Death of a Parent
Andrew was the father of two adolescent children. Andrew’s wife (their mother), died four years earlier. They were a close family altered immeasurably by their sad loss.
Carl (16), withdrew from family life and spent much of his time in his bedroom while Rachel (14), started to misbehave both at home and at school. Her schoolwork deteriorated and her friendships changed. Andrew was concerned about both of his children. He requested family therapy.
Each had their own thoughts and feelings about what was going on in their family. Andrew thought his son may be taking drugs and was concerned about the length of time he spent on screens. He worried that Rachel needed an adult female in her life.
Carl felt overwhelmed with sadness because he had been close to his Mum and the way he was handling it was to be by himself. He wasn’t using substances. Screens were a distraction to avoid the overwhelming sense of sadness he felt.
Rachel was angry. Angry at her friends because they hadn’t lost their mother, therefore did not understand. Angry at her Dad because he wasn’t her mother. Angry at Carl because they used to be close but he never came out of his room. Because she was angry she took it out on people at school and those closest to her.
Counselling involved a combination of individual and family sessions. It took time. Each family member slowly began to process their feelings and adapt to not having their mother around. While the pain never completely went away, they gradually made adjustments to the changed family dynamics.
Family counselling involved helping each one of them express to each other what they were thinking and feeling. They learnt to understand different ways each was dealing with their grief. Carl started to interact more with his Dad and Rachel. Rachel still felt angry, but kept a journal and found that it was an outlet for her feelings. Andrew wanted to try and retain some sense of normality despite the family’s huge loss. Andrew was grieving terribly himself and at times felt so sad he could barely get up in the morning. However, as his children healed so did he. They all started to value each other’s company again.
Time and opening up to each other helped this family on the continuum of healing. Getting over the loss of their mother never went away, but they gradually learnt to establish a new normality, bringing some pleasure back into their lives and adjusting to their mother no longer having a physical presence.
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