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How to help grieving FIL (is this “normal”?)

(14 Posts)
Stripesandstars44 Sun 22-Oct-17 15:42:58

MIL passed away 2 months ago. FIL (elderly, in his mid 70s) now lives alone with only myself and DH for company a few evenings a week and a day at the weekend. He doesn’t really have any friends or any idea of how to fill his time during the day, and he’s incredibly old fashioned and stubborn so rejects any ideas we have for him to get out a bit more during the week. He basically spends his days waiting to come over to our house.

DH has just been round to his house and found that FIL has covered all photos of MIL with paperwork/post/envelopes so you can’t see her. There are a number of photos in their house of herself and FIL with family, so this is a lot of photos that have been covered up. I know people grieve in different ways, but this concerns me a bit. I just suggested to DH that he might want to see if FIL will visit his GP or get some help (there’s only so much time we can give him - DH works full time and I’ve just had a baby, but we do the maximum that we can for him), but he said there’s zero chance of FIL acknowledging that he needs extra support. He’s just so stubborn.

What do I do? I know that there’s no “normal” way to grieve, but the photo thing has me worried. What can I do? We already give him as much of our time as we possibly can around the baby and DHs job (never mind the fact that DH is also grieving). How can you get someone to admit that they need extra support when they’re as stubborn as he is? And what extra support is there available for him? He won’t see his GP (he doesn’t like his doctors surgery but won’t change), might be too soon for some sort of counselling, and I don’t think medication is the answer. Worth mentioning that he hardly sleeps also, wakes at 1am and then doesn’t go back to sleep, so is just roaming around the house in the early hours. Any advice of how we could help him would be welcome.

Topseyt Sun 22-Oct-17 16:30:40

I think you are doing all that you realistically can. If he won't see his GP or admit to needing help then he won't.

My MIL was somewhat similar back in 2002 when FIL died. Not covering photos up, but I think it was quite a long time before she would put photos of him out again, at least on full view.

All her friends and family could do for her was be there as and when possible/needed. She did come out the other side eventually, but I would say it took a couple of years.

Monkeypuzzle32 Sun 22-Oct-17 16:36:34

It would worry me too, google sone bereavement helplines -I don't have any personal recommendations but I am sure they can point you on the right direction or at least help you as you have a lot on your plate. Also, what about an Age related charity?

dontcallmelen Sun 22-Oct-17 16:48:38

Hi Op sorry for your loss,I can relate to the photos I couldn’t bear for a very look time to look at photos of my parents after they died, I have one photo up now, but when I dust it still can’t look at it, yy to bereavement counselling, I was referred by my Gp I found it very helpful as I, could express how I felt without fear of upsetting anyone.
Its hard though trying to support someone through grief, especially if they won’t/don’t want help from outside, maybe just gently keep suggesting & encourage, grief is a process which has many stages, it’s still very raw though.

FlakeBook Sun 22-Oct-17 17:45:34

My friend tells me it was a year before she could have a photo of her dh in the house.

I don't think there's anything to suggest anything more than grief here and I think it would be much longer before anything could be judged as abnormal.

Bruceishavingfish Sun 22-Oct-17 18:19:01

I dont think its that unusual.

I couldnt look at photos of my nana just after she died. It took a while. At least a year.

Its been 8 weeks simce the woman hr soent so many years with died. Him not wanting to do much or look at her photo is with the boundries of normal, imo.

Calic0 Sun 22-Oct-17 18:24:42

It's still very, very early in the grieving process. When my MIL died, my FIL went the other way and had photos of her everywhere, staring at us from every wall! At the moment, you're doing everything you can, and I certainly wouldn't yet be worrying about abnormal behaviour.

Sorry to you and your family for your loss flowers

MarthaArthur Sun 22-Oct-17 18:28:04

Covering photos 2 months after a berevement isnt unsual or worrysome imho. Me and my dbro did the same when we had a big berevement. Uts a common thing to do. He cant face looking at her pictures yet its early days.

Raver84 Sun 22-Oct-17 18:35:50

Sorry for your loss. His behaviour isn't unusual. My mum was the same when my dad died and I felt like you, that I had to fill her time with visits... but it became less and less as initial grief was lessened and life had to move on. Accept that for now this is how things will be but that long term spending every spare minute with fil is not sustainable or necessary . He might start going our more when he realises that this is it, keep encouragin him to join a group or visit the shop even.

wafflyversatile Sun 22-Oct-17 18:50:59

What was he like before your MIL died?

I wouldn't worry about the photos. Sounds like there are quite a few and it 's just a bit much for him to have them wherever he turns. I expect he'll uncover them when he's ready. Maybe he was never that keen on having loads of family photos around anyway.

It's only been 2 months. He's bound to feel all at sea still.

I guess all you can do is spare the time and energies that you can and lessen it over time. If he then feels like he can't cope with less of your time he might then push himself a bit more or be more willing to get other support.

insert1usernamehere Sun 22-Oct-17 18:55:52

It doesn't sound like his behaviour is out of the norm, but there is such a wide spectrum of what's normal at this stage

I don't know if you're aware of it, but Cruse Bereavement Care may be able to offer some help and advice, either to you or, in time, to your FIL www.cruse.org.uk/

Also, do you think he would be open to getting a dog? Constant company, and a reason to leave the house every day; it's amazing how many people you talk to when you've got a dog with you - more than you'd ever believe if you didn't have one! Depending on his fitness levels, an older dog from a rescue (either fostered or adopted) could be perfect - perhaps one whose own owner has died

Stripesandstars44 Sun 22-Oct-17 20:24:16

Waffly - he wasn’t particularly sociable before and hardly ever went out, but I think MiL wittering on all day gave him someone to talk to and kept his mind busy. Now he’s just in an empty quiet house all day and it’s really hit him hard.

Insert - yes I have contacted Cruse and have counselling arranged for myself. There’s no way FIL or DH would consider counselling (they’re both quite old fashioned men and don’t talk about their feelings), but I’m hoping if I go and it helps me then they might think about going themselves. At the very least Cruse may be able to advise how I can best support them both.

I suggested getting a cat (he’s more a cat person than dog) but he wasn’t interested. I suppose it’s still very early days so maybe in time he might take my suggestions into consideration. The reason I thought that the photo thing was worrisome was because myself and DH have gone the other way and have put more photos up of MIL, so I wasn’t sure if I should be concerned about FILs reaction. I don’t know, grief is a difficult thing.

Vitalogy Sun 22-Oct-17 20:40:17

Op, how many evenings a week is he spending with you? I know you said he's with you for a day at the weekend too. There's only so much you can do for someone that won't help themselves.
Don't let him suck the joy out of this special time with your new baby.
Sorry if this sounds harsh but I think he's pushing himself onto you too much.

LemonShark Sun 22-Oct-17 20:54:14

Sounds very normal at this stage. Not sure what seeing a GP would achieve; the most they would do is a) reassure him he's grieving normally or b) refer for bereavement counselling, but if it's anything like my local NHS services they wouldn't even consider giving someone grief counselling until a year has passed as this is much too soon, he's still dealing with the shock and counselling has little real benefit af this time other than potentially making someone feel a 'bit better': it won't ease or hasten the grieving process.

One thing to consider is that he's potentially rejecting outside sources of company as all of his social need is being met by you two right now. I guess what I'm saying is do what you can and be supportive but don't harm yourself in the process: you can't fake away his pain and if he isn't willing to broaden his horizons in time you can't change that. It's tempting to see him as in need of rescuing but he's an adult with the right to make his own decisions about how to spend his time and whether to meet new people and so forth.

It's very very very soon. He'll find his way through.

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