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lonely DM, how to help?

(14 Posts)
jaygirl Tue 14-Jun-16 16:58:03

Name changed for this.
My DM is 66, twice divorced from two horrible, abusive husbands, and now living alone in a city a few hours from me.

Ten years single now, she has valiantly done everything people are encouraged to do by way of joining classes, pursuing hobbies, going on singles holidays, travelling solo, but she hasn't managed to make any friends. Not one. I had noticed this but thought perhaps she was happy (ish) just keeping busy. She's not good at conversation, I know that. She's anxious but very theatrical in the way she talks. (Make sense??) For this reason she's quite hard to talk to. It feels fraught, She doesn't really venture opinions. Occasionally she'll repeat something she's read in the paper. She's also - sadly - someone who likes to put other women down. Saying feminists look like men, and so on. When I pick her up on this she backtracks. I feel like she says things she thinks men will pat her on the head for. Only she hasn't made any male friends either!

I can see how she might be dismissed as 'just a slightly OTT or needy old lady' but that said she doesn't seem any odder than people you see who've managed to set themselves up with a supportive social circle. And she is kind, and funny, solvent, keeps herself looking nice.

Anyway, this came to a head last week when I visited her. She's had an operation and was trapped indoors - on crutches for the next six weeks - and without the distractions she just broke down saying she was sick of going to places alone and coming home alone.. she was very distressed and kept saying 'what a life, what's the point.' When I asked what she was hoping for it seemed she'd been thinking these last ten years that some hunky silver fox was going to tap her on the shoulder at one of the events and whisk her away. Instead she goes, speaks to no one, comes home. Something about her is putting people off. What on earth can I do? I hated to see her cry. I've suggested therapy as I think there's probably all sorts that needs unpicking from the marriages. But I'd like to do something in the meantime.

Are there any gentle, friendly apps or friend-making sites where a woman in her 60s could get a fair go? Any specifically for women (maybe men) that age? I've had a google but came up empty. I want to suggest these online options to connect but I doubt she's ready for the rough and tumble or self esteem stripping dating apps. Not sure she wants a boyfriend really. 'Someone to go around with' she says. Any ideas?? Thanks if you do, and if not I feel better just for having typed this out! Sorry it's so long.

needanivoftea Tue 14-Jun-16 19:26:10

Hi jaygirl - have you heard of befriending? I'm a volunteer befriender for Age Concern in my city and I go and visit an older gentleman in a care home who has no family near by but I know other befrienders who go out for coffee, shopping etc with their clients - maybe have a look if there is something similar in your area?

Nanny0gg Tue 14-Jun-16 20:57:00

She can't do it now, because of her crutches, but when she's better, is there a WI in her city?

They are so not 'Jam & Jerusalem' these days, but usually friendly, welcoming places with lots of different things going on.

Worth a try?

PrancingQueen Tue 14-Jun-16 21:37:47

Has your mum ever had friends OP?

It's difficult when people are more socially awkward, and she's heading towards an age where people tend to be more lonely/alone too.

Would she volunteer perhaps? Does she have a skill she can share in some capacity?
Obviously not so easy when using crutches, but when she's more mobile maybe.

Agree with PP to try Age UK/Concern for company whilst she's more housebound.

Would you consider asking her to move nearer to you longer term?

PrancingQueen Tue 14-Jun-16 21:38:16

You sound like a lovely daughter btw!

Wisewisewords Wed 15-Jun-16 09:27:13

If your DM has had abusive relationships it sounds like she may be easy prey if another relationship came along. I have no experience here, but have read lots of mumsnet posts recommending The Freedom Programme after abusive relationships. If this is a structured meeting/workshop this might help her take part and get her confidence back. Just a thought.

niceupthedance Wed 15-Jun-16 10:48:29

Gransnet?

jaygirl Wed 15-Jun-16 11:04:07

Thanks everyone, for your replies. I hadn't thought of the WI but that's a great idea. I think she needs more female solidarity in her life rather than hoping for husband number three to come along(!). The Freedom Programme is also a great suggestion, or at least I do think she needs to come to terms with what happened to her. She was ten years with my father, who was vicious, violent, controlling brute, and then her second hubby did nothing but put her down. Once she's off these crutches she should be fit as a fiddle and able to get about and enjoy life now but somehow doesn't have the tools to be independent - as I say, she tries hard, goes out, but can't seem to make friends, she's so nervous, almost too eager to please.

I don't know if I am a lovely daughter, PrancingQ, I've rolled my eyes about her in the past and thought she was a glutton for punishment always on the lookout for a man to tell her what to do, I was shocked by how upset and lonely she is, and you're right Wisewords that getting her confidence up is key, so if there is a local group that might be a better longterm investment than getting her out on dates just yet. (!)

