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I need advice on how to deal with - my not being able to deal with my mother's grief

(22 Posts)
willitbe Sun 01-Jan-17 17:35:24

My father passed away last February, after being ill for just 5 weeks. Prior to that he did everything for my mum. Now my mum is struggling to cope.

I have tried to help in every way with the physical changes to life. They moved countries just 2 months before my dad's death, so my mum has no old friends here. She is trapped in a house miles from the nearest town, and lonely obviously.

However much I try to help with the practicalities of the things that my dad would have done, finances, driving to the shops..... I just can't cope with dealing with her grief too. Does that make me a bad daughter?

I feel overwhelmed with the 'poor me' aspect of her grieving. She says no one can understand what she is going through, as most people who lose their life partners have a stable home, good friends nearby etc. She has this rose-tinted view of how life is for others. Just reading a few of the threads here on mn bereavement shows that she is in a better place than some.

I know I have not been in her shoes of losing a husband of 50+ years, as I married late in life, it is doubtful that I will get that many years of marriage. But I need help on how to not make things worse for my mum in her grief. I have told her I can't take on her grief as I am grieving for my dad too. But she keeps on the guilt factor of me not being able to listen to her grief for hours.

What can I do so that I don't cause her more pain, whilst at the same time protecting my own sanity?

Sorry I have waffled on here, I think I needed to write it down to try to re-read it later to see if I can sort out my own thoughts. But any words of wisdom would be gratefully received.

mumznet Sun 01-Jan-17 17:50:51

speak to bereavement helpline. i will send you their number.

you are doing great just listen to her support her. be a shoulder for her in this difficult time.

Lunenburg Sun 01-Jan-17 17:55:34

My thoughts go out to both of you.

Losing a partner is tough, as is the loss of your Dad. My experience is that bereavement is a journey that affects everyone differently.

Your Mum needs your practical support and your love, but for your wellbeing she needs to be seeing a bereavement counsellor. That will give her somewhere safe to express what she is feeling and help her pick up the pieces and contemplate the next stage of her life.

willitbe Sun 01-Jan-17 20:29:06

Thank you for replying,
mumznet - thank you the number would be good.

Lunenburg - unfortunately my mum is refusing to see a bereavement counsellor - she thinks there is no way they could understand how she feels. I guess it is too soon for her. I will just have to be very patient. She manages to put on a fake "I'm fine" with almost everyone else she meet most of the time, but with me, I get filled with guilt as she overflows with all the tears. I just wish I could handle it better for my own mental health. It is as if just me not being able to be there all the time for her, makes it worse for her emotionally. Not even sure if that makes sense.

mumznet Sun 01-Jan-17 23:00:03

okay i will google the number now....

no it doesn't make you a bad daughter...i'm also a bit like that some people are not very good with emotions...if you think of nurses I am always amazed how they can cope with stuff that I seem to find quite emotions of people...

okay let me get this number now...

mumznet Sun 01-Jan-17 23:09:37

I went on Citizens advice bureau website and found this, you could also speak to citizens advice bureau for advice. Also does your mum have a friend who she can talk to? that seems to help I think....

Cruse Bereavement Care

PO Box 800

Day-by-day helpline for adults and young people: 0808 808 1677 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.00pm)
Tel: 020 8939 9530 (office)
Fax: 020 8940 1671
Emails: (helpline); (young person's helpline)

The Lullaby Trust

11 Belgrave Road

Bereavement support line: 0808 802 6868
Information line: 0808 802 6869
General enquiries: 020 7802 3200
Bereavement support email:
Information email:
General enquiries email:

The Rosie Crane Trust

The Rosie Crane Trust provides support for bereaved parents. They offer a 24-hour 'Listening Ear Helpline', available to all in the UK. Their drop-in centres are available in Somerset, North Dorset and North Devon in England.

Rosie Crane Trust
PO Box 62
TA19 0WW

24 hour helpline: 01460 55120
General enquiries email:

mumznet Sun 01-Jan-17 23:17:48

well also it is important that you have a friend to talk to too. not me on mumsnet lol but someone in real life..... another family members/friends advice or support. it is not easy for you to manage on your own you seem young....even if you aren't young everyone needs a friend or support.

