My wife died 8 years ago from cancer. She died suddenly without warning. My daughter was only nine when she died. Her and her mother were really close. I did take the whole family to counseling. However my daughter refused to go and speak to anyone. I thought that she was fine and dealt with her mothers death up until now. My daughter in is her last year of high school. A few months ago she asked me when was mom coming home and can she go see her. I was taken back by her question and said I would take her to mothers burial. She then responded her mom didn’t really die and she wants her to come home so that she can come to her graduation and see her go to prom. She also said that dead people can come back to life. She said if mom doesn’t come then she isn’t going to prom, graduation, or any other event.Recently she said she is trying to look for her and is writing letters with no return address. She also said she feels abandoned by her mom and doesn’t understand what she did wrong to make her mom go away. I really don’t know what to do. She does go to therapy but doesn’t talk to the therapist. She walks out or sits there in silence. She says she doesn’t trust anyone and doesn’t really talk to me. In all honestly I don’t know what to say or do. I don’t know how to deal about this situation. I don’t want to spend money on therapy and she doesn’t talk or make progress. It’s really breaking my heart to see my daughter like this.

A. You are facing the reality that so many family members face, when they have a loved one with a mental disorder. Neither you nor they can force a loved one to get help. In fact, by and large, the mental health community cannot force an individual to get therapy or take medication. As you are probably well aware, only in the most extreme examples of attempted suicidal or homicidal behavior or similar ideation, can someone be hospitalized against their will.

Your daughter has refused treatment since she was nine years old. According to your letter she is now in therapy but is refusing to speak to her therapist, which is in itself a good example of “refusing treatment.” Many times individuals will submit to the requests of their loved ones to begin therapy. It appeases the requesters and makes the life of the troubled individual, easier. However the troubled individual has merely acquiesced to the notion of seeing a therapist but has no intention whatsoever of actually attempting to get help from the therapist. They instead will go there and say nothing of consequence to the therapist or will mislead the therapist with simple deception. Oftentimes, the client will be openly hostile towards the counseling process and the counselor. Sometimes they are polite and well mannered but remain completely secretive about their problems or are deliberately deceptive so as to mislead the therapist and steer him or her away from the real issues and problems.

The only help that I can offer is the suggestion that your daughter try another therapist or 10. Not all therapists are created equal. Some are better than others. Some are exceptional. The one thing that they all hold in common is that they all have very different personalities because they are obviously different people. A different therapist may bring a different skill level but will definitely bring a different personality to the therapy session. Perhaps a different personality will be more appealing to your daughter. I suggested above that it would be wise, if necessary, to try up to 10 different therapists. If economics allow, this is a wise approach for any client to take.

It is also of importance to note that your daughter has been in denial of her mother’s death since the age of nine. She is now about to graduate from high school. Though your daughter has been in denial of your wife’s and her mother’s death, she has progressed through life as evidenced by her upcoming prom and graduation. This raises the question: How much has her denial hurt her? I am not suggesting that her denial has not hurt her. Certainly she is in denial, but just as certainly she is advancing through life and about to graduate high school.

I wish you the best of luck.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Mar 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). My Daughter Misses Her Mother & I Don’t Know What to Do. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/03/19/my-daughter-misses-her-mother-i-dont-know-what-to-do/