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Bereaved relative not coping.

(41 Posts)
Grandyma Wed 18-Jan-23 11:51:22

My aunt died in November. She was 87 and had been unwell for a long time. My uncle was her carer for many years, only in the last few months of her life accepting hospice help at home for her. He is 88 and they were married for 65 years. Myself & DH support him as much as we can as do his adult sons. The trouble is he has completely broken down. He is not sleeping or eating (is painfully thin) has no interest in doing anything. Won’t accept invitations to spend time with us or the rest of the family and seems to have just given up. He has been given antidepressants by his GP but they don’t seem to have made any difference. The community nurse calls on him but she is at a loss to know what to do as are we. Anyone have any suggestions as to how to help him. We’re so worried.

Luckygirl3 Thu 19-Jan-23 09:32:11

When you are with someone for decades, they become a part of you ...... creating what feels like a very strange new life is incredibly hard, and especially hard when old. Any change is hard when old, let alone suddenly finding that 2 is now 1; that the patterns which formed your life for 65 years have suddenly been blown out of the water. It is not just the sadness of the loss of a loved one, but the the vanishing routines - the cup of tea made in the morning and brought to you in bed, the daily walk together - all the little habits that make up a life together.

All you can do is to be there for him; staying in touch; popping round with the occasional meal; including him on an outing etc.

Does he have hearing aids? Can you make sure they have all the bells and whistles so that he might be able to connect to the radio/TV or audiobooks?

Redhead56 Thu 19-Jan-23 10:40:17

This is a very difficult time for your beloved uncle and for you to experience. It does sound that he just wants to give up and has nothing to live for. If he has decided it’s what he wants in his grief he won’t change his mind. Make sure he wants for nothing and is comfortable that is all you can do for now.

We had a very difficult time when our auntie decided enough was enough it was worse for me as I was her closest relative. I never want to be in that situation again.

Your uncle knows he is loved and cared for by you and your family be sure of that. Carry on what you are doing that’s all you can do under the circumstances.

GrannySomerset Thu 19-Jan-23 10:55:18

We can’t make someone want to go on living. My DH “turned his face to the wall” as the GP put it when Parkinson’s became just too much. I never challenged him because I felt he had every right to reject a life he no longer wanted, and the advice to lovingly support your uncle is absolutely right, though hard to accept.

AGAA4 Thu 19-Jan-23 11:03:13

Grief is an overwhelming feeling as I know too well. It is very new for your uncle and people grieve in their own way.
Be there for him as you are but let him come to terms with his loss himself.
He may not want to live now but could in time pick up and want to go on. It's his choice to make.

Daddima Thu 19-Jan-23 13:16:34


Grandyma, although I have no doubt that your intentions are well meaning your remark "a few years to enjoy without the worry of his wife" indicate that you really don't understand. Let him be. As others have said, ensure that he has everything he needs, but do not pressure him to do anything he doesn't want to. My own situation is very similar to Whiff's and her response has had me crying my eyes out this morning. Please just be kind, gentle and accepting.

I often say that people react differently to a death if their friends/family have provided lots of care for their loved one. My friend’s mother had dementia for a number of years, as well as other health problems, and I remember my friend saying that people, though well-meaning, often had the attitude that she could ‘get on’ with things she couldn’t do when her mum was alive.
The initial reaction is to make things easier for your uncle, but could you maybe think of some wee thing he could do to help somebody else? Feeling ‘useless’ can sometimes be how a bereaved person is feeling.

