Behaviour After A Bereavement

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iloveglee | 14:37 Sun 20th Sep 2020 | Family
35 Answers
I am always really happy with the insights that people on here are willing to share, and want to ask about a situation I find myself in.

A close family member lost her husband at the end of last year. It was a great shock to all of us, although his health had been bad, he had opted for a surgery that would hopefully improve his quality of life. Sadly, his underlying condition meant that although the surgery itself was successful, his heart was not able to compensate for the trauma and he died. This was particularly challenging for me, as a good friend had lost her husband at around the same time, and I was helping to support her with the 'paperwork', as her daughter was very bad at this kind of thing. She is now coping pretty well considering.

My family member I'm not so sure. If one was to meet her socially, she appears to be doing fine, but she cries every day she says. Now I am one who feels that crying is cathartic, whether through anger, frustration or sadness, and would advocate anyone for whom crying has the same effect to go for it. However, she is persistently seeking sympathy by telling everyone who will listen that she cries every day, and when you try to suggest positive things for her life, the response, always is, well its not the same when you're on your own. No, it's not, it's different, life is very different when you've been with someone for many many years, but it appears to me that she is making very little effort to adapt. I personally feel that this year, what with what's been going on, people who have been bereaved need to be cut a bit of slack, but things seem to be getting no better.

She has a fairly large extended family, including me and my husband, all within a few miles, and we all try to take her out, ask her round for meals, etc. but it's becoming now that everybody is expected to be responsible for her happiness. I veer from thinking that it's me and I'm being unreasonable, to thinking how awful it must be to have lost your partner of 60 years. But I cannot take on board being responsible for her well being, other than obviously being around to support and help where I can. As well as being related, we have been friends for a long time, and have always done things together, which we still do, but I am beginning to get the feeling that it's not enough. We want to include her in our lives, and we do, but we also have a life of our own to live.

Does anyone out there agree that although the crying is absolutely normal, the sympathy seeking behaviour is becoming worrying. I am not at all sure at what point someone needs some professional help. My only experience of bereavement was to lose both parents within 3 months of each other several years ago. I cried most certainly I did, although not every day. And I can't at any time remember telling people on a regular basis. And yes, I know everybody is different and experiences loss differently.

I would be so grateful for your thoughts, and suggestions as to what I might be able to do to help. There is no doubt she is becoming very dependent, both on me and my husband, and also on her daughter who is semi retired. Her son and grand children are of course all of working age and have young families. I don't want to be the architect of enabling further dependence, but am not about to abandon her either.


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It's not even been a year and a year shoots by. I'd give her much more time to grieve and grin a bare it :-(
Really sorry to hear that, Margie. It may be worth asking professionals now, if she is willing to speak to them. Grief is normal, of course, but if she is struggling on a day-to-day basis, she may need some further help and advice. There isn't a limit on time, but I think I would ask about further help.
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I truly think she is struggling. I fully understand the grief, I fully understand the unhappiness, I fully understand the crying. Goodness knows at the minute, I should think most of us must of feeling like crying on a regular basis.

What is truly worrying, not just from my own point of view, I have to take charge of my own feelings about this. It's the persistent negativity towards people who are only trying to make helpful suggestions. Sharing how you feel with your family is fine, but this feels somehow different and it's hard to explain.

My main concern is that is allowed to drift, and then this way of thinking becomes ingrained. I know that grief is very personal, and there are no time constraints on it. Some people never get over their loss and learn to live their life in mourning. I don't have a problem with how anyone chooses to live their life, but I don't want to be pulled into this, and ignore it, not suggest maybe some professional input may be helpful.

I feel caught between yes, grinning and bearing it, it's early days, and thinking I should be concerned, and encouraging seeking help outside of the immediate family. Someone objective, and to be fair, someone who is not also grieving as her son and daughter are for their father, and her grandsons for their grandad. And yes, us a well for someone who occupied a big space in our lives.

I wouldn't want anyone to think i put any kind of priority on who is allowed to grieve the most, it's different for different people.
I have to agree with ummmm, less than a year is NO time at all and as it does go so fast, it won't seem that long to her. If she was still like this in say three to four years time, maybe reconsider how you feel you should approach it, but even then, grief in some people takes time and we are all different. I actually feel very sorry for her.
Just give her a little longer, she may surprise you.
Am I right in thinking she is a lady in her 80s? I think her behaviour and state of mind is completely normal. She needs much more time, support and understanding
My daughter died in Jan and I still cry more than once everyday. If anyone asks me how I am I tell them, although I dont go out of my way to tell people how I feel (lest they send the police/samaritan flying squad round). You may find that this is just how she is now and will never improve. If anyone suggested to me that I seek grief counselling I wouldn't be able to at this juncture but she may be amenable?
My thought is that she will work through it in her own time. Everyone is different. She'll hopefully become more independent as time goes by.
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Thank you all for your very helpful responses. It's so difficult to know with grief when it's becoming not normal. There is kind of no normal I guess, it's easier with say a broken leg, the healing process take it's time, and you have a reasonable idea of how long that should be and when it's not going quite right. I was afraid that we might be missing something we should be picking up on.

Yes she is a lady in her 80's, and used to have quite a good social life independent of her husband. Of course nobody has a social life now so it's hardly any any use suggesting she try and re-establish this. I am also contending with my own feelings of guilt that we don't include her in everything we do. We include her in lots of things, but as already said, we do have a right to a life that doesn't include her. But I feel that maybe we should be including her in everything, because I think that's what she thinks!! I freely admit she isn't the easiest person on earth to be able to have conversations like this with.

