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Shippy's avatar

How can I be helpful whilst retaining my own sanity?

Asked by Shippy (9870points) January 20th, 2013

I was going to word the question, how can I help my son with his grieving process? He lost his dad in November. But I realize as I type this, I am totally to engrossed in it. I am so worried about him that I am barely focusing and tired all the time.

So I probably need to know how to deal with myself?

He cant support himself financially. His girl friend keeps breaking up with him. I feel like I’m on their roller coaster. Meantime, being Bipolar I have a pretty inbuilt roller coaster of my own. Realistically yes, I know he should work and earn, but that wont happen today or next week. He is trying, he is busy working like a dog in ‘her’ business. Which to me is a great thing. But that work is not earning them money today, nor next week. My son will inherit a lot, but that takes time.

Please any advice, wisdom, thoughts very appreciated. (I feel very alone with this as my SO although caring etc., I don’t think realizes the gravity of the situation I am in). My son from now on is going to look to me, Bipolar mom.

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15 Answers

hearkat's avatar

As in previous discussions on this topic, my opinion is that you need to step back and let him learn how to manage his own affairs – especially considering your plans to move far away in the not-too-distant-future.

So be there for him for emotional support and to offer guidance, but avoid doing things for him – as if you were already out of the country. This way he will not grow dependent on you the way he was with his father, because you know that will make your leaving that much more difficult for you both.

You might consider searching for social resources for people in similar situations like your son – adults who for some reason are building or rebuilding their independence and could use some practical guidance and resources. We’ve also discussed making sure he’s getting mental-health services in dealing with his grief and this transitional time.

zenvelo's avatar

A task for you is to disengage your self from your son’s emotions. It’s hard to watch a son go through something, but he has to grieve himself, no one else, including you, can do it. Don’t tell him what he needs to do, don’t do things for him, just be there to listen.

Do you have anyone close you can talk to that won’t try to fix you, will just listen? We Flutherites are willing to listen, but it is so much better with a friend who will just listen and give you a hug at the end.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

It is his life and the life lessons are his. Let him grow and grieve.

Support if it is asked for, either emotional or monetary and only if you can handle it.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Your most important question is

So I probably need to know how to deal with myself?

Ay, there’s the rub.

That’s the question we all must answer, and we spend a lifetime doing that. Learning to deal with self has plagued mankind since Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We all examine our selves over and over again throughout the day.

Lucky is the person who can be at peace internally.

I really feel your dilemma, @Shippy. You can’t abandon your son, and since he lives with you, it’s so easy to get caught in his romantic travails. Your immediate situation is a difficult one.

I have a few ideas. I hate to say advice, because I really hate to give it. These are suggestions. You can take them or leave them.

First, breathe. Do it deeply. Right now. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Push all the air out with your diaphragm and then push some more. Now breathe in through your nose slowly, ever so slowly. This practice relaxes your diaphragm, and the tension and stress cannot reside there. I learned this technique from my therapist. It’s tried and true.

Second, I don’t know what the streets are like around where you live in S.A. If possible, when you are feeling tense or overwhelmed, can you tie on your shoes and run? I mean literally run. Can you go for a jog or a walk? Exercise is the best proven medicine for staving off many ailments. It will help your mood like nothing else. It removes you from the situation at hand and puts you into the air.

Third, are you currently on medication for the bipolar disorder? I know we’ve had questions about this in the past, but I am terribly sorry, I just can’t recall whether you were able to find any help there in S.A. If you’re taking any medicine for it, then don’t neglect that schedule. Take them as prescribed. If you’re not on any, then repeat the breathing and exercise as often as possible.

Fourth, are you still planning your move back home next month as was previously discussed in other threads? I know you will get the medical help you need there.

Finally, can I suggest you have a heart-to-heart discussion with your son about your situation? Describe to him your feelings and ask for some boundaries. I might suggest you request that he not include you in any talks about his girlfriend. You don’t need that added weight. If such a thing exists where you live, find a grief counselling group where persons in like situations go to aid each other through the process of losing loved ones.

You have my thoughts and prayers and best wishes for brighter, lighter days ahead.


wundayatta's avatar

It seems like there’s a lot to worry about. You and your son are both grieving. Your son can’t support himself. His relationship is rocky, and you are leaving the country and moving to a new life and a new relationship. These things are all huge on the major life stressor index. And oh yeah. You’ve got bipolar disorder.

So I think the first thing to acknowledge is that you are dealing with way more than you may have ever dealt with at once. That means that you probably can’t do everything at once. You’re going to need to put off what you can put off.

You’re also going to have to be ok with lower standards for success. You can only do a little bit for all these tasks, or something for some and nothing for others. At least, for now.

I think you can’t help your son deal with his problems with making a living or with his girlfriend for now. Maybe in a few years, but not now. You can, perhaps, help him with his grief. You can both share your grief together, if possible. I think that if you can do the grief thing together, it will help you both.

The other thing I guess is preparing to move. You’ve got packing to do and administrative work and financial work. I don’t know if you have a place to live yet where you’re moving. These are things I think you need to focus on now. Then, when you are settled, you can focus back on the more long term issues regarding your son and his life.

