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Fiancee depressed by death of both parents

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Both never married, I at 40+ yrs & my fiancee at 60+ yrs planned to marry in 4 mos. In the last 2 mos both of my fiancees parents died and my father had a massive heart attack as my fiancee was burying his Dad. My fiancee had to remove his mother from life support and I have just removed my father from life support; My fiancee loved his parents deeply but was abandoned by both parents at the age of 10, and really has spent his whole life seeking their love. He has postponed out wedding and we may not even remain engaged. He says that he doesn’t know what he wants and that he now has no reason to live. Recently, I found that he considered me the third most important person in his life after his Mom and Dad. He says he still wants me in his life but it doesn’t look that way. Sometimes it looks like he only wants me as a friend. He has a business related justifiable reason for not seeking individual therapy so I have taken him to one couples therapy session. At the time, he wanted to return, but his depression has become much worse since our initial visit. I fear that he may not return. I also want to know how I can best support him. Should I continue to tell him that I love him. He calls me loving names but no longer says I love you. I do not want to put pressure on him. Also, if he does return to couples counsling how do I refocus it from trying to help him deal with his fear of marriage “coming from his parents violent household and violent divorce”, to dealing with his depression?

Fiancee depressed by death of both parents

Answered by on -

A.

What a hard, hard time you have both had in the last few months. I’m very sorry for your losses. And I’m very sorry that your boyfriend’s grief is so devastating to him. Believe it or not, it is usually easier for people to come to terms with the loss of loving parents than abusive ones. My guess is that he was holding on to the idea that he could still get some of the love and affirmation he wanted and needed from them. Now there are no more chances for that to happen. In addition, since he is in his 60’s, I have a guess that all these deaths have confronted him with his own mortality. Most worrisome is his idea that he has nothing left to live for.

If only he could pull out of his grief long enough to see that you are offering him the love and support he has always wanted. He could treasure the time he has left in the world (which, by the way, could be another 30 years) instead of giving up on life and love. But he is too depressed to see that.

Regardless of his “business reasons” for not getting individual therapy, it is probably what he needs most right now. A short course of medication could lift the depression enough so he could think. Therapy that directly addressed his grief and losses could provide him some much needed relief. Please assure him that professionals take the rules of confidentiality very seriously. No one needs to know that he is seeing a therapist.

If he won’t consider that course of action, then please do go back to couples therapy. It is a legitimate use of couples work to talk about your shared grief and how you can support each other in this difficult time. I’d stay away from conversations about marriage right now. The most pressing issue is his passivity and withdrawal – and especially those statements about not seeing what he has to live for. Once he feels better, he’ll be more able to figure out how to accept love for the rest of his life instead of staying stuck in his anger and sadness that he didn’t get it when he was young.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Fiancee depressed by death of both parents

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Fiancee depressed by death of both parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/06/19/fiancee-depressed-by-death-of-both-parents/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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