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I Need Support


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I lost my mother 4 years ago to lung cancer. Recently my boyfried lost his mother to lung cancer. I was very close to my boyfriends mom. I felt like she was a second mom to me. It was a relief to have a mother figure again. But now I have lost both my mother and my mother figure. I watched both of them die, but when I watched my boyfriends mother die it was 10 times harder. It seemed that all the emotions I had bottled up about my mom came to the surface. I feel like I am dealing with two deaths at the same time. I am in so much pain right now, and I feel like I have no one to talk to. Since my boyfriends mothers funeral, my boyfriend and I have been fighting constantly. It breaks my heart that we are turning on each other. I need his support, but he has so much going on inside him that he can not be there for me. If he gets angry at me, I just break down and cry because it hurts so much. I don't know what to do with myself.

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How awful for you to have lost both your mother and your mother figure to the same illness, and both within the last four years! I can certainly understand how this most recent death may have reawakened all those feelings you thought you had put to rest when your own mother died. All those painful memories and emotions are crashing in upon you once again, and it feels as if you’re grieving the loss of both mothers all at the same time.

Added to all of that is your boyfriend’s grief and what you experience as a lack of support from him.

I think it’s important to understand that when faced with a loss like this, each of us must grieve in our own particular way. Even when two people know each other very well and love each other very much, they can be at different stages in their lives, shaped by different experiences, and affected differently by the relationships they have to the one who has died. Some people experience grief in primarily emotional ways, having all sorts of feelings such as anger, guilt, sadness or loneliness. Others react in physical ways, feeling a need to keep busy as a way of handling the unpleasant feelings of grief. Neither way is right or wrong; they are just different from each other. Problems arise when we can't understand why our partners aren't reacting the same way that we are.

Because in general men express their grief in a masculine rather than in a feminine way, we women tend to assume that they are not grieving at all. For example, we may take their silence as a sign of disinterest or lack of concern. Used to being in the role of strong protector and capable provider, a man may be afraid to share his grief for fear of upsetting his partner. Your boyfriend's responses to his mother’s death aren't necessarily unhealthy; rather they may be his way of handling his grief.

What's important is to keep those lines of communication open between the two of you, so that rather than assuming you know what your boyfriend is thinking or feeling, you ask him to tell you what helps and what doesn't help him as he attempts to deal with his grief, and you in turn share the things that help and hurt as you deal with the losses you feel. That way you learn to respect and to trust each other's ways of dealing with grief. When you are a couple, grieving works best when there is good communication, mutual respect and shared support.

I hope that both you and your boyfriend will spend some time reading some of the articles I've posted on the Articles and Books page of my Grief Healing Web site, at http://www.griefhealing.com/columnsbooks.htm , because the more you both understand about the normal grief process, the less "crazy" each of you will feel, the more you will know what to expect and the better able you will be to handle each other's reactions as you cope with both of these losses.

You can also go to my Bereavement and Loss Sites Links page at http://www.griefhealing.com/HumanLossLinks.htm and follow some of the links I've listed there, which will take you to many other helpful resources. For example, you might be interested in Tom Golden's Web Healing site, at http://www.webhealing.com , which focuses on male grief. Tom's book, Swallowed By a Snake is excellent. Another outstanding (and more recent) book on this subject is Men Don’t Cry; Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes of Grief, ISBN # 0876309953. You'll find links to each of these books on my Articles and Books page; just scroll down until you come to the section entitled BOOKS FOR ADULTS. (These links will connect you to descriptions and reviews of the books on Amazon's online bookstore, but you're under no obligation to buy them.)

If either of you needs more than that, I urge you to find someone else you can talk to about your grief. You can contact your primary care physician, your public library or one of your local hospices, churches or mortuaries and ask for information and referral to whatever grief support services are available in your community.

Wishing you both peace and healing,

Marty T

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