Taking the pain away

My dad died back in May this year at the grand old age of 56. He had a short battle with cancer and I helped care for him at the end. As a family, we’ve been so much closer since his passing which has been lovely. My mum is struggling and I don’t know how to support her anymore. She’s having counselling, on antidepressants and is in touch with an online community. She constantly talks about just wanting to die, to make the pain stop and I’m running out of things to say to her. She relies heavily on me, my other 2 brothers not so much. She only ever has meltdowns with me and I feel I’m carrying her grief as well as mine and I’m getting to breaking point. Nothing I say will ever make it better for her, but I’m all out of ideas. I always sit and listen to her, reason with her and she then feels happier but how long can this go on for? My brothers and I are still there 7 days a week taking it in turns, but she occasionally has to have evenings when we can’t be there. It’s on these evenings she always has her dark dark thoughts, and I always make sure I ring her to check in but I dread these evenings now. Wondering whether I’d find it useful to have counselling myself, and if so how I go about it all. He was under the care of our local hospice, who only offer bereavement counselling 6 months after the death…I’m not sure if I should wait that long? My head just feels so muddled.

I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your dad, and that your mum is saying she wants to die. It sounds as though it is really overwhelming for you to hear this and try to support her, as well as dealing with your own grief.

It can be quite common for someone in her situation to have thoughts and feelings about not wanting to be here any more, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are likely to act on those feelings. Has she ever said anything about having active intentions or a plan to end her life? Have you asked her if she has? The Samaritans advise that asking those questions is helpful because it gives someone the opportunity to talk about it and get help, and that it does not make someone suicidal by ‘putting the idea in their head’.

The Samaritans have more advice on what to do if someone talks about wanting to die in this section on their website: If you’re worried about someone.

You can’t take the pain away, and you are doing the right things by being there for her and listening to her, but it does sound as though she could benefit from some additional support. Do you think she would be open to trying counselling, or calling services like the Samaritans, especially at times when you can’t be there? (They’re open 24/7, the number is 116 123, and they are there for anyone who needs support, not just those that are suicidal).

Sue Ryder offers an Online Bereavement Counselling Service, where you can talk to a counsellor via video chat, which might be helpful for you or your mum, if she uses the internet (or you could both sign up separately, of course). There’s no minimum length of time that needs to have passed since the bereavement, although you would first book an assessment, where the counsellor would check that the service is suitable for you, and would also be a chance for you to see if you feel that it would be helpful. Please note, it isn’t a crisis service, so it’s not the best place for someone suicidal, but if someone was assessed as being high risk, the counsellor would put them in touch with more appropriate services. Find out more: www.sueryder.org/counselling

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