliant on them - but you do have a right to put your foot down about certain things.

Customer:

thank you for your help, I feel better knowing that, sometimes I just think that I am so "not normal" at the moment that I'm not sure if I am right or wrong in what I am doing

Alicia_MSW :

You are normal. You are doing a good job - a very good job. And I wish you all the best with this situation, and with the grieving process. My heart goes out to you, truly.

Customer:

think i will book another holiday with Sammy and sod what he wants. My rainy day fund is rapidly dropping but hey ho this is the rainiest it will ever get for me!

Alicia_MSW :

Yes - a holiday is always a good idea!!

Alicia_MSW :

And you definitely deserve it.

Customer:

thanks so much, at least I know I am not being unreasonable now

Alicia_MSW :

You're welcome. Please feel free to contact me in the future if you ever want to "talk" again.

Customer:

thank you xx

Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 587
Experience: Specializing in mental health counseling
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