AtSea1979 Sun 01-Jan-17 23:21:53

Does she live in same country as you? Can she move back to where they use to live/nearer friends/more central?

willitbe Mon 02-Jan-17 16:12:26

Mumznet - thank you for all the information. I will search locally to see if there are any equivalents here. As well as checking if any of the uk resources can help with advice. I have a couple of friends, to whom I talk, but they have buzy lives too.

AtSea - unfortunately the house my parents left was linked with my dad's work, so my mum is renting, but with no chance to be able to afford to rent in the uk now. My parents moved around alot so my mums friends are scattered all over the world, no-where for her to go to be near anyone specific.

Today my mum is refusing to respond to my texts, she is depressed but her refusal to communicate with me is hard. If I phone she just ends up in tears with telling me to carry on and enjoy life. Then I feel bad for making her feel worse. She "doesn't want to be a burden" and unfortunately that repeated over and over, just makes it worse for me, as she is a burden. One I try my best to handle, but because I can't fulfill all her needs I feel a failure. Guilt Guilt Guilt.

She is just out of hospital, and refused to go to respite care for a couple of weeks, refused a walking aid, and refused the medication they offered her. Then she things no one loves here and dwells on why I am not there tending her every need (in her head I am having wonderful family time with my children).

Sorry I just need to blurt it all out, I have been holding on and trying to manage, but I am finding it harder and harder.

mumznet Mon 02-Jan-17 19:02:54

its okay don't worry...if you can't talk on here then you will keep it all inside so feel free to chat on here.

can your mum stay with you or is that not an option? she definitely needs help in hospitals the staff there are not family...right now she needs/wants her family.

she will get better but needs your support.

willitbe Mon 02-Jan-17 20:01:48

My mum when asked if she could stay here refused. She has issues that she has many happy memories of being with my dad here. But more that with four children (one with special needs) it is not quiet, so she said it would not work. I can understand her feeling that way. She wants to be in her 'own' home.

It does feel like every suggestion is knocked back.

mumznet Mon 02-Jan-17 20:23:28

I understand....many people don't want to leave their home at her age you are right.
just be there for her and be supportive.. you are doing great!

willitbe Tue 03-Jan-17 08:45:03

Thank you

WrongTrouser Tue 03-Jan-17 09:08:49

OP I don't know what to suggest to support your mum with her grief, but I think (and I hope this doesn't sound wrong) you need to focus on looking after yourself. You sound near the end of your tether, you have 4 children and you have your own mental health to consider.

You have mentioned lots of help your mum has turned down - respite, counselling, medication etc. That is her right - she can refuse any help she doesn't want to accept. But it sounds to me from your posts (correct me if I'm wrong) that she expects you to provide all the support she needs and it is this which is putting you under such pressure and leading to feelings of guilt because you just can't meet all these needs.

Perhaps you need, very gently and carefully, to start setting some limits on the support you give. This is your right, in the same way it is your mum's right to refuse all other help.

Your mental health, your life, and your family life with your children, is just as important as your mum's life and her grief. I think you need to stop feeling guilty that you can't meet all her needs and "solve" her grief (it's impossible even if you had unlimited resources, which you don't) and to accept that there is only so much you can do. You can do this hand in hand with encouraging your mum to take up other help, but if she chooses not to, this is her choice, not your fault.

WrongTrouser Tue 03-Jan-17 09:50:22

As an example:

Then she things no one loves here and dwells on why I am not there tending her every need (in her head I am having wonderful family time with my children)

You should feel absolutely no guilt at having "wonderful family time with your children" if this is what you were doing ( and I hope you were able to over Christmas).

Your children only have one childhood, and with 4 including 1 with special needs, I imagine you have your hands full. Their "wonderful time" with you is just as important as your mum's needs. And so is your happiness and ability to enjoy guilt-free time with your children (or doing whatever else you want/need to do).

I am trying to choose my words very carefully as I don't want to sound harsh.
I think perhaps you need to distance yourself from your mum's view of herself as being exceptionally unfortunate and of you being responsible for her well being. You can be loving and supportive whilst still maintaining some boundaries.

