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Struggling with DH since his dad died...

(22 Posts)
bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 09:19:01

It will all sound terrible and sound like am being a cow but am really finding things difficult at the moment.

DH's dad got ill at the start of the year and after a couple of months in hospital he died of cancer. It was devastating - he was fairly young, hadn't been retired that long. Before we moved we saw them every week, they would come and spend a day with me and the DSs and he's very much missed.

Whilst he was ill I bent over backwards to be supportive, we travelled across the country every other weekend to visit his dad and be there for his mum. I did my best to look after everyone, keep the kids out of the way/happy so everyone else could visit the hospital, did the shopping, cooked...

Since FIL died nearly two months ago DH has been really hard to live with. (Again, I know that makes me sound awful.) He has always shut down emotionally periodically throughout our relationship, it's been a problem since the start and I really struggle with it.) He is bad tempered, moody and snappy with me and the children, won't talk, sits with his back to me and literally physically shuts me out. He went back to work for two days and then got signed off by the doctor for another two weeks, he's just gone back this morning which I think will do him the world of good.

I have tried really hard to be supportive for so long but I feel a bit like am running out of steam. The atmosphere in the house is awful. He barely speaks to me one minute then starts mithering me about having sex which makes me feel like shit. Last weekend I had to go to the hospital for something which was potentially very worrying and he still couldn't pull it out and be supportive for me (I was absolutely shitting myself) and what with one thing or another I'm starting to feel like everything's one way at the moment, he gets to behave how he likes and gets away with it and I just have to get on with it and accept it all because his dad's just died.

I'm just scared that it feels like things are starting to slide. I'm starting to stay out of his way and am getting fed up and resentful. I know what it's like to be bereaved, I lost two grandparents in the space of 8 weeks when DS1 was under 6 months, and my gran was like a mother to me when I was growing up. But I don't recall taking it out on everyone around me day after day.

Sorry, bit of a lengthy whinge but not sure what to do about it. Do you have to just accept whatever kind of behaviour from a bereaved person and wait for them to snap out of it?

bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 09:40:01


bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 10:09:09

He has emailed me this morning saying all the right things (we had a slight argument this morning about it) but then he comes home and things don't change.

Mouseface Mon 19-Sep-11 10:14:49

Bereavement counselling could be an idea for you BOTH. You are mourning the loss of your husband due to the changes in him. Resentment can be a dangerous emotion in a marriage and that's creeping in, then I'd say get some couples counselling or talk to someone in RL soon.

You need to talk to him and tell him how you are feeling but no doubt don't want to appear selfish when he is clearly struggling with the day to day stuff.

The sex thing is him wanting to feel needed after losing his father. That's fairly normal.

Everyone reacts differently to grief and losing a close relative.

Just because you didn't take it out on everyone doesn't mean that you DH won't.

He needs time. You may have gotten over your loss by a certain time but as I said, everyone handles death differently.

Give him space and maybe tell him just how much you love him. Let him come to you when he needs to. I know this isn't easy but if you love him and want to support, now is the time.

He needs you, he needs to know that you are there for him no matter what.

Give him some more time before you right him off. Give him so time to talk, to grieve. To heal.

Cut him a bit of slack. I doubt he has any idea of how he is upsetting you. Talk to him.

bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 10:22:04

Hi Mouseface. Thanks for your reply. I have wondered about bereavement counselling - I think he mentioned it at the doctors but the waiting list is massive?

I don't want to write him off - and I'm sure we can sort everything out in time. There's an awful lot of stress about at the moment, but it's so much harder to deal with when he shuts down. (And this is part of who he is, he's done it a couple of times a year for the 8 years we've been together.) I also personally struggle with the fact that he goes from stroppy and ignoring me, to trying to have sex with me. Perhaps it's just me but I find this really hard to deal with. I have tried talking to him about all of this but he just won't communicate most of the time. sad

Pigglesworth Mon 19-Sep-11 10:28:19

I'm very sorry to hear about what happened to your FIL. Am I right in thinking it's been about eight weeks since he died, if that? That's not a very long time at all. This has all been very sudden, too, which makes it harder for your husband to deal with. I wonder if your husband is thinking about his own mortality, seeing his father work hard for most of his life, finally retire, and then almost immediately (in the scheme of things) fall ill and die?

I can understand why you'd be finding this behaviour difficult to tolerate, but I would also agree that his bereavement has been very recent and he is still trying to process it. Sometimes experiences like this do make a person very self-focused. The fact that he has been staying at home most of this time by the sounds of it, focusing on his bereavement no doubt, has probably increased this self-centredness. Going back to work will hopefully help a lot.

You said that in an email, he "said all the right things". What does he say? To what extent is he able to talk about this? What have you said to him?

How did he behave when you were worried about your health problem? To what extent is this behaviour typical of him regardless of the bereavement?

ChitChattingWithKids Mon 19-Sep-11 10:30:59

This must be so hard for you.

