Q: Dad died 3 months ago, but mom won't talk about it at all, even when I try to bring it up. How can I get her to open up and talk about it?

A: When a loved one is grieving it is usually best not to force the issue. People cope with loss in different ways. Some take more time than others to regain their footing, and after three months your mother might not be ready to open up about her feelings. If you let her know that you're there and available to listen when she feels the need to talk, that will help. Then try to spend time together doing what you would ordinarily do: Go for walks, have lunch, watch TV…..whatever. Let your mother take the lead.

A few suggestions for when your mother does choose to open up:

  • Don't judge - Sometimes loss enables people to unburden themselves of pent-up anger, resentment, and other negative emotions. This might be difficult for you (it is after all, your father), but try to listen without judging.
  • Don't assume - It's tempting to want to put words in your mother's mouth—to tell her how she "must" be feeling, or that you "know" how she feels. Feelings are just feelings (there's no "must" about them), and fact is you don't know how she feels. Statements like these aren't helpful, and slow the healing process.
  • Take care of yourself - Caregiving is stressful, and even if you don't feel it, you're likely feeling stressed by the dual burdens of the loss of you father and your shifting relationship with your mother. In the midst of caring for others, take some time to care for yourself as well.

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