My mother’s husband died about eight months ago. My mom was pretty shaken up about it. Our family rallied around Mom and helped a lot. We took care of everything for her for weeks, made the funeral arrangements, and dealt with the paperwork for her. We took turns staying with her for a couple of months.
Although we aren’t staying there anymore, we still visit and help out often. The problem is that she doesn’t seem to be getting any better. She won’t let us pack up any of his things, she hasn’t resumed any of her activities, she cries a lot, and she just doesn’t seem to be getting over his death. We are quite worried about her. We’d like to see her getting back to her usual vibrant self. How can we help her to get on with her life?
Firstly, it is really great that your family cares so much about your mother, and is willing to help. Support systems are so vital when it comes to grieving. It is important to remember that grief has no timeline. There is no itinerary for life after loss. Episodes of grief will likely continue in relatively equal intensity, but become shorter and less frequent. The reality is that loss of a loved one can affect how a person feels, how they think, and can even have a serious impact on their physical well‐being. Grief can be all encompassing.
One of the problems in coping with a loss is that there is so often an influx of support following the death, which is great, but the grief carries on much longer.
Grief can really take hold in the weeks and months after everyone else has moved on or left. In terms of a lifetime, eight months isn’t very long. Healing cannot be rushed. Your mother needs understand and continued support. Let her know that you will stand by her no matter how long it takes.
You haven’t mentioned how her husband passed on, but if there are ongoing matters surrounding his death, such as insurance settlements or criminal investigations, they can impede healing and reopen whatever healing your mother has managed. Patience is key.
Here are a few tips that could gently engage her in life a little more and help her heal: talking about her husband and hearing your stories about him, looking at photos or making a memory album, writing letters to him, visiting his resting place or places that were special to him, planting a tree or shrub in his memory, arranging a memorial bench in a park, wearing something of his. You could encourage your mom to connect with a faith community, the Hospice Society, or a grief counsellor. strategies that could gently engage her life a little more and help her heal.
Anniversaries are often very difficult; first Christmas, first birthday, first wedding anniversary, and the one year anniversary of her husband’s death may be difficult as your mom struggles to make meaning out of the events and to rebuild her life without him. Be patient with your mom and help her to plan for these days.
If you are struggling with ways to help your mother rebuild her life, you could encourage her to connect with a faith community, contact the Hospice Society, or meet with a grief counsellor. Just remember that patience is key in healing, and there is no wrong way to grieve.
To ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead, Sara-Lynn Kang and Carolyn Howard at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.