CarlitosWay Tue 03-Jan-17 09:59:23

You need to realise that it's ok to look after yourself and to not try to be there 100% for your Mum. It's also ok to tell her that she is unburdening on you too much.

You also really need to stop with the guilt.

It's still early days so hopefully things will get better. flowers

willitbe Tue 03-Jan-17 21:14:31

Thank you so much, I needed to hear this. I do need to put my needs and my families needs a little higher on the priority list, and try to drop some of the guilt. I do think I have to try to put the distance in a little, for my own sanity and emotional well-being.

It is helpful to hear that I am not being horrible thinking this.

mumznet Tue 03-Jan-17 22:05:21

take care and look after yourself x

Iizzyb Tue 03-Jan-17 22:18:47

A few years ago my dgd died. My mum took it very badly & a few months later my ddad left her for an ow. My mum felt like the world had come to an end & started relying on me more & more. A neighbour invited her to join a line dancing class in the village - apparently she'd asked her several times but dm kept saying no thanks. I eventually persuaded her to go. She enjoyed the dancing and more importantly the company. It extended to 2 evenings and then a gardening group. She got a new social life & in time added more interests. Your dm probably does feel as though there is no way to improve things but could you persuade her to try one new thing or to go out to volunteer somewhere? I agree with pp that maybe it's time to pull back a little & look after yourself - maybe the bereavment counsellor could be looked at as just a sympathetic shoulder in place of yours for an hour? Just to give you a little break? X

Basicbrown Fri 06-Jan-17 16:39:10

It sounds really really hard OP. Is there anything that she can do to actually be helpful to you rather than a burden? We lost DM last year and for DF being useful is massively important and we told him he had to do the practical stuff.

It sounds like she's really struggling though and if she hasn't much money that isn't going to help as it's hard to have a social life. I am very thankful that DF is well off so can pay for a cleaner, go places when people ask him etc. Is she eligible for sheltered housing?

MrsSchadenfreude Sat 07-Jan-17 00:13:13

My Mum was exactly the same - my Dad had done everything for her, even dry her when she got out of the bath. She was, as a friend said "determined to be miserable" for a long time. After about 18 months she moved to the village they had lived in when they got married (which was about 3 miles from the isolated place they were living in when my Dad died). She had a couple of friends in the village still, but being somewhere with a bus and train service helped. She met people on the bus, one woman told her to sign up for the Asda bus, which she did, and on the bus she met people who ran the over 60s club. She got dragged along to that, reluctantly, initially, but then managed to carve out more of a social life for herself.

My mother also turned down every offer of help - her sister suggested Cruse, and she said she "didn't want to talk to a load of old widows". Everything was turned down. I was living in a different country, about four hours flight away, had a six month old baby, and was flying back every 4-6 weeks for a long weekend to be with her. She didn't appreciate this at all, told me I was "shit as a daughter" - largely because I didn't drop everything to go and live with her and support her. And also told me I "had no idea what grief was like as I had only lost my father and she had lost her husband."

I became more robust, but while she was like this, she lost a lot of friends, who couldn't cope with her anger against the world. Meeting new people who hadn't known her and my Dad as a couple helped her move on with life, get her own set of friends, people to go away with, etc etc. But it did take a long time - at least five years.

You have your life as well - you can't be at her beck and call. This is what my mother couldn't cope with - she would call me at 0200 and scream at me that she couldn't get the heating to work. She didn't want me to bring my baby back with me when I came to visit, and equally, I didn't want to leave her behind!

I think, practically, the best thing for your Mum to do first is to move into a house or flat that is in a town or village - somewhere that is a community and that has a good bus service. This helped with my Mum. And she sold the house I grew up in to developers who knocked it down and build nasty "executive homes" on the land, so that she could never go back or drive past and look wistfully at the house and think of the life she had. Which is a bit drastic and extreme!

willitbe Sat 07-Jan-17 18:22:11

Thank you so much for your reply's, it really does help to know that people understand.

MrsSchadenfreude thank you for the reassurance that things can turn around with time. It really helps. The comments you mention sound so much like my mum's. Your words give me some strength to keep going. Thank you.

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