My father and I have been extremely close throughout my entire life. However, as my father aged he became quite possessive of my time and space. No matter what I was doing he would interrupt. I would try to suppress my feelings, but after the third knock on my closed bedroom door in 10 minutes I sometimes got a little curt with him. However, I never spoke mean to him. He had some issues with toileting that drove my family crazy, and they wanted me to get after him, but I did not because I knew it might hurt his feelings. We went almost every where together, connected at the hip people would say. I bought everything he needed and wanted, took care of his health and medical needs, laundry, every meal but breakfast. The love we shared for each other was deeper than most father and daughters. He hugged each other, kissed good night and told each other we loved how much we loved each other. He told me every day how he thanked God that I was his daughter and that he appreciated all I did for him. He passed away after falling and breaking his hip, coming through surgery, then right in front of my eyes, in an instant he was gone. One minute he was awake and talking to me and the next minute he was gone. I had problems catching my breath, and immediately filled with guilt, it was my fault because of something I did not do relating to his care.

In the bereavement room my husband started on me about the cost it was going to be to have him cremated. No embrace, no so sorry honey, I know how much you loved him, and oh by the way I have to work late tonight and after I am home I am fixing Buds car. Home alone I came and the grief and guilt overwhelm me. We are devout Christians and I know my father is in Heaven. The next day my husband instructed me to go through all of my dad's papers and make calls and find out about finances, I could not do it, going in his room suffocated me. My daughters and grandson came home and have taken all the load of his funeral off of me. They are cooking, doing dishes, everything. Have told me to just grieve, but it is so hard, the grief overwhelms me. Getting dressed, brushing my teeth, taking a shower, I do not feel like doing anything and feel guilty about that. I am an RN so I intellectually I know the stages of grief, what we are supposed to do, but doing it, that is something different.

In less than a year I lost my 12 year old beloved dog, my mother in law married and I lost her help with my dad, then now my dad. How do I get over this guilt, let myself grieve, keep from just letting everything go? How do I get through the coming winter alone in my house when before all of this happened was already depressed from chronic pain? Many days I had gotten into the habit of just watching TV all day, and not doing anything but cooking dinner. I am going to go through some counseling, but how do I get motivated to do anything?

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Dawn, first I am very sorry for the loss of your dad - as well as the other losses you have suffered recently.

I have read your profile. It seems that you have been a caregiver for the majority of your life, both personally and professionally.

I think when you've been a caregiver, especially when you have done it over a long period of time, when that responsibility is over it leaves a huge, gaping hole in your life. I don't think it matters is you willingly took on caregiving, or if it was thrust upon you through circumstance. Often times, the responsibility ends abruptly, leaving the caregiver a little shell shocked. If the caregiving ends due to a death, now you're not only dealing with the new "normal" of no more day-to-day caring, but also with the hole left by the death of your loved one. It's no wonder that you can't seem to settle or focus. I'm sure your life was a series of tasks and chores every day, and now, there is no more need for you to do those tasks. I'm in the same boat, with my mom passing I find myself thinking about the time of day and what I "have" to do now - get mom breakfast, give mom meds, etc. I wake up every day and look at the clock thinking I have to get her breakfast, and then I remember there is no need for that anymore. So I understand a lot of the emotions you're feeling.

I have found, for myself anyway, that if I give myself 1-2 small things to do each day ("today. I'll rearrange the coat closet; today, I'll "winterize" my garden; etc) it helps keep me focused and moving forward. Maybe that will help you, along with the therapy you say you will seek (which I think is a phenomenal idea).

Now for the sticky wicket about your husband. I don't presume to know how he felt about you putting yourself out for all of these years taking care of all the people that you did - mom and dad, MIL, kids and grandkids - but I think if you have a good relationship with him, there is nothing wrong in asking him for the comfort you need from him. "I'm felling very sad about all the loss we have suffered this past year, and I could really use a hug." It doesn't have to be nasty or confrontational. Some people just don't know how to share grief - anywhere from they either feel that no one would possibly understand what they're going through to they don't think their grief is worthwhile and no one will care. But I think you might both need to share your grief with each other.

I hope you can find some peace and comfort going forward as you deal with your losses.
Helpful Answer (10)

Wow quite a write up.
There are few things missing. How old are you and your husband? I assume 50+??
How long have you and your husband been married? I assume 20+ years??

I am stunned how often I see this kind of issue on this web site. At least once a week.

You and and your father had what they call an emeshed relationship. No boundaries, no borders, no space between the two ofyou. Which meant there was no room for your husband. Sometimes it was called not cutting the apron strings. You have had an extreme inbalance here

To qualify I am 64 yr old. After a 30 yr marriage I have been apart now divorced from my wife for 3 years. In the last 15 years or so of our marriage my wife turned all her attention and energy toward her parents (mostly her Mother) Suddenly I found myself in the back seat of her life. I will tell you from personal experience there is NOTHING more degrading, more humilating, demolishing of your self esteem then when your spouse puts someone else ahead of you. For a short period during an illness that is different. What you describe is close to what I had to live with with my wife and her parents. In my case her parents mostly her Mother took this change in favor her daughter had and rubbed my face in every chance she got. She took FULL advantage of her Daughters blind obligation to her.
My guess here is your husband has penned up anger about the way he has been treated in the last several years. Put yourself in his shoes.. How would you feel if it had been the other way around?

Your question "how do I get motivated to do anything"
The first thing you need to do is decide if you still want to be married and your husband needs to decide this to.

Any shrink, minister, priest, rabbi, etc will tell you the needs of the marriage need to be the priority relationship for both of you. When this does not occur it is almost impossible for anything else to work out.

If this marriage is important to you I urge you to, today, NOT tomorrow or next week you and your husband together find a therapist, your minister, someone trained to help you thru this and get your marriage back on track.

Some books UI suggest:
Dr Gottman The seven principles for making a marriage work
Dr Gottman has written several books on marriage really excellent stuff.
Stephen Kendrick The Love Dare

A great program for rebuilding is called Retrouvaille www.helpour
This is a catholic program run by lay people. NO priests are involved. If you both want to rebuild this is an amazing program.

If I had my way we would still be married. But my wife was soo blinded by her relationship with her Mother she could NEVER see or understand the damage this did to me. Everything was my fault. You cant build a bridge if only one of you wants the bridge.

Good luck
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lkdrymom Nov 2020
I am glad you gave your side of this. So many people tend to jump on an "unsupportive" spouse right away. If this was a brief illness or even a several months illness the spouse should just find a way to deal....but often this is years, maybe decades and the caregiver focuses totally on the elder never seeing that the rest of their life is falling apart.....or just moving on without them. Then when the parent dies they expect to just step back into the life they abandoned many years ago as if nothing happened or changed.
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It may be that your husband has shown deep love for you already. The relationship that was so good for you and your father, may have been difficult for your husband - it would be very hard for many of our posters coping with in-laws. Your husband may have coped with it because of his love for you. Perhaps he is relieved that it is over, and wants the ‘over’ to be as quick as possible. That’s hard for you right now, but do your best to cope in your turn. Your father had an unusually quick and easy death, from your post, and you have nothing to feel guilty about – in fact try to be grateful for it. Your grief will ease, and your family will still be there for you. Best wishes for healing.
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lkdrymom Nov 2020
I agree. Where was your husband's place in your life over the past 10 years? It sounds to me like you devoted most of your time to your dad and because your husband loved you he did not get in your way. Now he wants you back. He gave away the last 10 years, but wants the next 10 for himself.
Dawn some men are "fixers",, they function best when they are taking care of their loved ones by "fixing things", and forget the emotional stuff My hubs is this way. I am so sorry for your loss
Helpful Answer (5)

I am not quite sure what you feel guilty about? RN to RN, you know that usually a broken hip in an elderly person is the result of osteoporosis - the person breaks their hip and then falls (not the other way around). Unless you did something to make your father die, he died of natural causes: a heart attack, a stroke, an unfortunate reaction to medications.... This could have happened at any time.

I would recommend that you connect with a grief group like GriefShare, but your grief seems especially crippling. Please consider getting individual counselling and maybe see a psychiatrist to help you through this traumatic event.

Every person is different in processing loss so please don't guilt trip those around you who are processing their grief differently.
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I am so sorry for all of the loss you are dealing with. I'm also sorry that your husband couldn't be just a tad supportive. Turn away from guilt. You cared for your dad for over 9 years. He got to be with you and you with him. You have a relationship to treasure that some folks will never know. You also have beautiful daughters and a grandson who stepped up to help when they knew you needed it. Take time to have some quiet time and full advantage of the help you're receiving. Then focus more attention to these people who lifted you up.

In retrospect, was your husband always a little on the cold, nonsupportive side? Zebra stripes don't usually change over the years. Maybe you were expecting something from him that he really never gave you. Don't grieve that part. Accept it as who he is and who he's always been. Look to those who have those qualities when a little comfort and kindness is what you need. Bless you as you move forward. And PS - go get yourself another dog. There is a dog sitting in a shelter who needs the same kind of love that you do right now.
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Your husband must have built a life of his own while you had a relationship with your Dad. His unsupportive, even strange response may have been a way to protect his life he made. He has boundaries. Gave you notice immediately that he won't be there for you now.

Changing your expectations of him overnight will probably scare him off.
You have quite a bit of work to do, slowly, to win him back, imo. Still, it wasn't intentional on your part. This marriage can be fixed. If that is still what you want.

So sorry for your loss, and your shock that your Dad has died. There is time for you to grieve, and rest, and rebuild a life now. To focus only on your marriage, only to be rebuffed is a mistake. Feel better. Just be. Slowly become what you want for yourself.

Fix yourself up post caregiving. Get your hair done, a new outfit. etc. Take it slow and careful.
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Hi Dawn,
Your description of your love between your father and yourself truly brought tears to my eyes. Our weary world needs more hearts like yours.
My heartfelt sympathy to you. Like you I was an RN and continue to fight the "black and blue dog of depression".
Truly I am so very sorry about your Dad's passing, I will pray for you to find the strength you need to get through each day and to be as gentle and kind with yourself as you are or have been for others. Not an easy task for a lifelong caregiver.

People grieve differently, there is no right or wrong answer in how you grieve nor how long you grieve. Most women have the built in nurturer to grapple with. Our self care comes last in a long line of people throughout our lives. After so long I think we simply accept the needs of others come before our own, which clouds our perceptions of what our needs are. Losing your father, your dog and in a sense your MIL has left a significant hole in your life.

Previous posts offered great suggestions about moving forward in your life slowly. Now is not the time to make a big decision in your life, especially in regard to your marriage. The gentleman that wrote about his feelings and experiences in his marriage can be a great resource for you in understanding your husband's detached behavior towards you. Enmeshment is quite common in families. In fact three generations living within the same household wasn't unusual until the end of WWII.

Counseling would hopefully help you and your husband to come back together at some point. But right now, your own wellbeing is crucial, whatever gets you through each day, each hour, each minute is what matters. If you find yourself having difficulty with that, maybe it's time to consider an appointment with your GP for feedback and referral. They say, "Doctors and Nurses make the worst patients" for good reason. Ask for advice from your family or friends, people that know you best. Ask for your Dad's help.

You can't just stop feelings. Guilt is part of loss. You gave your father excellent care, he shared his gratitude with you. Yet, we hold ourselves to these impossible standards. This is the time to go easy on you. Go easy on your husband too, he's still there with you. And maybe in a few months or a year you will begin to accept that you did the very best you could.

And I wholeheartedly agree with another suggestion on adopting another dog or puppy. As a former animal shelter worker I can attest that there is a dog that needs a loving home but perhaps give it a little more time. That's a big responsibility to take on, which you probably know already. You have so much love to give, you will know when the time is right. I wish you blessings upon blessings and thank you for sharing. Take Care.
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The only thing I can see that you might have appropriate guilt about, was putting your father before your husband. Is this why he lack compassion toward your Dad’s death?
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I took care of my father who died from cancer for the last few months of his life. I had my sister’s, husband’s and mother’s help. When he died the guilt was there, and stayed with me for a long time until God took it from me. I’ve been depressed a lot in my life but I said to myself: “Remember when you’ve been happy, you’ll be happy again. And I was. After 3 years I could talk about my father without crying. I still miss him, but the Good Lord took his pain away.

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, things were easier. She was like a child. When my sister said it was time for our mother to go to memory care, I saw my mother 4 times a week. When she died, her caretakers told me that I had done everything I could and not to feel guilty. It took years again, but I’m happy again. Trusting in the Lord has helped me through trials since my parents’ death. Read the psalms. Many of them are comforting.

You did everything you could for your father. Talk to a minister too. God bless you, Dawn. Take it easy on yourself. Do a few things a day that gave you pleasure before. Reading helped me. I’ll be praying for you. Know that we all grieve differently. Don’t be hard on yourself. Take it day by day, that’s all there is. Faith, Hope and Peace, Christa
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