Thanks again everyone.

Dancingtothemusicoftime Wed 15-Jun-16 15:21:42

Oh OP, this brought tears to my eyes because it reminds me so much of my DM's situation. Although my DF is still alive, he is very frail whereas she has a lot of get up and go, so still likes to socialise, but she could almost be your DM in terms of her behaviours and previous inability to make friends.

What she has done is volunteer in a charity shop - she meets lots of fellow volunteers of both sexes, and also enjoys the conversation with shoppers, some of whom are obviously very lonely themselves. She took up tap-dancing - a local college offers tap classes that are designed to appeal to the older person. She has met some lovely ladies there and they regularly get together for lunch, drinks etc. It has really transformed her social life.

And yes, yes to the WI. After years of avoiding that she was persuaded to join and loves it - lots of interesting talks, trips and the company of some wonderful women.

All this has helped her loneliness enormously. She particularly enjoys the charity shop work too as she feels she is giving something back.

spookyelectric Wed 15-Jun-16 16:18:58

Agree with others that volunteering for a charity (shop) is a good way to meet other people.

My great Aunt (70's) has met people and kept busy (she dislikes "gossip") through the University of the third age (talks/courses organised for older people) , joining an all female ramblers group (she likes younger people) and volunteering at a centre that provides meals and chat to vunerable people. She also helps care for a disabled boy (paid respite work).

A friend's mother learnt how to play Bridge and goes to the bridge club a lot - she is a very difficult woman who only likes to talk about herself and never listens but seems to be tolerated there.

My dad is a widower and hates going to things alone - he won't even go into a cafe to get a cup of tea when out and about. He is not religious but has been welcomed at his local church (which he went to when he was young) and their "mens club" they also have one for women and they go out on trips once a month (bowling, pizza, TV studio etc)

My local Age UK runs lots of very cheap/subsidised fitness classes ( music and movement, aerobics, tai chi, yoga etc) for over 55's. There is also a "friendship centre" every week.

The Meet up website is good to find local groups. Do-it.org is good for volunteering ads.
Perhaps you could go to something with your mum initially. My friend went with her mum to a tap dancing class and bowed out when she felt confident on her own.

SheilaTakeABow Wed 15-Jun-16 16:29:45

Is there a University of the Third Age (U3A) where she lives? My DM found herself quite lonely and isolated after my dad died when she was in her 50s, and, like your DM, isn't the most socially confident. The U3A is good in that it offers more structured activities eg language classes, book groups, all sorts. It's often easier to chat to people in something like that, and my DM has made a couple of really good friends and even more acquaintances over the years.
I feel for you, it's hard seeing your parents vulnerable - I used to veer between teeth-clenching frustration and just wanting to cry for her.
Good luck flowers

RunRabbitRunRabbit Wed 15-Jun-16 16:53:22

What does your DM want to do?

Nanny0gg Wed 15-Jun-16 19:54:09

My local Age UK runs lots of very cheap/subsidised fitness classes ( music and movement, aerobics, tai chi, yoga etc) for over 55's. There is also a "friendship centre" every week.

I think it's about time Age UK rethought its demographic...

jaygirl Thu 16-Jun-16 12:36:49

RunRabbit - what does she want to do? Good question. As I say she really wasn't short of activities before this recent 'confinement'. She did language classes, swimming, volunteered at a local museum. She also has taken solo trips abroad. She did all of this very valiantly and has failed to make one friend! So though it all kept her distracted, what's come to light now is that she was never really enjoying it for its own sake. She was constantly hoping, expecting to 'meet someone.'

What she wants, is to be swept away by a new boyfriend. I think she's picturing someone a bit like Roger McGough meets John Thaw (!). But her last two husbands weren't unlike that but with the added bonus of bashing her (first one) and calling her names and gaslighting her (2nd one). If I were her I'd be happy to be alone, but she very much isn't. So I want her to have female friends, as I think there should be more solidarity and sustaining friendship there, if she can manage it, (the world seems such a harsh place for an older woman) but I fear she perhaps needs some deeper help before she can do that. It'd be nice if there was a dating site where she could find this mythic man, but I can't see it, she's an odd bod, as I say, very fluttery and needy and probably open to abuse. Conditioned for it? How depressing. I think I'm going to look into a freedom programme or similar, perhaps some one on one therapy if I can convince her, and it's never too late, I hope, for her to rebuild some sense of self esteem which might make her better able to make friends and not feel at a loss without a bullying man about...handle the rough and tumble a bit better...

And spooky I like your idea of going with her sometimes to a group, if only perhaps to see where she's going wrong? Or steer her towards any people who seem like good eggs.

Thanks again for giving time to my rambles.

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