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Supporting Surving Parent

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Hi everyone - been a little while since I've been on here, but finding it a tough day.

I guess in myself I'm doing OK, but am really struggling supporting Mum. I live a couple of hours away, and find the tears down the phone every day so so difficult. I feel bad for not being able to be there, and bad that I feel I can never tell her how I'm feeling.

I start a new job in a couple of weeks (on what weirdly would have been Dad's birthday) and am scared that I'm not going to be able to cope with supporting Mum's emotions when I have so much new stress in my life.

She's waiting on seeing a counsellor, but I can't tell her I can't cope with trying to support her grief at the same time as dealing with my own. She says she's not putting pressure on me to spend more time up there, but then implies she'd like me to come sooner when we've arranged when next to meet - which makes me feel guilty/angry/confused and feel bad for trying to get on with my life.

I feel so horrible for feeling the way I do, I'm angry at everything for putting me in this situation and myself for feeling the way I do.

I'm spending the bulk (bar two days) of the next 3 weeks before I start my new job with Mum - so hope that'll help things - but don't know what I'll do if she's not feeling a little better before I have to start a stressful new job.

On top of that I hate that I can't tell Dad about my new job, he'd have driven me crazy wanting to know every detail - god I miss that.

Sorry for the somewhat incoherent ramble, but thanks for listening.

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I have the same struggle with my Mom's grief....It is a very difficult balance. I too have a full plate and my own tears to deal with. I feel like when I have to deal with her issues I have to set my own aside.

My Mom did come for a visit for the last 2 months and I think that helped her to be with our family.

Hang in there.....hopefully your Mom will get into counseling soon and that will help.

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Here is what I would do. Write your dad a letter and tell him all about your new job. After you write that, place two chairs facing each other and pretend he is in the chair opposite you. Read the letter to him and BELIEVE that he truly can hear you. When you are done, burn the letter and know in your heart that he heard every word you said.

As for your mom, just sounds like she needs time and counselling. Allow her that time to heal and please be there for her. Then when you can't be there for her (because of your new job), you can find comfort knowing you did what you could for her. Then leave it to God to help her through her tough times.

Take a deep breath and let go...allowing God to take control.

Good luck to you in the new job.

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I'm having a similarly hard time with my dad. He's so heartbroken and at such a loss. I can hear it in his voice and it just kills me to think of him alone in that house every night. I feel like I can't cry or get emotional in front of him, but sometimes it's incredibly hard. I've been going to see him every weekend since my mom died, but it's getting rough. He lives 3 hours away and I just started my 2nd year of law school, which is really demanding. I'm just getting exhausted driving back and forth and worrying about him so much. One weekend my car had to go in the shop for repairs, and he actually asked me to rent a car and drive out (which I did). He doesn't want to see a counselor either, and I just don't know what to do to help him. He's asking me to do various things with him on the weekends, which I'm happy to do, but I'm worried that I won't be able to get everything done that I need to, and then my grades will suffer. I'll be there for him as much as I possibly can, but I'm afraid that still won't be enough. I just can't stand to see him in so much pain, especially when I'm in so much pain myself.

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Comforting and supporting a surviving parent is a major challenge for adult sons and daughters, who are already struggling with their own grief. You will find a number of helpful articles, books and resources on the Death of a Parent or Grandparent page of our Grief Healing Web site. See especially this article by grief therapist Helen Fitzgerald entitled Helping Your Grieving Parent.

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I can relate to it. Mom and live in different places of the world. When my dad passed away leaving her was the hardest thing I had to do. A week after Dad passed I came back 'cause I had to work. I didn't want to. All I wanted was to be there for my mom and my brothers. It has been 10 months...feels like a long time but also feels like yesterday. I had promised my father I would not leave mom alone, and I have tried to keep that promise.

Even though I am not physically with her, I call her everyday. I think it helps her and helps me too. She has been sooo strong through this time, I want to do everything in my power to make sure I support her in her grief or help her anyway possible. It can get overwhelming, but I think for me, listening to her and her grief helps me understand her more, understand more about dad.

