Man’s Girlfriend Experiencing Grief 14 Years After Mother’s Death

Adam writes in: My girlfriend is grieving her mother after 14 years. She lost her mother when she was 19 and now at the age of 33 is going through an intense period of grief and depression. She has said that it’s always been hard for her, but about two weeks ago her feeling became so intense that she feels she’s not able to give energy to anything else. She works long hours at her job and is able to maintain a success in her work, but she feels that she cannot do anything else. She fears that she will always feel like this, and it will disrupt her hopes of eventually having kids and happy family. She has now asked me for space, saying that she can’t have a relationship right now. I told her I care for her very much and that I will be here for her, but we are not really in contact now. Is there anything I can do?

Bob Baugher, PhD., responds: The reasons for depression are often difficult to sort out because it often involves multiple causes such as: sleep problems, nutrition deficits (not eating healthy foods), genetic predisposition, excess stress, hormonal changes, traumatic brain injury, and, of course, loss. You state that your girlfriend is presently “going through an intense period of grief and depression.” It could be that she is experiencing depression in addition to the death of her mother, but it may appear to her to be nearly totally grief-related. Does this make sense? As you can see, her depression is very real and she needs help, especially in light of the intense demands of her job. Perhaps the best support you can give her at this time is to continue to give her some space. However, in the meantime, you might consider doing some homework to find a counselor who knows about grief and loss and can help her sort through the likely multiple causes of her depression. You can contact your city’s local crisis line and a mental health center.

Regards.
Bob Baugher

Bob Baugher

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Bob Baugher, Ph.D., is a Psychology Instructor at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington where he teaches courses in Psychology and Death Education. As a trainer for LivingWorks he has trained more than 1,000 people in suicide intervention. He has given more than 600 workshops on grief and loss across the U.S. including England, South Africa, and Namibia. As a professional advisor to the South King County Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, Bob has been invited to speak at many of the TCF national conferences during the past 20 years. He earned a certificate in Thanatology from the Association for Death Education and Counseling and in the 1990s he was a clinician with University of Washington School of Nursing Parent Bereavement Project. Bob has written several articles and seven books on the bereavement process. Reach him at b_kbaugher@yahoo.com. Dr. Baugher appeared on the radio show "Healing the Grieving Heart" with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss Coping with Anger and Guilt After a Loss.

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  • It seems to me that we may “re-grieve” a major loss at different juntures in our life. But at times, we are never able to grief at the original time that the loss took place for many reasons.

    One of these is the sheer inability to know how to grief, to give oneself permission at a young age. The loss can be too large for us to accommodate without losing too much of who we know ourself to be… who we are at that point in time.

    As we grow, learn from life’s lessons, and open our hearts to the pain, we are able to let ourselves melt slowly to feel…to feel the love we have lost, who the person was and what they meant to us, and why the issue was so loaded to become delayed in time. Delayed grief is not that uncommon.

    Pain is easily repressed and grief denied lays in waiting for us, to awaken, shed the fear and open to the love.

  • Mary Bart says:

    Hi Adam:

    My heart goes out to you and your girlfriend.

    In addition to the suggestions from Dr. Baugher, you both might to check out our website. As a registered charity, we have created a free Internet-based community for people who are coping with the declining health or death of a parent. It might be a place for her to read other people’s stories, share her own story, and ask questions of other sons and daughters. Our website offers peer support, 24/7. Please let her know that she is not alone in this journey. We are all volunteers, just wanting to help. Our website is: http://www.losingourparents.com

    Regards,

    Mary Bart