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How do I help my grieving husband?

Posts: 5
Joined: Feb 2017

My sister inlaw passed away 5 months ago yesterday. And since, my marriage has not been the same. I want to be patient with my husband. I want to stand by him. I want to help him in any way that I can. I also want to protect our family and our kids. I also don't want to be a doormat or emotional punching bag forever. I've dealt with loss before. I sort of knew what to expect. It doesn't make it hurt any worse, but I past losses have prepared me for what to look for when I need help or when I'm too overcome with emotions. This is his first loss. He was in no way prepared for the emotions or changes that happen when you lose a loved one. Let alone, someone so beautiful and vibrant and full of life, not even 30 years old. 

My husband has become emotionally distant, closed off, and selfish. So much, that he has actually said that "what her death has taught me is that life is short. I need to be concerned with what makes me happy. Not anyone else. I need to focus on my joy from now on. Providing for the family is work. It's not happiness. I don't want to work to make you or the kdis happy." 

While I understand that grief is very individualized and there are no set timelines, how much is a marriage supposed to take? He wants no part of therapy. He wants no part of compromise. I have been shut out emotionally. He is clinging to his mother and siblings and has put up the wall to the kids and I. I'm struggling because my head says to be patient and to give him space. My heart says that I have grief to deal with too, even if it's not as "severe" as his and that trying to maintain and protect our family and keep us as a unit is getting harder and harder to do alone. It's SO lonely. 

As a survivor of cervical cancer myself, I feel minimized and belittled because I lived. Like I feel guilty because my SIL did not. I don't think I can rush or expedite my emotions so that I can think more clearly for the 4 of us that were not as impacted by her death... I am just very lost and scared. I'm scared for my family. I don't want my marriage to die with his sister. How do I get strong and stay strong so that I can love him and support him the way he needs? How can I help him when he has hurt me by using me as a wall for his anger and denial and frustration since her passing? How much is a marriage supposed to take? I don't want to abandon him. I want to help him and be by his side. I want my marriage to survive. 

Posts: 65
Joined: Jun 2017

This is a tough situation. He has to realize what he is doing is effecting you. Maybe you can talk to a member of his family. Some of the things he is saying would scare me too. Like "I don't want to to work to make the family happy".  Try to talk him into going to a family counselor with you. Tell him the death of his sister has effected you as well and tell him you see what it's done to him. Be honest and upfront about your concerns and your feelings. But also tell him you love him and that he is your world. Make him feel important to you and the kids. But don't suppress your feellings. Be open and upfront. At least that will give you a piece of mind.

JerzyGrrl's picture
Posts: 760
Joined: Jun 2016

So sorry to hear what you're going through. 

I hope you're going to counseling on your own. Also, if he's not wanting to support you and the kids, it would be a very good idea to contact a lawyer, especially if there are unpaid utilities, a mortgage, and / or other bills. 

You can certainly still love him and be willing to continue your marriage. It doesn't sounds as though he's acting someone who said "I do." That guy may have morphed into someone else. Or not. Working with a counselor can help you set healthy boundaries for the kids and yourself. You don't mention how old your kids are, but how you and he treat each other during this time can be some great big lessons on how to treat others and how to allow others to treat you. 

All the best in this difficult situation. Keep us posted as you're able. 

Posts: 5
Joined: Feb 2017

He was a very involved dad before his sister got sick. We had our issues, as every marriage does, but we were a united team and we were taking steps to be better for each other daily. The only MAJOR issue was how his mother treated me and he allowed it. He had never spoken up for me before and when his sister got sick, it only became worse. It was like he was completely unable to do anything but focus on THAT part of his family. He stopped going to see the kids at school or take time off when they were sick. He wanted to save all of his sick and vacation time to see his sister. Which I get. I was on board. So were the kids, but the hole he sunk into was just... it was more than we all expected. I do see a counselor. And the kdis and I are very active in our church. He has stopped going. It's been very hard on all of us, even if as he says, our grief doesn't count cause we weren't impacted like he was. The kids are 11, 11, and 9. The girls are going through puberty too which seems like a small thing, but with so many emotions going through them, they feel even more neglected with him pulling away. I have faith that this will get better, but it's a very difficult waiting game. And really it feels like it will be me that will have to suck up the behavior till it does. 

He's right I guess, it doesn't impact me as much as it does him, but she was my contact with his family. She was the one I was closest to. And with her being gone, I feel alienated and not included in the family that felt foreign to me to begin with. He is my world. I hate that he's hurting. I hate that I can't fix him. I hate hurting too and I hate not being able to repair the relationship with him and the kids. It all hurts. 

Posts: 137
Joined: Jul 2017

I'm so sorry that your husband is taking his grief out on you and the kids.  Of course, financially you need him to work and you want him to be with the family emotionally.  But it sounds like he is feeling that the family is too dependent on him.  Ask how you and the kids can support him so he feels his is a life well-lived.  Demonstrate that you and the kids are living your lives to the fullest with your own interests and passion and have room for him to pursue his.  I'm praying you all will be able to ride this out together until it passes.  God bless. 

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