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not sure how to help my mom

Posts: 8
Joined: Apr 2009

My dad died 7 1/2 weeks ago to pancreatic cancer. He and my mom were very close... so close that they didn't have many other friends other than each other and they didn't do anything outside of the house away from each other. Mom has never worked bc dad wanted her there for him at all times. It was a very sweet relationship in lots of ways.

My mom and I were never really close, but since I moved 30 minutes away from her 2 years ago, she has been clinging to me like you woulnd't believe. I think bc she got bored with always being with just my dad and being at home. If I left town for one night to get some space, she would call me and tell me how much she missed me. Now that dad is gone, the clinginess has gone to a whole new level. I am married and have a 1.5 year old and a little girl on the way. If I go one day without seeing my mom, she gets very depressed and lonely. I see her every day bc if I don't see her, I can't handle the guilt of her being alone and missing my dad. I have been neglecting my son and husband since before dad even got sick, bc of her neediness, and now it has gotten to the point where I am having to get counseling.

I just don't know how to help her. The guilt I feel if I do not cater to her is overwhelming. She has physical problems and can't drive too far or walk much bc of nerve damage. So when I hang out with her, I usually have to drive her around and push her in a wheel chair. that is not easy with a toddler, and has become increasingly difficult for me physically since I am almost 6 months pregnant. She lives 30 minutes away... which is not real far, but after going there every day for almost 2 years, it seems like a long drive.

for those of you who have lost a spouse, please tell me how to help her. I am so stressed that I am starting to get angry with her and then the guilt is even worse bc she doesn't want to live any more if I'm not being everything that she needs me to be. I encourage her to go to support groups or get a job, but she won't do anything without me and I can't do it with my toddler. I am so overwhelmed... please help.

Posts: 318
Joined: Feb 2008

I would encourage your mom to go to counseling and meet people to go places with. And you also have to take care of you. When she realizes you can't be there all the time maybe she will go and get help and have a friend she can talk to and go places with. If you always try to be there you will become her crutch. You need to "ween" yourself away some so she can rely on someone else. That is too much for you. I lost my husband 3 1/2 years ago and he was my soul mate and friend. My sons helped me and would take turns when I was chemoed out. I too have cancer. But anyway I then also called on friends to help. She may come around and think of things to get out and do and be busy. Even around the house maybe she could have another relative or friend come over and talk to or start a hobby. But counseling maybe the best thing to start. She feels lost without him and is putting you in his place. She needs others too. I tried to keep busy. And sometimes by myself i would sit and cry then I would feel better and decided I am still here and need to do my best for my sons and enjoy what life I can. I am 51 years old and had to be put on disability. I no longer am ashamed to ask for help from family and friends but still try to do things on my own. And she needs to try to do what she can on her own. It helped me to have my memories and look at old photos and talk about my husband to my sons and friends. Maybe there is something she can do for you to get ready for new grandchild or help you out by cooking something for you. Maybe if she finds somethng else to think about. A counselor will be the best advisor I only know its hard. Time does help. Hope you will find an answer, sure hate to see you wear yourself down. Take care of you too.
Prayers and Hugs

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sep 2006


My father-in-law died last year, in May of '08. My mother-in-law has diabetes and glaucoma, and so is unable to drive. She lives 20 or 30 minutes from us, a similar situation to what you are dealing with.

My wife is a nurse, works in a large hospital in the area. She cannot be at her mom's beck and call as it sounds like you are. The solution? Right from the start my wife set a schedule with her mom. "Look, mom, I will take off half days on Wednesdays, I will come over, we will do lunch, and then we will get your shopping done."

That has worked. My wife is available, of course, for appointments and such that do not fall on that Wednesday afternoon, but basically, Wed. afternoon is her mom's, and we all understand that, including HER MOM. I am pretty sure that they talk on the phone, if not daily, at least several times a week. I know that if something comes up that she or my wife can't handle, either me or my son (or both) is brought into the mix, and while we do not drop everything (unless it is an emergency, of course), we are happy to make time, at our convenience, to go by and help with something in the house or the yard or whatever.

We also, of course, include mom-in-law in most of our home social activities, which means that we typically chauffeur her to and from our home for these things, but that seems relatively minor compared to the alternative of not having her there.

I think this is something you truly need to consider. It is NOT abandonment of your mom but recovery of your husband and your family. Talk to your mom about this, of course, and see if reasonable accommodations can be made, those she can accept that are also good for you.

If not, look into home hospice, so that she can get care from professionals on those days when you can't be there because you have, quite simply, a life to live of your own as well.

I am not being cold here, even if it sounds so. In our case, my mother-in-law I think now looks forward to these Wednesday afternoons like they are a weekly holiday. And my wife is also glad of the arrangement: lunch with mom, get some shopping done, a pretty good deal all the way around.

Best wishes to your mom, to you, and to your family.

Take care,


zahalene's picture
Posts: 680
Joined: Nov 2005

what he said.
You MUST set limits. For your good as well as hers. It is not healthy for either of you for her to be so dependent on you exclusively. AND, for her to declare that she 'doesn't want to be here' unless you are everything she wants you to be is emotional blackmail, pure and simple.
No one on earth, not our parents, our kids, our spouses, etc, has the right to demand that their 'being' depends on someone else. Your mother is an adult who is responsible for her own mental health. Yes, you must support and help her IN CONSTRUCTIVE WAYS to attain a new 'lease on life', but what you describe just isn't working.
I suspect that if she were forced to rely on her own resources at least some of the time she would surprise both you and herself with how involved she would soon become in life....real life. Especially if you could get her focused on someone or something who needs her, instead of focusing exclusive on her own needs. Does she have pets for example? How about volunteer work, even something as simple as knitting lap robes for rest home patients. She needs to be reminded that she can contribute in the world as well as soak up others' contributions to her.
Good luck, and God bless.

Posts: 8
Joined: Apr 2009

Thank you all so much for your advice. I've started reading the book "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend and it says the same things that you are saying. She really does need to take responsibility for herself. I told her that she is too dependent on me and that I just about have nothing left to give. I really do appreciate you all taking the time to give me advice. It helps so much to see what other's have to say! I am planning on making a schedule and giving her specific times that we can be together.

I didn't know if I would hear that I was being selfish and needed to stop complaining or that I was doing too much. It's just a hard situation.

thanks again :-)

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