We moved my parents to AL in June 2017. Mom had been deteriorating mentally & physically for about a year prior to this due to chronic health problems. Dad is frail, but, at 93 he's very sharp. Mom died in December 2018 after being in hospice for 2 weeks. They had been married for 68 years.

Dad has now been grieving since then as expected. I understand that he misses her terribly & that he will grieve in his own way, but he didn't even go to her graveside service because he couldn't take it. We set up counseling for him for several months. He discontinued it because it "wasn't doing any good". Also, the minister that conducts the Sunday services at the AL has befriended him & they chat frequently. My concern is that he is going to drive people away that are reaching out to him because of his negativity & difficulty talking about anything other than his loss. Every time he talks to my brother (who lives about 3 hours away) he tells him he's not doing well.

Dad won't get involved in any AL activities or play "childish games." Primarily stays in his room. My husband & I live in the same town as the AL & I see him at least once a week. We take him on outings occasionally.

I guess my frustration is that he doesn't seem to grasp that people die. I tried to prepare him for mom's eventual demise, but it didn't seem to help.

I could use some advice/support for how to handle this. I AM sympathetic, but I'm afraid this will go on & on. I would suggest antidepressants, but "I take so many pills already".

Sorry for the loss of your Mom. I'm sure your Dad understands people die. I assume he's lost his parents and many other people in his life if he is in his 90's.
It is difficult to adjust to a different lifestyle after almost 70 years. Your Mom has always been by his side and now she is not. He is still processing things.
No one in AL is going to measure up to your Mom so spending time with them probably doesn't interest him at this point. Any counsellor he has seen has probably never been married for 68 years so I can understand why he would not think it is helpful. Maybe you can find a grief support group with other people his age who have also lost spouses. He might find that he can relate to those folks more because they have experienced the same type of loss and understand it.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to Happyplace

Given its still fairly recent, I don't know if I would worry yet. People need their time to grieve in their own way.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to Karsten

You could use the "continuing bonds approach" by creating an atmostphere where your mother is still very much part of the family in the here and now, for example physical gestures such as setting a place for her at the table, including her memory in conversations etc. Put her possessions around your father so that he can feel tangible linking objects around him. Transform the narrative that she is still a significant part of the family. Focus on strengthening the bond between them, rather than trying to help him "work through the grief".
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Arselle2
nature73 Sep 7, 2019
Thank-you for taking the time to respond. Your words are very helpful!
My parents were married for 68 years and lived together in Assisted Living for 10 months before dad passed away of a brain tumor. I think my mother was happy, frankly. She didn't have to deal with him disturbing her beauty rest anymore, or get irritated when his wheelchair smacked the wall, or help him pull up his pants after could finally be ALL about her 'for a change'. Yay. She even gloated about the man across the hall who had invited her on a cruise about 4 days after dad passed away.

Your dad is properly grieving the loss of the love of his life; his partner, his team mate, his other half. He feels totally lost and alone without her, having no interest in the trivialities of life at the moment. He's entitled to grieve. He's earned the right. Leave him be. There's no 'fixing' this and nothing you can really 'do' about it.

That's my personal opinion on the matter, and how I would feel had it been my husband who passed away after a lifetime of love and memories. My mother's behavior is a disgrace, in my opinion, and mocks the love my father felt for HER, which was obviously not reciprocated. She told me, shortly after he passed, that she never could stand him anyway. Sigh.

"Right" or "wrong", your father is feeling a tremendous loss right now. He may or may not recover from it. Some people seem to while others do not.

Wishing you all the best and my condolences on the loss of your mom
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to lealonnie1

Nature, only 8+ months after someone's death isn't extended grieving; I would think several years would have to pass before grieving could be considered extended.    From my experience the first year is the hardest, and the following years are still difficult, but different.

Still, it's his loss and I would respect the way he wants to deal with it. Unless we walk in someone's shoes, we really don't know how much and how grief truly affects someone. 

The last thing I would consider are meds; I think that would infer that (a) there's something wrong with his grief, and (b) he needs assistance in this very personal stage of his life.  In addition, there's just too much reliance on meds as  opposed to more natural methods.    The opioid crisis didn't arise out of a vacuum.

My mother died in 2002, my sister in 2003 and my father in 2018.   I still grieve for them, in different ways, but the pain and loss is still there.  

The best thing you can do is support him and let him know you understand the emotional pain he's experiencing.   And just spend time with him, quiet time if he wants it, so that he doesn't feel abandoned by you.

You use "we", so I'm assuming you're referring to a spouse, partner, or siblings.   If one of them passed, can you imagine how you would feel?  I'm not being critical, or caustic, just trying to address a loss and how intense it can be.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to GardenArtist
cherokeegrrl54 Sep 6, 2019
Its very hard when you lose so many in a short time. At the beginning of 1997, we lost my beloved granma, 3 wks later my dad, and 2 weeks after dad, my husband died. It was a long journey for my sister and i because we were both in the medical field...i worked in oncology and my husband passed from pancreatic cancer. My sister had unresolved issues with our, she just buried herself in work. She has always done that in response to a death or a stressful life problem. One time i tried to get mom to talk with her dr to prescribe an antidepressant for her and she screamed at me in the most sarcastic voice, “ well just what do i have to be depressed about?” I was so shocked and saddened by this, both my sister and i were in therapy at the time....
i hope your dad can begin to heal now and get involved in activities that will keep him busy and focus his mental energy on something positive. Blessings to you all...
I can fully understand his feelings. I lost my Luz, DW, after just short of 52 years.Mentally she was in bad shape. Physically she at about 50% or less.