I fully acknowledge that this is very early days really, it's almost like this year can't be counted in any kind of healing process as it's come to a total halt for so many people.
No I don't think you should include her in everything and I hope she doesn't expect it because that's not right. You and your OH need time yourselves as well. You sound like very good friends to have Glee.
My very active uncle ( played golf+ ran marathons) lost his wife 11 yrs ago after a long life together. He never got over her death and died a year later after losing the will to live. He died of lung cancer.
Honestly...I can't think of anything worse than people coming up with 'helpful' suggestions when grieving for a dead partner or child or good friend. Everyone is different...I was once told that I evidently did not love my mother when she had been dead for a fortnight or so because I wasn't crying all the time... each person grieves differently..if she wants help and has good friends around she will probably ask.
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Thank you ladybirder. I hope that we are good friends, as well as family. We are a pretty close extended family and all supportive of one another. I know I have to own, and deal with my own feelings of guilt about doing stuff by ourselves, at the same time as knowing that we are not wrong in doing this.

I really want to do the right thing by her, and by us too. I want to encourage independence for her, at the same time as being supportive, and at the same time as having our own lives. Our lives and hers and her husband's lives have been very intertwined in as much as we interacted socially, went on holiday together and that kind of thing. We also had holidays and social activities that didn't include them. I don't want that to change if possible, and we are trying very hard to keep things as much as they used to be, albeit missing one person.

I do know though, from what one of the younger family members has told me that she wasn't very pleased when she found we had gone out for lunch with some friends, that she knows, without her. We have always socialised with these friends both with her and her husband, and separately, and this didn't feel any different, but it was this idea that now if we see them she has to come too. On this occasion there were reasons to exclude her, next time we won't. It's all kind of very difficult because we live on the same street, so it's impossible for us to be out for any length of time without her knowing. I don't want to start getting into a situation of lying about where we are going.

I'm sure in the fullness of time, these things will be resolved. I do think that had we not all been shut down so much, she maybe might have had some social outings with her friends - all of whom I know, but I was never included in these outings!!
Speaking from experience of being bereaved, dealing with bereavement of others and taking training at work.
Stop suggesting solutions and "positive things"
Stop thinking that she should be doing this or that instead of what she is doing.
If you feel that you can't cope with the amount of support that you are giving then think about what you can do without feeling irritated because you are doing too much.
Stop thinking behaviour is worrying because you didn't do it.
DO NOT for the love of heaven suggest that she re establish her social life.
DO NOT suggest that she needs professional help.
you are better doing what you feel that you can do without feeling "put on" and doing it wholeheartedly. Your feelings of guilt are not her fault.
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Useful to hear from someone with an understanding of the whole subject. Absolutely my feelings of guilt are mine to own and deal with as I said earlier. I haven't experienced a bereavement of someone so close, only parents which is different, and I have no idea as to how this goes, only that I didn't want to be missing something and doing, or failing to do something that might help.

I accept I cannot live someones life and experiences for them, I can only live my own. I cannot feel what someone else feels. Most of us, when having to try and support someone who is in this situation, probably flounders around wondering if they are doing, or failing to do the right thing. Hence why I am interested in reading the thoughts of other people, people who can be objective about my personal situation.
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Following on from what Woofgang has said, I have more of an idea of what not to do. Or what not to think about what my relative is doing, or thinking. I hope that what I, or should I say we, as my husband is involved here, are doing is the right thing.

I have to say, when I was having traumas of my own, of various kinds, I always found that online support groups were really helpful. To me anyway. To be able to chat, anonymously, in the privacy of my own home, to people who were/are undergoing the same kind of experience was quite cathartic. For me.

I am hesitant now to suggest that something like this might be helpful. I am not at all certain whether it's the right thing to do to suggest anything. I have to say it was one of the younger family members that came up with positive ideas, and was rebuffed. Currently I'd not dream of suggesting to anybody to restart their social life as we can't due to coronavirus. Which it has to be said it not doing anything for anybody's frame of mind.
I honestly wouldn't suggest anything like that.
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Woofgang. Its very difficult to be in the situation where there have been things that you have found to be really helpful, to feel you cannot mention. I understand that what I find helpful, someone else might not, but sometimes it may be something you didn't think of. Plus, what one bereaved person is accepting of from others, may be different from what another might accept, wouldn't you agree.

I have, as I mentioned, only suffered from the loss of parents. Not the same, also traumatic nevertheless. There were things that people suggested to me that made me think yes, you get it, you understand where I am just now. And the opposite. I never ever thought, why did you say this because it doesn't help, because I knew they were coming from a position of caring. Which is where we are, in a position of caring, and casting about for what is the right thing to do.

Everybody is different and I guess I might be at the far end of different. What helped me when I lost my husband was absolutely not talking about it, not crying which feels to me (I don't judge others) as though I am going through the motions, not "being supported" certainly not online forums or professional help. My sis stayed over for weeks and we watched telly, did a bit of gardening, and so on and my best friend used to ask me round for coffee and tell me hair raising stories about her job and funny stuff about her adult sons. I am not saying that this would help your relative either, just telling you this to illustrate how VERY different people can be. Its nearly 9 years for me now. For the first 5 I boiled with anger. Less than a year is nothing. My advice to you stands.

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