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Supporting children in a time of loss

 

Question: My wife is in her fifth year of her journey with Alzheimer’s. Both of our families live about five hours away, but our daughter, who is a Special Ed Teacher, and our son, who is in college and working full time, are both very good and helpful in caring for their mother. I am still working full time, primarily to pay debt and so that we have insurance.

My wife and I had trouble having our two kids and it took us 15 years. She and my daughter have always been good together, and they have always been very great friends, both with great communication skills. My daughter has always shared her problems, and received great support from my wife. Now my daughter is having similar problems conceiving a child. She is going through the same heart break that my wife suffered, and I am heartbroken too because her reliable friend cannot talk to her anymore. And you know us men, we are not good at helping with this kind of a problem. What can I tell her and where can she find support? I know both of my young adult kids are struggling with the slow disappearance of their mother, and I believe I need to find support for them. They are my support, but I do not think I am very good at helping them.

Dr. Amy: Your daughter is very fortunate in her relationship with her mother. How wonderful that they had this closeness for so many years—and how sad that she is now losing her mother and best friend. Kudos to you for recognizing what’s going on and reaching out for help. Often people don’t realize that when a family member needs care, this affects the entire family, not just the caregiver and the person who needs care.

You express yourself with a lot of emotional intelligence, which leads me to question whether you are perhaps selling yourself short. If you were able to give your wife emotional support during the years you struggled to have a family, perhaps you can also support your daughter and your son.

In addition to the support you may be able to provide, I encourage you to find a support group in your area. Your daughter can go to an infertility support group, which you can find online or through your local hospital. You all may benefit from a dementia support group. You can find one by consulting the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org/apps/we_can_help/support_groups.asp

We all need to grow our support network, so that we have people we can turn to as life changes and throws us the next curve ball. I especially encourage you to consider joining a support group or reaching out for support. The next stage may bring you  more changes to navigate and you—and your wife and children—will need your strength. I wish you peace.

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