Yes, your DH is going through a rough time, but I daresay so are you. It was your FIL, and if you've been a part of the family for awhile you are also grieving, but you haven't mentioned your grief, so I wonder if you feel as though you're not allowed to because you're supposed to be DH's support as he's the one with the greater right to grieve?

Yes, you need to be there to support him, but NO, he is not entitled to use you as his emotional punching bag. If he wants your continued support then he has to show that he is taking some steps to getting himself back together, such as counselling.

bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 10:40:16

Hi Pigglesworth. Yes, it is still very early days. I think he's also struggling to deal with the fact that he's going back today to a job he hates and could have done 15 years ago (and probably been paid the same 15 years ago!) We're struggling at the moment with a lot, finances, his job, mine being temporary, he's turning 40 next year and I think he's struggling with that as well. It is a really tough time.

He said this morning that he loves me and wants everything to be alright. As do I. But its really hard when nothing changes, and he's shouting at the kids and being moody with me. And this is fairly typical - we had some huge issues earlier this year where he just shut down and barely spoke to me for a week. And then I found out that after I was going to bed he was looking at porn on the computer downstairs. I can cope with most things but the lack of communication and the unfairness of it all is what gets me.

bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 10:50:45

ChitChatting - yes, I do feel a bit like that. For the last few years it's felt like I only talk to about four different adults a week and FIL was one of them. I'm desperately sad for MIL, and DH, and for my little boys who loved their grandad. It devastates me because I sat with him in the hospital, and he held my hand, and was so frightened, and in so much pain, and desperately wanted to live. Am in bits now typing this, but on the whole I feel like I have to hold it together, because it's DH's dad, not mine, and one of us needs to keep things ticking over. I'm also really worried about DS1 as it's obviously playing on his mind and he seems to have got completely obsessed with death. It sounds pathetic but am just worrying and stressing about everything and I don't feel like anyone gives a shit about me. (I know that sounds all me, me, me and I don't want to come across like that, am just having a bad day.)

Pigglesworth Mon 19-Sep-11 10:52:39

I can totally understand why you'd feel the way you do. It sounds like he feels crap, so then everything irritates him more, and he gets satisfaction from lashing out at others and relieving his own feelings of crapness and then making everyone else feel bad too. And then he is not giving you the things you need - such as being treated with respect and being emotionally supported - but still wants from you what he feels he needs (sex), and sees no problem with that.

It sounds like the massive issue here for him is his way of communicating when he is dealing with overwhelming, negative emotions. He needs to learn to actually verbalise or express these emotions in a way that doesn't involve venting his own distress by taking it out on his loved ones. And he needs to learn that it is totally unacceptable to deal with your distress by lashing out at others. I can see how you'd worry that this could be a slippery slope, where his behaviour is initially tolerated because he's grieving, and then becomes a habit.

To what extent is he/ are you able to broach this topic at all, when talking face-to-face? Is writing how he feels somewhere a possible option - either typing it then deleting it, or emailing you and communicating that way? Or using a punching bag?

Pigglesworth Mon 19-Sep-11 10:53:35

(By the way I've been cross-posting all along here so keep missing your last message before each post!)

bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 10:58:00

grin Pigglesworth. He does talk about these cutting off incidents - after the event. He always apologises and says he'll try not to do it again. And he always does it again. I think it's something that I'll have to accept happens periodically, and I could do with planning some sort of coping strategy. (Like buggering off with some friends until he snaps out of it, although that's not really too practical at the moment!) He does communicate much better in writing, and is fine after the event. But during one of these times it's like blood out of a stone. But at the moment he can justify everything by saying his dad's just died...

Pigglesworth Mon 19-Sep-11 10:58:21

I think that within eight weeks of a death, it is still a very intense time (websites I googled suggested that the first three months would fall into this category) and I do think that your DS1's focus on death at the moment is normal and likely wouldn't turn into some massive, enduring problem. I think you are perfectly entitled and justified to feel your feelings - just because on the surface you seem to have the most "functional" coping skills, doesn't mean you have no right to be suffering too!

bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 10:58:34

(That sounds really shit, doesn't it?!)

ZhenXiang Mon 19-Sep-11 11:04:27

Completely understand bint. My DH's mother passed away suddenly and painfully at the end of July and while the funeral etc... was going on he was functioning reasonably ok, still helping in the house and being more pleasant. In shock and putting on a brave face I think.

Now he goes through conflicting emotions, one day crying the next being quite personable then to angry.

When he is angry any little thing I do that is not right gets picked on and becomes a reason to vent the anger at losing his mum. Even when he is angry at others in the family, as I am close to him I get that anger too.

I am trying to be understanding, he always comes and apologises afterwards but I am not sure I can keep dealing with the emotional aftermath as I cannot just forget the stress and distress caused by his outbursts at the drop of a hat.

It is not fair when someone dies and there are stages of grief that people go through. In my experience DH takes a few steps forward and a few steps back.

These things take time to process and a few months is a short time to deal with the loss of a parent and in such a prolonged and painful way.

