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Question
Alright, well, my name is Alison, and I am 24. I just recently got engaged to my fiancť, Christoph, who is 33. He is the sweetest man I have ever met, and he treats me so well. He is so charming, and he is such a gentleman. Well, he was very close to his father when he was younger, but he passed away when Christoph was only 15 years old. His father was a policeman, and I think that influenced Christoph a lot, because he is a bail enforcement agent now (basically a bounty hunter) and he takes great pride in what he does. Anyways, after his father passed, he became very close to his mother. He is an only child, so it was just him and his mom for a long time. Well, Sunday night, we went over her place to visit her, and found that she had killed herself. Christoph was completely distraught (understandably) and inconsolable. She never showed any sign of depression, and now Christoph says he feels like heís responsible for her death because he never did anything to help her. He insists that this is his fault and that he was a bad son. Every Sunday morning, he would buy both his mother and I flowers and we would bring them over to her when she came back from church, and he spent loads of time with her so she wouldnít get lonely. I have never seen such a good son.
Anyway, he was given some time off of work, since performing a job like his in such a state could be dangerous for him. He has spent a lot of time just laying on the couch staring off into space. I donít know what to do for him. I suggested to him that we go for a walk or do something and he just told me he didnít feel up to it. Again, understandable. I made him his favorite foods and spent a lot of time just sitting with him. Last night he refused to come to bed, and he fell asleep on the couch at around 3 am and he was up by 6 am. Iím just worried about him, and I want to help, but I donít want to pester him. What can I do? Itís killing me seeing him like thisÖ How can I help him through this?

Answer
Hi Alison. I understand your strong wish to help him. Two things you can do are: [1] see if he is a "Grown Wounded Child" [GWC]. His guilt6 and blaming himself [a reality distortion] are potential symptoms of this.

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/gwc.htm  and  http://sfhelp.org/gwc/assess.htm.

If he is psychologically wounded, he'll probably have trouble grieving his losses [and accepting help]. You can help understand this by studying online "lesson 3" here:

http://sfhelp.org/grief/guide3.htm

The third thing you can do is take care of yourself while he grieves his losses. Your presence and acceptance are priceless gifts. Encourage him to talk about whatever he feels, without "correcting" or reasoning:  http://sfhelp.org/cx/skills/listen.htm.

Taking care of yourself includes not taking on responsibility for easing his pain. Only he can do that when he's ready. If his grief interferes "significantly" with his health, consider hiring a professional grief counselor (ref. Lesson 3).

Incidentally, if he is a GWC, assess yourself for inherited psychological wounds. We GWCs often [unconsciously] choose each other as partners.

This is a lot to absorb, so take your time with it. If you have questions about any of this, please ask! - Pete  

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Peter Gerlach, MSW

Expertise

I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.

Experience

I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

Organizations
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; SelfGrowth.com Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

Publications
# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at http://sfhelp.org These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

Education/Credentials
A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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