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How To Help Someone Who Doesn't Want Help?


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About ten years ago, one of my friends lost his mom and dad within months of each other. They were a very close knit family, and he was devastated by the loss. During the past few years, he has basically withdrawn from life because because his grief. He doesn't hang out with his friends as much, he quit working, he stays home most of the time, he prefers being online rather than in real life. He realizes that he has a problem, but he isn't ready to seek help. He feels ashamed and stupid that he let his life spiral out of control.

I tell him that he shouldn't feel stupid and ashamed; it's the depression, not him. I urge him to open up to his best friend about this, but he is too ashamed. I urged him to talk to other friends who suffer from depression, but he doesn't want to burden them with his problems. He likes to write so I suggested he write down his feelings, but he's not interested in dealing with his problems. I've gave him a link to this board, but he doesn't want to deal with his grief. I've told him that he should seek some professional help. I try to get him to tell stories about his parents to remember the good times, but talking about his parents only makes him sad. When I asked him what he wants me to do, he said I should keep things light and fluffy and stop dredging up all his real life problems. I stopped mentioning his grief to see if he would improve on his own; he did not. I introduce him to new projects which I know he will enjoy, but then I end up feeling guilty about helping him avoid his problems.

I'm at a loss at what to do. I'm the only one who knows the true extent of his grief. He manages to hide it from his other friends by creating a facade of happiness. He is happy as long as he avoids dealing with all the real life issues. Should I tell his friends about the depth of his problems? Should I do what he wants, which is to keep things light by pretending that everything is ok? Or do I keep pushing him to get help, even though it makes him feel incredibly sad, terrible, and stupid every time I bring the subject up? And if I do what he wants, then how do I deal with the guilt over the fact that I'm standing idly by while his life is crumbling?

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Dear Friend,

It sounds like you are truly a terrific friend who really cares and this person is so lucky to have you. I would like to tell him that. I'm afraid the only thing you can do is to do what he wants, and just be there if he "crashes and burns", so to speak. It sounds like it will all come crashing down on him eventually, and that is so sad. It's hard to watch someone self-destruct (I've been through that too) but there is really nothing you can do that you haven't already tried. Just hang in there and be there.

Good luck.

Hugs to you for being such a special friend,

Shell

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I'd say I have to agree with Shell. Ten years is a very long time. Maybe, if it were me, I might think about talking to a counselor myself and see if they could give me some advice on what to do....I really don't know for sure. You truly are such a good friend and he is very lucky to have you.

Karen

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Dear Friend,

Helping another in grief is a topic that we’ve addressed here before; although the circumstances are a bit different, you may find this earlier post (and the resources suggested) helpful. See How Can I Help? When Someone You Love Loses Someone

See also the articles and resources listed on this page on my Grief Healing Web site: Helping Someone Who’s Grieving

I agree with Shell and Karen that you are doing your level best to “be there” in a kind and caring way for your friend. At the same time, I think what's important here is not that you assume the role of grief counselor for this man, but rather that you educate yourself about what is normal in grief and make yourself aware of what bereavement resources are available, so you're armed with that information if and when your friend is willing to consider it. Whether your friend decides to take advantage of those resources is really up to him, but certainly if grief issues keep coming up in your interactions with this man, you can go so far as to help him find out what and where they are.

Just knowing what normal grief looks like, knowing what to expect and knowing how to manage the typical reactions to it can be very, very helpful for you. Then, if and when the timing seems right, you can gently offer to share with your friend some of the resources you yourself have discovered and explored (so you'll know why you're recommending them.) You might also print out some of the articles that you find and send them to your friend to read, along with a gentle comment such as, "I found this interesting article that shed some light on something I've been wondering about – I thought perhaps you'd be interested in it, too. Maybe we can talk about it together, after you've had a chance to read it."

Be aware, however, that this man may not be open to or ready for your offers to help -- especially if he doesn’t see that there is a problem here that requires your intervention in the first place.

I don't know if this offers you much help, my dear. As I said, I don't think you can "fix this" for this man, but you certainly can learn more about grief and loss yourself, so at least you can understand better what may be going on with him. You'll also be in a better position to encourage him to seek the help that is available to him, should he ever feel a need for it.

I know it's difficult when you want to do something to make things better for someone you really care about, and you're not certain if he wants or even needs your help. Unfortunately, even as a counselor I cannot force my help or unsolicited advice onto a person who does not seek it directly -- all I would get in return is resistance. We simply cannot "make" someone else do what we think is best, regardless of how "right" we may think we are.

Whatever you do, please know that we are thinking of you, and wishing you all the best.

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Friend,

I wondered, after thinking of your post for awhile, if this might not be the way he IS handling it. You said he stays home a lot, doesn't want to hang out with his friends as much, and wants to keep things light. I started thinking of myself and the way I like to stay at home (we've had many discussions on the board about how we don't want to be around people sometimes). Maybe he feels some of his friends aren't really friends now. You don't mention his age. I think you deal with grief differently depending on your age (at least I did, when I look back on all the losses in my life). And I'm the type who walks around looking like I'm doing fine, and then I cry myself to sleep most nights. But I usually cry alone...maybe he does too. The fact that it's been ten years ago might be a delayed reaction (a severe one, I admit!). I know when my dad died, I grieved all over again for people I had lost years and years ago. Because I was so much younger , I don't think I grieved properly for them when they died and it was only after I was older that I could do that. Some people also just don't want to talk about it. They want to grieve in private. Anyway, sorry this is so long. But he may be handling it the only way he knows how to, in the way that's right for him. Just a thought....

Hugs,

Shell

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Friend,

I agree with Shell, I also had a death close to me when I was younger and my life spiraled out of control. I didn't realize it at the time but it was my only way of dealing with my feeling, actually I would have to say not dealing with my feelings. I didn't want to think about it and pushed them inside. When I lost my wife a little over a year ago I went back into not dealing with my feeling all over again. I starting drinking every night, I work outside around the house until I would almost pass out, but on the outside and at work, I put on that "everything is OK" face and didn't let anyone know except one person who I talked to alot. Even then I didn't tell him everything, but he kew me well enough and saw right through me. I am sure he thought the same way you do now. He would talk to me but he would let me approach the subject. He would at time bring little bits into the conversation to kind of lead me that way, and it worked. I think that if he had pushed the issue too much, I would have closed up and not talked to him any more. Marty also had good suggesions, arm your self with everything you can find about grief also I would go as far as finding a grief support group in your area and be ready with that information so if he does finally realize he needs help and asks for it you will have that information ready. You won't be able to completely help him until he is ready, and only he will know when he is ready.

I hope this helps

Derek

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