Friday 30 September 2016

Ask Majella: Majella O'Donnell solves your problems

Is my mother depressed now that we've left the nest?

Majella O'Donnell

Published 03/05/2015 | 02:30

Majella O'Donnell
Majella O'Donnell

Majella O'Donnell offers advice on cancer care and coping when your children move out.

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Dear Majella

My mam was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago and has been undergoing treatments ever since. She's doing a lot better but still not in the all clear. At 22 I'm at the age where I just want to move out with my friends and enjoy life. Recently I had the opportunity to move out with friends at a rent I could afford but my dad flew into a fit of rage at the suggestion. He says I need to be here for the family and that I'm selfish for even considering it. He made it clear that I wouldn't be too welcome back if I do decide to move out. I want to be near my family and support them but I'm torn because I also need to get on and live my own life. What should I do?

Emma, via email

Majella replies:

Dear Emma

I am sorry to hear about your mother and I hope she gets good results very soon.

If I am honest with you I would have to say that your timing is very bad and I can understand that your dad is upset. Cancer is a very serious disease and as you said yourself, your mother is not clear of it yet so to decide to leave now sends out a very poor sign of support.

Your father must be finding it very difficult trying to keep things going and I'm sure he is very frightened too. He probably needs you more than your mother does because while she is getting on with her treatment, your father probably feels overwhelmed with the whole process.

I understand that you want to get on with your own life but I certainly can't see why you wouldn't put that on hold while your mother is recovering. You have your whole life ahead of you to do all the things that you would like but for now, I believe your place is at home with your family. It would be different if you already lived away from home. No one would expect you to up-turn your life but as you live at home at the moment, to leave now would be selfish. You would be putting yourself first and now is certainly not the time to do that.

I absolutely believe that, when someone has been diagnosed with cancer, family life should carry on as normal as possible, but it is not the time for big changes or upheavals. Lots of opportunities will arise in the future for you to move into your own place and it's a great thing to look forward to, but for now, stay at home and do all you can for your mother and father at this very difficult time.

My mother's illness is keeping me at home

Dear Majella

My 61-year-old mother hasn't been herself for the last few years. She seems deeply unhappy but hasn't been able to open up about it. It started around the time my younger siblings flew the nest, two of whom moved abroad. She had been working full time until she began to care for my brother's children but now that they are all in school too I think she might be a bit lonely. My father is still working but she seems to spend most of her days indoors. She rarely goes out, or does housework and seems to find nearly everything a chore. If anyone brings it up she gets very defensive. How can I help her?

Sarah, Kerry

Majella replies....

Dear Sarah,

It sounds to me as if your mother may be a bit depressed which, under the circumstances, I can totally understand. For many years she has had her own purpose in life whether it was work or looking after her grandchildren and now all that has stopped. She needs to find a new purpose in life. Something that stimulates her again. Some people find it very hard to readjust to life once their children have grown up or they retire. While some people cherish that time, others just don't know what to do with themselves or their time.

As a mother, you spend so much of your life thinking about other people and organising their meals and doing all the usual household chores. You forget about your own needs and aspirations because you are very happy just getting along with bringing up your family. Once they have all grown up life changes. It can make you feel a bit worthless until you realise that there are many more things that could make your life more enriched.

Has she thought about taking up an evening class? You could research what is available in your local area and suggest something that you think she would enjoy. Perhaps you could do the class with her and tell her that you really want to spend that time with her. Maybe you could suggest that she visits her doctor and explain that you feel that she is a bit flat and you are worried about her. So many people suffer from depression from time to time and there is no shame in asking for help to see you through a transitional period. It could do her the world of good. She probably doesn't want to be a burden on anyone so she says she's fine, while you know different. The closest people to us always notice the changes in us before anyone else.

If you live close by, you could pop into her more often and maybe take her out for lunch or a coffee where she may be more receptive to your suggestions. Give her some time to readjust but encourage her to take part in other activities.

Ask your dad if he has noticed that she is a bit down and maybe he will be able to come up with something that can lift her spirits.

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