Helping Boyfriend Deal With His Mother’s Death

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:

Dear Vanessa,

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

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  • karabo says:

    im also going through the same thing girl n what scares me is that he doesnt want to cry, he just bottles things up. i have tried every trick in the book but i just cant seem to get it right.
    i think being there for him always, reassuring him of your love for him and letting him be himself wil be of great help and as time goes on he will open up and talk.

  • Char says:


    Thank you for your story. It is strikingly similar to my own. My boyfriend of two years wonderful mother died in December. Her 13 year old daughter couldnt get her to wake up and called me to come over to her house because she knew I was awake that morning. I found her face down in her bed and saw her blue hand and knew that she had passed at 43. I called my boyfriend who came and tried CPR even though she had clearly been deceased a while. We have no autopsy results. Hes devasated. How did you deal? How is he now? What can I do? How long does this last? He says every day he feels like is a mountain to climb as he learns how to live life without a mother. He is 26 and very successful and intelligent. He is not close with his father. His mother had become my best friend. What can we do? How does life go on?

  • Jennifer says:

    I have a similar situation, my boyfriends mother passed away Mother’s Day this year and her birthday was yesterday, men won’t cry in front of you, when my BF walks off alone, I’ll give him his space but then I’ll go, and just hold his hand hug him, even when he says he’s ok I won’t let go. He’s gonna change but that’s expected, try not to take it personal, because unless you’ve experienced it you have NOOO idea how he feels, especially if she was the center of it all(which was the same in my case). Be there with him, stay with him even when he wants to be alone. Be there and sometimes the silence is alone, he probably feels alone already and so lost, your the support for him, but do take care of yourself because that support requires a lot from you emotionally. It’ll work out, but he needs you.