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My husband lost his father very suddenly 2 years ago. Since then, my husband has days where he ‘hates the world’ and takes his anger out on myself and our daughters ( 6 and less than a year old). He says things like ‘my life sucks’ every now and then which I find really offensive, considering our new home and beautiful girls. His best friend also passed away about 5 months after his father. He was closer than close to his best friend and may have had a harder time with that. Today, Father’s Day eve, he’s crying and saying he just wants to remember his father tomorrow. Up until this point I’ve been extremely supportive, but now it’s affecting our daughter, who told me she was nervous that daddy was going to have a temper tomorrow. She knows it’s a holiday and he’s had issues on every holiday since. At what point and how do I say enough is enough, it’s time to be here for your family? Please help.
-I Want My Husband Back
Dear I Want My Husband Back,
His father’s death and his best friend’s death have left him reeling. Some of the people that he was the closest to in this world have left him behind to cope with the consequences. I don’t know the circumstances of their deaths but I’m assuming that it was sudden and out of the blue. These sort of losses can take your breath away. Our mental calculus of what it means to be alive and connected to the world is often through relationships. When that calculus changes, the world doesn’t make sense anymore.
The problem here isn’t just that your husband is struggling, but that he is taking his struggles out on you and your children. This is a problem. When your daughter is asking if dad is going to have a temper tomorrow, the family equation is changing. This is no longer a personal struggle but a family struggle. Your husband no longer has the time to process this on his own and in his own time. Given the stakes at hand it’s time that he does what is necessary to get help.
The problem here isn’t just that your husband is struggling, but that he is taking his struggles out on you and your children.
Processing through grief is not a linear or standardized process. I don’t want to pathologize the grief process, but when it has carried on for longer than 6 months and is affecting someone’s functional ability, it is crossing over into something more than typical grief. Someone experiencing this type of grief should look to therapy as a way to help them through the grief process.
This can happen in a group setting or in individual therapy, but it will certainly involve talking about the deceased person and processing through the thoughts and emotions that come with that. Acknowledging the reality of their death and making meaning of where life is at now is a part of the process. I would definitely look for someone that has experience in grief counseling as it is important to process and proceed through grief as opposed to reinforcing and enhancing the grief. There is no particular grief counseling certification, but a google search for a local grief counselor should turn up a qualified person.
Dear I Want My Husband Back,
Loss is hard. Your husband is experiencing grief that is both raw and difficult to understand. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you or your daughters. From what you have described he seems stuck in a vortex of mourning and depressive behavior. Because you have reached a breaking point and see an impact on your children, it’s time to have a serious conversation with him. You need your husband back and his behavior is impacting your family.
When he is grieving, his capacity for giving to your relationship is far less than normal. He needs to understand that while you love and support him and will continue to do so, you also want to see him get better. Even though you have been extremely supportive, it’s hard to know what he needs and wants. This makes helping difficult.
To be in an intimate relationship with someone who is dealing with grief and depression can feel lonely and confusing.
I would start by looking at changes you can make at home. Is he exercising? Getting enough sleep? Drinking too much? If he’s open to making these life adjustments, you can aid in helping him. If after you’ve attempted some changes at home and see no improvement, he may need something more. I would talk to your husband seriously about getting professional help.
To be in an intimate relationship with someone who is dealing with grief and depression can feel lonely and confusing. Make sure that you find a supportive community too. Approach the journey with him with love, compassion and patience and keep striving forward. He’s fortunate to have such a supportive and loving partner to help him through this life struggle.