When she passed there were no local friends to participate in the passing. At the funeral It was a few of my relatives since it was out of state.

The worst thoughts I have is of putting her in a hole in the ground and leaving her there. The best thoughts are of all of the things she did in those years we were together. Good and Bad.

One of my worst experiences was the first time I ate out by myself. I kept looking at the empty seat across the table where she should have been sitting. I cried through the entire meal.

I am only (72) but I am so lonely. I do get out into the world a little just to see people and how they live outside of their homes.
I am reasonably sure your Dad is in much the same shape.
Sometimes peope actually plan for the end but the plans get changed without our consent.
I am making a scrap book dedicated to Luz. It includes picture of course but also he accomplishments. Her CNA certificate, her naturalization certificate, drivers licenses from three states, employee IDs, membership certificates and awards.
Most of it does bring me some good memories and smiles. I still cry when looking at these momentos but they are happy tears.
You might try something like that.
I know he is waiting for his day to happen so he can be with her again. All of the other things intil then will only be distractions to him.

I wish you all the best until then.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to OldSailor
LoopyLoo Sep 6, 2019
I am sorry for your loss. The scrapbook sounds like a lovely idea.

I've been married only 13 years, am in my 40s, and i have to stop myself from thinking about when one of us passes away.
See 5 more replies
I hear you! My mother did not handle her mother's (my grandmother's) death well at all. I realize losing a parent is a different pain than losing a spouse. I felt badly for her, but it seemed everyone else in the family knew grandma was in her 90s, in bad shape, tired, and worn out with congestive heart failure. Her cardiologist told Mom that there was nothing left but to keep her comfortable. No one was shocked when the time came (was not abrupt, was after a few days in ICU) except... mom. Despite all the evidence, she said "I didn't see this coming! I thought she had five more years!".

(They were not terribly close either. Got along and Mom helped with their basics like taking to doctor visits, getting groceries/meds/etc, but they were not bonded. No hugs, no 'love yous', nothing like it. You would think they were more longtime acquaintances than mom/daughter. Anyhoo....)

This kept on for a long time afterwards. Mom refusing to donate any of grandma's clothes: "I'm not throwing her clothes away!". Suggesting we put all of grandma's home items in my house, "So you can be closer to her." (She even said this in a babyish tone, more like "you can be cwoooser to her", which was not in her character at all.) We all felt terrible, and she had every right to be sad, but she just could not accept it or let go... like you said, it was like she didn't understand that people die. That no one is guaranteed tomorrow and that grandma was ready to leave this Earth. My mother has always had a hard time facing reality, but I did not expect the level of denial she had. It's only been in this last year (six years later) that she has only somewhat come to terms with it.

Only one thing I said to her really reached her... I asked her how she wanted it to be for us when she passes. Would she want her children, husband and grandkids to be in constant misery for the rest of our days? Would that bring her any peace? Answer of course was "no". I reminded her that if her mother knew she had made her children or grandchildren cry, she would be miserable. Anyone who loves you feels terrible if they hurt your feelings or upset you, even when they didn't mean to. That didn't stop the grief of course, but it did make her realize she was torturing herself. It may be worth mentioning to him... would his wife WANT to see him so sad?

I kind of wonder, as has already been stated, if your father is just biding time until he passes too. He may feel lost... for so many longtime married people, the wife is the one who keeps everything together, takes care of details, does more of planning things. Even basics we don't think about. If my mom goes first, it'll be rough on dad in a million ways, but even daily things would be a new challenge. He is a smart and capable guy, but put him in a grocery store and he is utterly lost!
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to LoopyLoo
nature73 Sep 7, 2019
Your dad sounds like mine! Sweet but a novice in so many life events. I appreciate you responding - we'll try to be patient & support him as best we can. Fortunately he did not feel the need to hold on to her possessions. Your insight is very helpful
I don't know if there's really a problem with ur dad 'staying in his room a lot'. Lots of people do that in ALF. Maybe he wants to avoid the "sorry for your loss" people, as long as he can. I don't blame him for that, (cuz u did say he couldn't handle going to the memorial svc).
Why not let him live the way he wants to? Just continue being supportive until he's ready to interact more.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Tiger55
nature73 Sep 7, 2019
Thanks for your response. This is new for me as I guess it is for many. Nothing wrong with him staying in his apartment I guess. He's never been real outgoing anyway but he is pleasant.
To tell you the truth, you may have to accept that after nearly 70 years together there may not be a way your Dad can get over your Mom. I do think that he is well aware that people die, and is probably more or less happy to think he may go sooner than later.
Why not help him in ways that allows him actually to sink into their long lives together. To make perhaps a scrapbook of pictures of their lives together. Basically what your Dad has left, if he doesn't like those admittedly silly games, is his memories of his life. My aunt spent years happily in her WC before a window. When I asked what she thought about she said she liked looking at the birds, and thinking about her entire life; that her memories were good. It is what she did. She liked Art Class, but the sing-a-longs she loathed, and didn't participate in a whole lot else. She was just pretty much "waiting". Not horribly unhappily, but waiting. And when it came at 95 it was more than welcome. It is hard to imagine now being over life, ready to go. Too tired. But the day may come that you do.
You aren't responsible for this loss, one of so many losses. And you can't fix it. Trust me, he does get that people die.
Try not to burden your Dad further with having to "seem happy". In all honesty he doesn't have a whole lot to be happy about. Hope for him to find peace. Know that peace won't be a smiley face.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to AlvaDeer
Tiger55 Sep 6, 2019
Alva 🎸 rocks!
See 1 more reply

Ask a Question

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter