My husband feels a tremendous emotional burden having to care for his father now that his mother is dead. What do I say to help him?

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My husband feels apathy toward pretty much everything right now. He is withdrawn and hasn't thrown himself into his work in months. He is still clinging to a project that he lost several months ago, saying that that project would have given him new purpose. He numbs himself regularly with alcohol and has started smoking cigarettes at night before bedtime even though I have shown him the studies that demonstrate that alcohol actually makes it harder to get a good night's sleep. Don't even get me started on the cigarettes! I don't know how much longer my FIL will live and how much longer my husband will have to manage his father's affairs. I don't know what to do or what to say to help my husband.

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I like your idea, alot!

How old is FIL? Does he have any cognitive impairments.

"Honey, I think we need to learn some techniques for getting your dad out of his depression about your mom. Like, what the right thing to say is. Do you think that going to one of those sessions WITH your dad might be a good idea for you and me, or maybe just you? I really feel at a loss to know how to react with him".
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My husband does not tell me everything his dad dumps on him. Actually, my husband keeps most of it inside and it's making him sad. It is my husband's demeanor when getting home from visiting with his dad that makes it evident to me that his dad dumped on him.

My FIL absolutely has a poor sense of boundaries! He enmeshed himself with his wife to the point that he cannot function and has no purpose now that she's dead. I think my husband just doesn't know how to approach his dad because of his dad's fragile state.

Now I just need to figure out how to lovingly suggest to my husband about going with his dad to his dad's psych appointments. My husband has medical POA but does not like to get involved medically unless absolutely necessary. And, as I see it, this is absolutely necessary because my husband's mental health is on the line. And my husband and his father have to make progress together so that my FIL stops dumping on my husband and my husband gets a new set of tools for dealing with his dad. Any suggestions?
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ok, good to hear.

I'm glad his dad is seeing someone every week. Grief plus an enmeshed identity sounds like quite a therapy challenge and a lot of work for his dad. I wish him the best in this journey.

ah, pre-therapy or post-therapy, therapy via dumping on a family member either what is going to be said or was said in therapy which is breaking a boundary and as you have seen not healthy and it ends up coming to you. I think this may be due to his dad having a poor sense of his own boundaries which is understandable. Repeating everything to you that his dad said to him likely deepens his own depression for it gets his mind back on his dad and his dad's problems.

You have very good idea about him going to one of his dad's therapy sessions.

For him to go to one of his dad's sessions would require his dad to request such and tell his therapist that he is ok with it. The therapist may want his dad to tell him what is this joint meeting about. It should work out. If he has medical POA for his dad, then he should be able to talk with the therapist about this. If he doesn't, then he can at least inform the therapist about this and just informing without discussing does not break hippa laws.
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Thank you for your responses. It is unlikely that my husband is enmeshed with his dad. My husband was much, much closer to his mother.

I believe you are correct, cmagnum, that my husband is experiencing situational depression. My FIL sees both a psychiatrist and a psychologist every week, and I'm baffled because he still dumps his depression all over my husband!

It just occurred to me to suggest to my husband that he go with his dad to one of each of these sessions so that he can let his dad know that dumping on him is burdening him and, by extension, me.
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So, as far as actionable; does he have a pcp? Are those visits Covered!

If DH is not in the groove he formerly inhabited, if he is more irritable and/or less energetic, less focused, more lethargic, over or under eating, less active, he might want the pcp to screen for depression, and perhaps prescribe a short course of an ssri or series. See how that works. It might be enough to get him over the hump.
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It is so sad hearing what happens to enmeshed spouses once the one they were enmeshed with dies. Their whole sense of identity dies as well.

Barb will likely do this, but I want to distinguish between situational depression and clinical depression.

The first kind is caused by a situation life extreme grief or anticipatory grief. Meds are used for short term support while the person can talk with a therapist or a very good pastor.

The second kind is cause by a lack of brain chemicals in the brain. Those with clinical depression and those with bipolar have a brain disease that require meds to function for one's whole life.

As far as money goes, many therapists will charge on the basis of a sliding scale of one's ability to pay. You have to ask if they do this when you call for an appointment.

Here is a very random question. Would it be possible that your husband is emotionally enmeshed with his dad?
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"We can't make another person happy and their not being unhappy is no reason for our being unhappy as well." I agree that it's no reason for my husband to be unhappy but alas, it's making him unhappy. My FIL was a great father, good provider, nice person to be around. And now, well, he's just a shell of his former self. My FIL was completely enmeshed with his deceased wife and he cannot find joy in anything. We try but it's been pretty futile so far.

Barb - I'm glad to hear that you are a mental health professional. Then I know that you know that Type 1 Diabetes is a disease. Isn't depression a symptom and the cause of depression remains unknown? Before we go stampeding toward something that crosses the blood-brain barrier, how about a book??

We don't have a lot of money to spend. My husband and I like to live a simple life - simple in comparison to 90% of the population. We have a good life just not a lot of cash. And that itself is a stressor because money is very much a consideration in being able to afford seeing a talk therapist.

I very much want to be the "what do you need we'll figure it out" wife. So, I really need some actionable suggestions.
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I would like to expand the depression discussion to include his dad. It sounds like he has situational depression given the loss of his wife and how dependent he was upon her. Maybe if he felt better, then his son would feel better since the two seem to go hand in hand. We can't make another person happy and their not being unhappy is no reason for our being unhappy as well.
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Yes, your husband needs a better set of tools.

Almost by definition, one's spouse can't provide them. It really takes someone with no stake in the game to observe (evenly hovering objective attention) and guide.
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Yup; and as such, I would never assume that I had the skills to help anyone in my family get out of a patch of clinical depression.

Depression is a conundrum to everyone; there is much about brain science that is still mysterious even to the folks who are expert in the field.

I'm no expert about depression.

I've experienced myself. I've observed it in loved ones and in colleagues and folks that I work with professionally.

What I can tell you is that what works is a combination of meds and talk therapy (even Consumer Reports will tell you that).

I encourage you to encourage your husband to seek medical treatment, starting with talking to his PCP about what is going on in his life.

A supportive spouse is a wonderful thing to have when you are experiencing depression. I've been both in a situation where my (first) spouse was telling me that "what I needed to do" in order to overcome my depression. And I've been in a situation in which my (second) spouse said "tell me what you need; we'll figure this out".

I can tell you that the second approach was infinitely better.

NYDIL, I wish you and your DH all good things!!!
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