Grandyma Thu 19-Jan-23 13:35:56

I’ve noted all of your replies, many thanks. I will just say that, without going into detail, I have experienced a terrible amount of grief myself in recent years from which I didn’t think I’d ever recover, so I understand exactly how he is feeling. My Aunty needed 24 hr care. She had been suffering from cancer since 2009 and had, had many operations & rounds of chemotherapy. She also had rheumatoid arthritis and dementia. In recent times my uncle has been housebound as well as his wife because she couldn’t be left and he wouldn’t leave her with anyone else. The care he has given her was remarkable and he certainly couldn’t have done more. She lived longer than even the medical team expected, I think because she didn’t want to leave him but it was very painful for him to see her deteriorate to the point where she was barely living, bedridden, not knowing who anyone was or what was happening to her. He very much deserves a few years to enjoy his great grandchildren wider family. Thank you for all your suggestions and support. As a lot of you have said, it’s early days. He may not want to carry on but we all love him too much to let him go just yet!!

AGAA4 Thu 19-Jan-23 13:55:06

Grandyma 💐

Grandyma Thu 19-Jan-23 13:59:53

AGAA4 thank you 🙏

Grannynannywanny Thu 19-Jan-23 14:28:23

Grandyma this brings back memories of when my lovely Mum died 20 years ago. She was given a terminal diagnosis and was gone within a month leaving us heartbroken. My poor Dad was completely broken. They were married 60 years and lived for each other.

He withdrew into himself and struggled to cope from day to day. He went through the motions of daily routine but had little interest in anything. I went to him every day and brought him cooked meals. The sight of him sitting eating with tears silently rolling down his cheeks was heartbreaking. He would happily have gone to bed and died in his sleep.

Then one day, about 6 months later, he announced he’d phoned the housing association and told them he wanted to give up the family home of 55 years and move to sheltered accommodation. There was no discussion, he’d made up his mind he couldn’t continue living there without my Mum. I was sick with worry he’d acted in haste and might regret it.

4 weeks later he moved to a sheltered flat and it was the making of him. He emerged from his shell and pushed himself to take an interest in various activities. He even became the secretary for the residents committee. He lived for another 5 years and enjoyed life with his children and grandchildren although still grieving for my Mum.

These early months are so hard and you have my sympathy 💐

Tweedle24 Thu 19-Jan-23 14:40:49

Grandyma, you mention that your aunt was in a hospice. Often the hospice staff offer support and counselling. This might be worth considering.

Having said that, it is very early days for him and, as Commonground says, as long as he is looking after himself, he might be best left alone, knowing you are there to help if he needs it.

Grandyma Thu 19-Jan-23 15:21:24

Tweedle24 my aunt wasn’t in a hospice but received hospice care at home. Thanks for the suggestion though, I’ll look into that.

Grandyma Thu 19-Jan-23 15:25:30

Grannynannywanny thank you, residential accommodation, nearer to us, is something we’ve discussed as a family. It would solve a lot of his problems but too soon to mention it to him yet. Pleased it worked out for your dad

Whiff Fri 20-Jan-23 05:54:00

Grandyma please never mention residential accommodation to you uncle. If he decides he wants to live he will decide what he wants to do. Old does not mean he is incapable of making his own decisions. If any of you ever mention it he will see it as you are trying to throw him out of his home a home he shared with your aunt . Please also no on mention sorting out your aunt's clothes etc.

You are a very caring family that shows in your posts but you have to let him grief and do what he wants. If he was incapable of making his own decisions because of dementia or Alzheimer's I could understand your making plans for his future. And discussing things behind his back. But his wife just died just let him grief in his way.

There is a thing I call weight loss grief. By the sound of it it's happening to your uncle. It's went you have lost the other half of yourself dies you don't want to eat and even if you do you lose weight I lost 2 st, my mom 3 ,my cousin 2 and my best friend who's husband died in November lost 2 and is only starting to cook proper food and not eating ready meals which she only eat a couple of mouthfuls.

Until you lose half of yourself you don't understand what that feels like and how it's effects your day to day life and in the future.

Your uncle knows you all love and care for him. And you are all grieving as well. Just be there like you are if he needs you he will ask.

Quokka Fri 20-Jan-23 08:27:21

Just be there for him.

Grandyma Sat 21-Jan-23 10:00:43

Thank you Whiff I’ve taken your comments on board. 💐