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Counseling/How do I help him cope with this?

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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
Alison:  I can only imagine how devastating it must have been for Christoph.  Of course he needs some time.  Having worked as the director of bereavement services for the local hospice, I learned quite a bit from those whom I counseled: there is no time frame for healing - each person does so at their own rate, there are no stages of healing - each person has their own unique way; whatever one goes through during that process is right - trust the body and the mind to seek the path of healing; and healing and grieving happen at the same time - if the focus is only on the grieving, one misses the healing.  The latter is certainly pertinent to you and Christoph.  You wrote that this happened quite recently so it's understandable that he is reacting the way he is - especially given the circumstances.  What you are doing right now is perfect: offering to be there for him, encouraging him without nagging, feeding him (figuratively and literally).  I would just add that both you and he be encouraged to notice the signs of healing rather than the grieving.  Grieving will take care of itself; the healing needs help.  If he is open to seeking professional help, I would encourage him to contact your local hospice office.  They usually have bereavement services often at no cost to the community.  My own experience is that such counseling is usually brief.  Hope this helps.  Please let me know if you have any follow up questions.  Joel

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Joel Simon

Expertise

General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.

Experience

Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website: www.0to10.net

Organizations
A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Publications
Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at www.0to10.net

Education/Credentials
Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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