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My step-mother died a little over four months ago. Recently, he asked how long she had been dead. After being told, he stated that every night he asks for her to come for him, but she has not come. Is this just part of the grief process or has he lost his will to live?

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Hi cmagmum,

I'm sorry that you are going through this pain. You can certainly do everything you can to comfort and support your dad. It's possible that he'll work it through and move forward to a degree. It's likely even a doctor couldn't give you a sure answer.

Sadly, I do believe that your suspicions could be correct. It's not at all unusual for elderly spouses to die quite close together - sometimes within days. My mom lasted 5 months after my dad. She was done living when he died and we knew it. It just took her body some time to follow her heart.

However this turns out, you'll feel better knowing that you were there for your dad during his grief, ready to help in any way. If he's giving up, then that's his decision. there isn't likely anything you can do but love him.

Take care of yourself, too. It's a rough time for you all around.
Carol
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There's no way any of us here can determine what your father is feeling especially if you don't know yourself.

When an elderly person loses their spouse it's not uncommon to feel lost and left behind. And four months is so recent, the grief your dad is feeling must be very profound.

I don't know how bad his dementia is but feel free to ask him how he's feeling regarding the loss of his wife. You're not going to put any ideas into his head that weren't there already and he might welcome someone inquiring as to how he's feeling.

Grief process or loss of will to live? Probably a little of both.
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My Dad was depressed like yours for about a year after Mom's death. We thought for sure he would will himself to die. We provided a lot of support which was difficult because we had to drive 10 hours roundtrip, but hired caregivers and visited him weekly. It wore us out and my sister and I agonizingly decided we couldn't keep it up. It was so difficult to work through taking care of ourselves while thinking of Dad so much. Somehow, after about a year, he came out of it. Actually, he became quite cheerful, maybe his own iteration of dementia. Now he barely remembers Mom. He's gone on, and he laughs a lot. We still feel so sad we can't be with him more. But his adaptation is a testament to human survival.
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I think you are witnessing his grief at losing his spouse. If they had been married a long time, it is very difficult to move on at an advanced stage. Men are more dependent on their spouses in their senior years. All their male friends, brothers and co workers have already passed on. Their circle of friends has declined.

However, my father was widowed at 55 years old. He worked another 10 years full time and he was able after about 2 or 3 years to adjust to the loss of his wife of 22 years and they had dated for 8 years so he had known her for 30 years or most of his adult life. He had 0 interest in dating or remarrying, so his retirement was that of a widower, but he lived another 38 years as a widower. He was able to enjoy his life as a single man again. It depends on the person.

However, 4 months is not long enough for most people to regroup after a death. My father was not himself again until about 3 years after my mother (his wife) passed.
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My mom died of cancer at 57 when I was 17 (I am a "bonus" child of older parents). When I got engaged five years later, Dad, whose mind was OK and physical health manageable until he became ill with a stomach upset, stopped taking his meds and then stopped eating. Wouldn't listen to me, wouldn't listen to his brother, was out of touch with my older brothers at the time. He passed away within a month. I realized later that he had been missing mom very much even though he had many friends and relatives, and had been hanging on worrying about me. When he knew I would be well taken care of (he loved my husband; I heard him say that he'd never met a man that he thought would take better care of me) he was ready to leave.
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Seeing someone working through grief at the loss of a spouse is so difficult. Wish there was a sure answer for your question but I do suggest, if your father is open to it, that you try grief counseling, perhaps though your local hospice organization? At least he can meet and talk to other individuals going through the same process.
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He sounds depressed. It's normal, just four months after losing a spouse. If he's not talking about actively doing something to hasten his death, then his statements, while dramatic and disturbing, are part of the natural grieving process.
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I'm sorry for your loss, and each person grieves in their own way, but depression is certainly one of the symptoms of grief. Men do not fare as well as women after a death, so monitor his eating and sleeping habits. He could go into a downward spiral very quickly if not monitored. He also seems to have dementia. Have him tested. Best wishes.
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I should have included "the death of a spouse" in my above remarks. Men usually live about one year longer if their spouse dies first, but women usually have a more extensive social connection and last much longer.
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Thanks everyone! At 89, my dad has outlived most of his co-workers and all but one of his siblings. His wife, my step-mother, was in her early eighties when she died. He is definitely surprised that he outlived her, but her death was due to pulmonary fibrosis.
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