I don't want her to ever feel she is alone because she isn't. It is true dad isn't here physically, but I think he is (yes, present time 'cause he is in another dimension now)a very wise man. Doing this has helped me with my grief as well. Some times I tell mom things i remember about dad, even though it makes us cry a little, it also brings a smile to our faces. Even if it is just to say hi to mom or to talk about dad or to talk about her day, I try to make sure she knows I am there for her. Not sure if I am doing an ok job, but we know that hopefully in a couple of years we can be together in one place and I am able to help her a lot lot more.

I know that grief can be overwhelming, but at least in my case staying connected has helped us both through this journey. If anything, I think this experience has helped me get closer with my family, even though we always have been, it now feels like we are getting through this, together.

My words of advice would be try to be patient with your mother. When we have such loss like this one, it feels so new and we don't know how to react, what to do or even understand how we are feeling ourselves, let alone others. Be kind to yourself, and the way I see it is if mom tells me about her grief, it may be painful and it may hurt to see her like that, but I also know it helps her because she needs to let that out and by listening to her I think she feels the support is there in one way or another.

There is no manual or written instructions on how to deal with this experience, just remember to take things one day at a time.



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Reading these posts has helped me feel better. My elderly mother died two weeks ago after a long illness, leaving my 85-year-old father bereaved. They had been married 55 years, so this has been a huge blow for him, even though we'd been preparing for Mom's passing for virtually four years. I have been worried about going back to work and to my life this past week, and leaving Dad alone in the house all day, and sometimes during the evenings too, but after reading about those of you who live too far away to give your surviving parent as much support as you feel he/she needs, I realize my own Dad is very lucky.

I share a house with him, and very rarely go anywhere overnight. My sister is only ten minutes away and has been calling Dad or visiting every day. So he is getting much more support than many bereaved parents do. I've been feeling guilty about going back to my life, but I guess I shouldn't be. After all, we can only do so much, and as some of you pointed out, we also have our own grief to come to terms with.

What scares me, though, is that his own father shot himself the morning after his wife suddenly died of a supposed aneyrism, leaving Dad and his two brothers orphaned at a very young age Dad was only 13 at the time. As a rule, he never talks about this memory, because it's too painful for him, but lately I've heard him recount this story several times to different people. It seems like Mom's death has brought it all back to the surface for him, even after over 70 years. Dad seems fine on the surface, and is eating his meals, sleeping well, seeing hs doctor regularly,, etc., but he has no social network and very few interests to take his mind off his loss when I'm not there. He spends most of his time sitting in the living room, reading the paper or doing a crossword puzzle now and then. Occasionally, he just sits staring out the window. I don't know what else I can do for him except be there when I can. Both of us are on anti-depressants, and have been since long before Mom died. But as I am single, I have to work full time and I need to get out and see my friends too. I can't just cancel my life to stay home with him 24/7. I'd go insane, and would probably come to resent Dad after awhile.

Dad isn't a joiner, so there's no use suggesting he go out and join a seniors' group or something. He and Mom were never very sociable with anyone outside the family. And now that Mom's gone, it feels like Dad really has no one except my sister and me...but we have our own lives and just can't be there all the time. It makes me feel guilty but I don't know what I can do.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks so much for all your posts whilst I've been away. Mum & I spent the last 2-3 weeks away, and for now at least I think she's feeling a little better - at least more "in control" if that makes any sense. I just wanted to let you all know that things are feeling a little better and thank you for the posts.

It was a tough trip, as we went to lots of places we'd gone with Dad last year - but once we'd got the "firsts" out the away we managed to get some comfort from the memories, although they're still a little too raw not to be very painful too.

My new job starts tomorrow, on what would have been Dad's birthday - weird how things work out. Strangely I sort of feel it's a good sign, and that he's keeping an eye out for me.

Take care everyone.

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hi Rory,

I'm glad you had time with your Mom and I hope it has helped her a bit. Wow, you went to places you'd been with your Dad, that is something I can't do yet, I avoid most situations that I can possibly avoid where my Dad would have been with us especially if it involves more than just me and my Mom because I can't put on the face for others.

I do think that is way more than coincidence, starting a new job, on your Dad's birthday. Wishing you lots of luck and best wishes with it Rory,



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