Vanessa writes in:
On November 27, 2007, my boyfriend’s mother died suddenly at age 43. She was found dead in her bed by my boyfriend and his 13-year-old brother. It was something that no one expected and she had no health problems whatso ever. She was the center of her family’s universe. She was and always will be the most amazing woman I ever met in my life.
That day, my boyfriend had the day off. He woke up to find that his mom was still sleeping, so he decided to clean that house for her. After cleaning, he left to get a haircut and start his Christmas shopping. When he came home, he found his little brother standing outside the door waiting to be let in the house. As they walked in, my boyfriend walked in his mother’s room and didn’t hear any snoring, which was unusual. He walked up to her bed and tried waking her up but got no response. At that moment he pulled the covers off her to find her covered in what seemed like blood. He then grabbed her and put her on the floor and started to perform CPR on her, but it was too late. During that time he yelled for his little brother to call 911. His little brother ran upstairs to find that has mom had passed away.
It will be a year on Thanksgiving Day since his mother’s passing. It has been a really tough road for him and his family in trying to deal with this terrible thing. Words cannot describe what he is going through and I wish there was someway I could make the pain go away.
I am asking — even begging — someone to please help me help my boyfriend. He has not been dealing with his grief the right way and he even blames himself for what happened to his mother. He believes that if he would have stayed home that day, she would still be alive. He also blames himself for calling his little brother in the room and letting his look at his mother’s lifeless body.
So if there is someone out there that could give me advice, recommend any books, or anything else that might help him would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much in advance.
Dr. Gloria Horsley responds:
What a tramatic experience your boyfriend and his little brother have gone through. Losing a mother as wonderful as this one is a huge loss for a family. The fact that you are still worrying about your boyfriend and his brother says a lot about you. Also, the fact that he was close to his mother means that he is close to you and enjoys that female energy and support that you bring to him.
I would firstly say that you need to take very good care of yourself so that you can continue to be of support to him. The first year is very rough and the second is difficult in that we realize that this is the life we are going to have. You do need to give him a lot of support during an anniversary. If you can bring other family members, friends, or the religious community together for support it would be great.
If you can talk him into it, see if he is up to having a small event on the anniversary of her death. You could plant a tree, rose bush, read poems, or tell stories about her life. Remind him that he is an example for his little brother and that how he reacts to mom’s death will impact how his brother responds. If this is all too much for you, reach out as you have today and ask for support and advice. Look to your family, friends, and professional community.
Thank you for being such a caring person. The world needs more Vanessas.
Warmly, Dr. Gloria