Q Over recent years my wife has suffered the loss of family and close friends, and some of the losses have been sudden and unexpected. I have regularly made efforts to coax her to have some form of bereavement counselling in whatever format she would be most comfortable with, either face-to-face, on the phone, online and she has always been very resistant to it.
She is a highly-strung individual who suffers from health issues. We have children, all well past the nappies stage, who are great, self-sufficient kids.
She doesn't work and is often on social media for very long periods and yet does not find the time to clean up, nor to shower herself, nor to regularly take her medication.
If you met her you would say she is a very friendly, jolly person. Myself and the kids have sat down with her as a group asking her to look after herself better and how we all love her and worry about her. I am weary and at the point of giving up but I owe it to her and our children to try again.
She is the kind of person that has your back no matter what, she is a really good person who deserves help. Do you have any advice on what I can do?
A Have you asked your wife what she wants? Do you know what she needs? I'm going to gently say this, can you ask yourself if you can accept your wife as she is today? It's an interesting concept that is exceptionally hard to apply. From what I have read and I know from this tiny snapshot, I'm hearing frustration that 'if she only' did A, B and or C everything would be fine.
The danger with a grieving person is that it impacts all the relationships that satellite around them.
If your wife feels disconnected and in pain, I imagine so may you and your children.
It is an incredibly difficult process and one that is not talked about enough. It can take years for the grieving person to come back to any sense of who they are now after their entire world changes and falls apart.
The fall-out upon you and your family is heartbreaking. I am truly sorry for how these painful losses are still taking from you all.
Grief is so nasty, intrusive and insidious. It is so hard upon you and your family. It is so hard on your wife.
As you said, your wife is grieving. Life as she knew it, is gone. Normalcy has left, and despair may be what has been replaced in its place.
What may that look like? Despondency, lack of interest, disinterest and disengagement. Hopelessness and an existential crisis that begs 'what is the purpose and meaning of my life', which may make household duties feel hollow and pointless.
What are you seeing? Your wife isn't numbing out the pain with alcohol but with a far more socially acceptable habit that may also prove incredibly hard to beat. Your wife is numbing out the pain, thoughts and feelings by filling up every second scrolling on social media.
She's numbing out because the pain is unbearable.
Do you think your wife is feeling depressed? Have you expressed your concerns for her mental and physical health? It is worrying that she isn't keeping up with her hygiene needs as it is a sign of how helpless and or hopeless she may be feeling.
This needs to be met with compassion. It needs an open ear, it needs even more patience. This is why I need to turn my attention kindly towards you.
How are you? How is your family? How do you feel about your wife? Are you angry, frustrated, confused and or lost?
Do you miss your wife?
This part of grief doesn't get enough air time. How are you? Grief doesn't just take the people we love physically from this earth; it can emotionally and psychologically make it impossible to reach and connect with the one you have known for so many years, and you may also be grieving for the wife you once knew.
You can't fix your wife, or her grief. You can be honest and heartfelt about how you may be missing her. This is not to make her feel bad but to express your needs, that you still need her. This does not mean she will be able to hear you or understand. She may feel so isolated, alone and misunderstood. She may hear these intentions as 'attacks' and as blame or guilt.
I am so sorry for all the loss that has rippled from your wife's bereavements. It is unfathomable and life cannot return as normal.
In terms of the timeline, it can take years for the very reality to really hit in, and for your wife to not return to who she was, but an altered version after all the pain.
Pain changes you, it changes your identity and perception of yourself, the world and who you are in relationships. That is so tough on you.
When you say you 'owe it to her' can you ask yourself what does that mean to you? You have all been having a traumatic time.
The consequences of this grief are complicated and immensely dynamic upon all the relationships. Perhaps you may consider speaking with how it has been for you. You also need support.
Grief is so personal, but it is also so specific to each person's needs.
You can't get your wife to go to bereavement counselling but you can support your needs, which can be helpful to how you interact within your marriage and to support yourself.
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