Just a few thoughts. I don’t expect you will follow them, necessarily. You know much more about your life than I do, but really what I’m hoping is the prioritization system will make sense to you. Focus on immediate priorities and set aside things that can be set aside for a while.

glacial's avatar

@Shippy, I am finding it hard to understand why supporting your son is making your life difficult. It seems to me that many of us react to your story by thinking your son is too dependent on you. My question is – do you feel he is too dependent? If you don’t, can you tell us why are you in such distress? This might help us to come up with more helpful advice. If you do feel he is too dependent, will you take steps to help him become more independent? What actual steps are you thinking of taking to encourage that?

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

I do not know how to answer this. I basically have been in that same situation. I feel with my daughter that I have abandoned her and I want to give you kudos @Shippy for recognizing that you need to do something else. I think I myself have gone way to far and now just sit back and watch life take place, if I don’t do this I feel like I screw things up, that’s how I feel and I can’t change it.

November for us was 3yrs so I’ve been watching life go by for 3 whole yrs and I do not think I contributed anything to my daughters situation except tension, but through it all she has grown into a remarkable young woman. She has pretty much realized that even though mom is here she is not in the building..I’ve created that and it’s my fault, so I believe she thinks she cannot depend on me, I haven’t much anyway.

I just need to say @Shippy, I got this question and although I cannot offer much help I want to say good for you for recognizing it shows you still have passion left, I lost mine 3yrs ago.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

Aside from the emotional investment involved, you need to view the situation objectively.

Your son needs to make arrangements to find either a better paying job or a different job altogether to gain some solid ground. It may be a good idea to distance him from his girlfriend since an unstable relationship is not ideal for a grieving individual.
Your place, as a mother, is to support him, help him but not at the expense of.your own health because that benefits neither him or you.

Grievance is a post mortem process, understand that after a reasonable amount of time it will pass, soothe his pain with a focus on the next step in both of your lives.
As far as you’re concerned, how old is your son? You need to relieve yourself,recognize that your son should not be in a permanent situation and that one of you needs to begin thinking rationally

CWOTUS's avatar

There’s some excellent advice above. I think the only thing that I have to offer is a little bit of dissociation. That is, your son needs to dissociate the grieving process from the “working for a living” process and from the “girlfriend issues”. But you need to dissociate, too. You need to dissociate your own grieving from your parental instincts to aid your son in his financial and emotional struggles.

Aside from that, I think you need to disconnect – entirely – from your son’s problems with his girlfriend. It might even be advisable for you to ask him not to discuss problems of any sort (between him and his girlfriend) with you. You’re past the point of being able to assist him with those problems, and if you take on more than you can handle, then he’s going to be dealing with a “failed you”, as well as his other problems.

It’s sort of a lifesaving situation. When I was taught water lifesaving techniques many (many) years ago, we were advised that first and foremost we must never ever let the drowning person take us down, or there would be two victims. The best way to rescue a drowning victim is from the shore with a rope or a life ring or a stick, or from a boat with a life ring, rope or oar that the person can grab. You’re in the most dangerous rescue position of all: you’re in the water with him. It’s absolutely vital that you not become a victim yourself.

Fortunately this is not actual life-and-death stuff right now. But the principle is the same; you need to avoid a close entanglement with his problems. Give him advice and assistance from a distance and when you can do it without getting into severe difficulty yourself.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for both of you is just not pick up the phone when it rings.

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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well, when it rains, it seems. I do not know a lot about your and your son and your parenting, so here goes…He’s got a lot going on and I am not sure he’s got enough coping skills but no time like the present to have him develop some. Clearly he needs to end that no-good relationship, but you can’t make him. Obviously, he needs to figure out his financial affairs (who doesn’t?) but you can’t do it for him. As for the grieving, his grieving will be different from yours and will take place whether you want it or not. So do not lose sleep over it, life will continue for the both of you. I have never dealt with a Bipolar condition so I am sure it’s not fucking picnic, either but that is your picnic and you can let your son help you with that as you help him. The ethic of care, which I believe in, is about interdependency and being there (even if for a moment, sometimes, for an hour) for each other especially if both of you are ‘broken.’

ETpro's avatar

My daughter was biploar. She had some terrible times, to the point of acting out in public and ending up in jail then a psycho ward. Once diagnosed, it was amazing when being on the proper medication did for her. So my first concern is for you. You’ve gained an incredible number of overstress all of a sudden. If it feels like it’s not managed, it’s not. See your doctor and let them know what all is going on. @CWOTUS’ lifeguard illustration is spot on. You are in the water. First, make sure you can swim, then you can turn you attention to saving the “victim” from drowning. It does no good to have two victims. The goal is none. When you are stable ans staying above the water, then you can see more clearly to save your son.

I wish you the very best in this. And when it all seems like too much, remember the truism, “This too shall pass.” And you can pass that on to your son, as well, in his time of testing.

HolographicUniverse's avatar


My only issue with that is that parents SHOULD be willing to assist their child in any issues they are having the best they can

This isn’t “sink or swim”, this is a mother concerned with the well being of her offspring…

CWOTUS's avatar

@Shippy has demonstrated a great willingness and “want” to help her son, @HolographicUniverse. The problem isn’t “lack of will”. It’s obvious from her question that she needs advice on “how can she?” without going down the rabbit hole herself.

If I didn’t already believe that I probably wouldn’t have even entered the thread.

Shippy's avatar

@everyone Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, I am going to read and reread all these posts, they are all valuable to me. Plus will serve as a reminder when I go off course.I can’t thank you all enough.

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