My mother in Law (whom i had a great close bond with) had a sudden heart attatck at the age of 53 when I was taking her to hospital. one and a half years has passed now and I am moving through the grief slowly, but my husband has become detatched, withdrawn, sad, irritable, excessive eating and lost his sex drive. I understand now that he has begun to grieve, but unsure how to help him. He is a bloke. Does not talk about his feelings at all especially not to strangers, he hasn’t admitted it to himself what can I do to help him go through the process but not get lost and not go too deep that he completely detaches from me and our marriage? I am struggling enough to cope with me and my feelings but feel he is the quiet horse that will not be able to pull himself out.
A: You are a sympathetic and loving wife to be so understanding. Your mother in law must have been wonderful indeed for you both to miss her so. Grief is a natural reaction to a loss. Since both of you were grieving, it’s possible that you weren’t able to give each other the kind of support you each needed to move forward. You are coming out of it sooner because your relationship with your mother in law wasn’t as long or as deep. However much you loved her, you are not her child. Your husband is struggling to figure out how to honor his connection with her and yet move on in life without her. There may be regrets or complications in his history with her that make it harder than usual for him to make peace with the loss.
At this point, it sounds like your husband’s grief has precipitated a reactive depression. Sometimes this requires some medication to “jump start” feeling better and counseling with a trained therapist to learn how to manage the intense feelings of loss. With some support, he can transform his memory of his mum into living a life that is in some way a positive memorial to her. I hope you can help your husband understand that great grief is a testament to great loss. There is no shame in needing some help with it. If he fell overboard into an ocean with huge waves, he would not feel ashamed if he needed a life preserver until he could get back aboard. That’s what counseling in this kind of situation is — a temporary life preserver that will help him get back to his life. I’m sure that’s what his mum would have wanted for him.
I wish you both well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Aug 2007
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). my husband has shut down after the death of his mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/08/04/my-husband-has-shut-down-after-the-death-of-his-mother/