I would try to talk to him about how pushed away you feel, how you want to be there for him, but it is not your fault, you know he is angry but it is not fair that he takes it out on you. Remind him that you and the kids are grieving too even though FIL was not your parent. That is what I have been doing with my DH and the angry outbursts are getting fewer.

As Mouseface said, the sex is a way for him to feel needed and close to you without having to talk about his emotions.

I would suggest he get some bereavement counselling, some people find it difficult to deal with and talk about strong emotions especially with people close to them. Maybe if he could talk about it with someone else he could not bring it home and dump it on you and the kids so much.

Be aware that annual occasions such as Christmas, FIL birthday etc... could be a time when he goes distant/gets emotional and that this may happen over a period of years even after he gets back to being more functional day-to-day.

Pigglesworth Mon 19-Sep-11 11:19:15

I can understand a bit how your husband is - i.e., the "shutting down" when upset - because I have this tendency too, but have recognised it and dealt with it. It's like when you're really overwhelmed with negative emotions, you just can't open your mouth and vocalise them. You freeze and shut down. Everyone has different ways of coping with negative emotions but I've learnt that it's not OK to have other people upset/ worried about you when you're feeling this way. It's also not OK to pick at others or try to "bring them down" so that they're at your level when you're feeling miserable. But these things take insight and the desire and ability to change... which he may or may not have.

Perhaps when he is in a better mood, you could say that in the future when he gets in these moods you are going to call him out on it in a neutral manner - e.g, by saying "I see you are in a mood again, I am going to leave you to it and not let it affect me, and you can let me know when you're ready to talk to me again" - and then just get on with your life and not worry about him? That would be a short-time coping strategy, but in the long-term he really needs to be willing to grow a bit as a person. And this short-term strategy allows him to just keep doing what he's always done, which is not OK.

Regarding the whole "bereavement counselling" thing, in the long-term perhaps that would be useful but it is a controversial area of practice and at this stage, eight weeks after his father's death, I'd say his behaviours could still fall into the realm of "normal" and it may be more damaging to pathologise this and make a big thing out of it. It depends how long this drags on. I guess it's about how capable/ insightful he is as a person to be able to make some long-term behavioural changes or find some alternative ways of expressing his emotions. To do that he needs to understand (and be distressed by) how his behaviour is negatively affecting you. And I am talking about his long-term pattern of behaviour here, not so much this bereavement-specific behaviour.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 19-Sep-11 11:20:09

Hi Bint

You've mention bereavement counselling in your posts.

Instead of using the services of the GP (the wait time for counselling on the NHS is massive) I would call CRUSE instead. I have used them before and have found them to be very good re bereavement. Your DH will likely find it very difficult to talk to them but he needs to for his sake as well as yours.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 19-Sep-11 11:21:23

This is their website:-

Mouseface Mon 19-Sep-11 13:05:02

You beat me to it Attila smile

Keep going Bint YOU need to let this out as much as your DH does xx

cestlavielife Mon 19-Sep-11 15:08:27

yes he should ge bereavement counselling if he is finding it tough.
But - you also refer to problems for a long time - it being typical - other stresses - looking at porn - job he hates.

dont let this death be an excuse for his behaviour.

no he cannot behave as he wishes, all the time.

most of us, when we suffering a loss/bereavement/bad time - well we try to put on a nice face for the DC.
try to smile and be nice. to them at least.

take ourselves away if we want to rage or cry.

lay it on the line - you appreciate he grieving but here is help out there, CRUSE etc and he can start now.

also GP can prescribe anti anxiety/anti depressants if it hitting him v bad.

if he won't seek outside help, he should live elsewhere til he feeling better.
or at least go away for a week/weekend/go see his mother/siblings and cry with them - rather than putting all this suffering onto you and the DC.

i just wonder if there is more to it here than this recent bereavement.

my exP lsot his mother and was awful - but it was a continuation of the same behavours - it became an excuse but really it wasnt the underlying issue.

was your h fantastic til his father died?
no - he was already not dealing well with life's stresses and strains - it goes deeper but you are in the right to start setting boundaries and laying out your needs - your needs for him to seek help.

the death has brought it out even more - he needs to find a way thru this without taking it out on you and dc - but only he can decide to do that

bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 17:16:39

Thank you. Really appreciate all the support. I saw him at lunchtime and told him about cruse, and he also has a service through work that provides counselling, although am not sure what/how good that is. I also said that maybe we should get some sort of counselling together to try to get to grips with his shutting down and ways of working through it.

Just have to make him actually follow through with any of it now...

bintofbohemia Mon 19-Sep-11 17:18:46

"I am trying to be understanding, he always comes and apologises afterwards but I am not sure I can keep dealing with the emotional aftermath as I cannot just forget the stress and distress caused by his outbursts at the drop of a hat."

ZhenXiang - sorry you're going through a similar thing. What you wrote sums up how I feel perfectly. I hope you both manage to work through this time as well.

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