Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

I feel emotionally drained after helping my bf cope with the loss of his dad

Home Forums General Chat I feel emotionally drained after helping my bf cope with the loss of his dad

  • This topic has 27 replies, 5 voices, and was last updated 11 months ago by avatarLeon.
Viewing 12 posts - 13 through 24 (of 28 total)
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  • #855766 Reply

    Also, not for nothing but dealing with grief is emotionally draining. Helping someone through a traumatic time is emotionally draining. That’s normal.

    #855767 Reply

    Thank you.

    #855768 Reply

    I don’t think the LW is looking for support from BF as much as trying to step back from being the sole source of support for her boyfriend.

    LW, yes, if it is draining you and causing you to sink into depression, you do need to step back. But explain as much as you can to your BF that his grief is causing you grief as well because you care and you need to get better before you can be there for him 100%. Encourage him to seek counseling.

    It would be great if he gets it. But there is nothing more you could do at this time. Your mental health is also important. You need some detachment to be a stable source of support for a grieving person. You cannot let it consume you.

    #855769 Reply

    Wait – the funeral hasn’t even happened yet? OK everyone is raw and ragged here.

    You can’t carry his grief for him, and you can’t do anything to make his grief less intense and take less time. It takes the time it takes to process. It’s awful and I’ve done it and it sucks. Being present is good but you shouldn’t have to be there 24 hours a day. But you definitely don’t want to say anything along the lines that you need his emotional support at this point. I can tell you, grief is powerful, all consuming and it doesn’t stop. It lessens.

    There is a great essay that I read on Reddit of all places in which the writer describes grief like being out in the ocean tossed by huge waves, they crash around you and you can barely breathe. And the waves keep coming but eventually they start coming a little less frequently. And still less frequently and then when you’re not even aware of it – one comes crashing down on you and you’re overwhelmed and you’re surprised and you don’t know what happened but for that moment the grief is overwhelming. But you made it through the worst, so you can make it through this wave.

    I’m not doing it justice, it’s really quite moving and accurate.

    The only thing you can do is be patient and to the best of your ability be present. If possible, clear the stupid things out of the way for the next few weeks. Take care of the shopping, make sure he’s eating. Fill the gas tank. If you live together, take care of the laundry and keep the house tidy. Just for a month or two until the shock wears off.

    #855771 Reply

    Yeah I think the best thing you can do is to not take it personally, which is odd I know.

    He’s in a cluster of confusing and extreme negative emotions right now. They are expressing themselves every which way. He’s hurt, he may lash out at you, at the world. Just let him feel what he feels, and remind him that you love him and you’re here.

    It is important that you keep your own head above water. You do need breaks, you do need to be in touch with people that can love and support you. Even if it’s a text chain you keep going with your friend/family member/your therapist.

    The one note I guess I have is when you do need to step out for your own mental health, give a little white lie. Oh I’m just going to run out to the store to get more toilet paper! I’ll be back in twenty minutes (although I’ll be spending ten of those minutes sobbing on the phone with my mother).

    It’s understandable that this is hard for you too, but you don’t need him to know that.

    #855775 Reply

    The kindest think you can do for bf and yourself is to help him line up a good grief counselor and go to regular sessions frequently enough that he counselor becomes the primary recipient of the anguish, anger, venting and offers better help than LW is capable of providing, although she can provide a personal help that a therapist or counselor can’t.

    #855776 Reply

    I don’t understand the negative reaction to LW#2’s comment that this is causing her mental health issues. She is in a very hard situation and handling bf’s problems almost alone, while trying to keep herself afloat. Not everyone is cut out to be a grief counselor, quite apart from lacking the necessary training and practiced, learned skills. This reminds me about all of the letters from very needy to the point of oppressive or even abusive elderly, somewhat senile, grieving loss of spouse or just grieving empty nest and physical distance from kids/grandkids. There was a very different tone to responses to those LW’s. That doesn’t change the fact that many children could handle the situations described by those LWs with almost total aplomb. We all know those very strong and generous souls. My experience is that most people lack the strength and skills to rise to that level. I also realize that past history with a parent also impacts what sort of provided support is possible/reasonable/a duty to be carried. Still, even an old mule can’t carry a heavier load than its current physical condition permits. Ministers and doctors suffer burn-out. I know of no specific examples, but assume this is also true of therapists and grief counselors.

    #855777 Reply

    We understand that she’s experiencing burn out, our (or at least my) issue is the way she handled it with him. She told him his grief was causing her issues. Someone shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for their grief (i know that wasn’t her intention but how else would that be interpreted) turning his grief to make her a victim.

    At this moment in his life Nothing has more prominence than grieving the loss of his parent. She should back off when she needs too but never tell him that it’s because his grief is overwhelming her.

    #855778 Reply

    I mean, Ron, her boyfriend didn’t react well to what she (he? Not sure) did or said, right? So that indicates maybe there was a better way to handle it. Grief hurts so bad and you feel destroyed. You don’t want to hear, oh, I can’t deal with your grief, it’s hurting me. It’s like, oh ok, well, I just lost my dad, so. It just doesn’t compare. She should duck out and take a break if needed, but don’t lay that on him. Make a therapy appointment.

    #855782 Reply

    CurlyCue — I agree it would be wrong to say his grief was causing her emotional problems. But… I think what she was actually trying to say, admittedly not all that well, is that in making his somewhat fragile gf the close to exclusive person he leans on for support, venting, and flaming at out of grief-induced anger, that he is asking too much of her. He is asking more than she can handle.

    Both of my parents have died. My mother very expectedly, my father by complete surprise. I understand how rough it is. I also know how tough it can be to those supporting the prime grievers. I have also seen that among friends and family — many also grieving the loss to a not much lesser degree, there is a big capacity difference in these peoples’ ability to provide a lot of focused assistance to the primary grievers. Like all of us, LW can’t successfully give more than she is capable of for any significant period of time — her poor choice of wording and her eventually somewhat snapping back at a griever who repeatedly took his anger out on her is evidence of LW being beyond her limits. She certainly didn’t handle this perfectly. She likely, with all good intentions to help the bf she loves, did it as best she is able for as long as she was able. I won’t fault her for that.

    The help of professionals: minister, funeral director, grief counselor, therapist is called for — help from a wider range of lay people who are friends or less close family would also ease the burden.

    #855784 Reply

    There’s no specific way to help someone who’s grieving, and there’s nothing you can do to lessen his grief. That’s something that happens inside his own head, on his own time.

    It’s hard to know what to do around people who are grieving, or do for them, especially if you haven’t been in this situation before. And everyone grieves differently, so that also makes it difficult to know what to do. I think the only thing you can do is take your cues from them. When my dad passed away, I really didn’t want to be around people. All of my emotional energy was going to support my mom, and the thing I prized most was some time alone to lose myself in a book or a TV show. My friends quickly figured this out and would just check in now and then to see how I was doing and if I needed anything.

    I think your misstep was basically telling him that his grief was too hard for you to be around. I mean, yeah, it was true, but some things we keep to ourselves to protect others’ feelings. You would have been better off just finding an excuse to be away for a bit, as someone suggested upthread. Find the opportunities to take a break.

    #855785 Reply

    Also, it helps a lot to have someone else to dump YOUR stress on to. The two of are sort of dumping your emotions on each other right now, and that’s not good. When you feel like it’s too much, take a break, go for a walk and call a friend to yell and cry at them. Then you paste the smile back on your face and go back to help him and his family.

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