Mum is so clingy after losing dad

Font Size:

After decades of living together, the death of a partner is obviously traumatic – and not just for the surviving spouse but also for the family. Counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman who has grown resentful of her mum’s behaviour.

•••

The problem
“When my father died just over three years ago, my mother and I went through a rough time, as we missed him badly. It took me a while but, with the help of my family, I got through it.

“My mother had always seemed to be the strong one in their marriage and although I knew she’d need time to adjust after dad died, I was unprepared for just how clingy she would become.

“She wants me to call her every morning, ‘just to make sure she’s still alive’, and she’s always popping in, wanting to chat. I work from home, so this is really difficult for me, but she doesn’t seem to get that. She expects to be included in everything we do, and we can’t even go for a day out without her expecting to join us. She’s been on our last two family holidays and is proposing to come with us again this summer, even though we’ve not decided where we’re going yet.

“If I ever dare do something without her, I get a lecture on what she did for me as a child and why I shouldn’t now neglect her. I am really beginning to resent this emotional blackmail and my family are suffering too. The children are resentful that we can’t do the sort of things they want to do because nanna can’t do them, and my husband slips out the back door whenever she pops in! I love my mother and I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but this must stop.”

Fiona says
“This isn’t healthy for you and it isn’t healthy for your mother, so I agree that things cannot continue as they are. Finding a way to make her back off a little though – without hurting her feelings – is likely to prove tricky. Since the death of your father, she has looked to you and your family to fill the void in her life. Her emotional blackmail of you is one of her many ploys to make sure that you continue to do so. No wonder you’re feeling resentful.

“You don’t mention any wider family, so I’m guessing you’re an only child – but surely your mother has friends, possibly other relations, who might be able to help? It could be that all the friends she had when your father was alive are part of a couple, hence she may be uncomfortable with them now she’s on her own. However, I’m sure they’re not all in that situation.

“As your mother pops in, I’m also guessing she’s fairly local – so do you know any of her friends you could talk to and ask them to invite her to join them in things? Just going out for tea with people she knows would start to make her more independent again. If you allow this situation to continue, your resentment of her will only grow and fester, so you need to talk to your mother before that happens.

“The next time she starts a lecture, don’t get angry and don’t tell her she is wrong – simply tell her how you feel.

Explain that you love her and want to share some time with her, but that you also want some time alone with your husband and children. Make it clear what you are prepared to accept and, if this hurts her, tell her you’re sorry she feels that way but don’t back down.

“She will probably need encouragement to seek support and friendship with a wider circle of people. Perhaps getting to know new people through a bereavement organisation or group would help her. If she doesn’t work – and it sounds as if she doesn’t have much to occupy her time – then perhaps encourage her to take up volunteering of some kind. She needs to get out more and fill her life again, so continue to reassure her that you love her, and I think you will find that she will, gradually, give you more space.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

What advice would you offer?

– With PA

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

RELATED LINKS

My marriage feels more like a friendship

Fiona Caine advises on reigniting the spark when your spouse feels more like a friend.

GPs endorse radical new treatment for chronic health problems

Australia should use social prescribing to counter rising chronic health problems.

The five stages of grief are different for everyone

Understanding the normal trajectory of grief can help us work through the stages knowing there



SPONSORED LINKS

Sign-up to the YourLifeChoices Enewsletter

continue reading

COVID-19

Another vaccine ruled out as second blood clot case emerges

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) has announced that a second case of blood clots is believed to be linked to...

Superannuation News

Super funds fight for changes to reforms

Your Super, Your Future legislation will be enacted within three months and leading players are weighing in on the impact...

Finance

Ambulance costs around Australia

There should be no hesitation when you have to call an ambulance in an emergency situation, but some people rushed...

News

Four tell-tale signs that you may have a blood clot

A blood clot is a clump of cells and protein in your blood. Blood clots form to slow down bleeding...

Finance News

How much you can save on electricity in your home state

As we prepare to head into the colder winter months, there is good news for those worried about heating costs...

COVID-19

What is thrombocytopenia, and why did it stop the AstraZeneca jab?

Anthony Zulli, Victoria University; Maja Husaric, Victoria University; Maximilian de Courten, Victoria University, and Vasso Apostolopoulos, Victoria University Australia's medical...

Wellbeing

Ways to manage death anxiety

Winston Churchill once said: "Any man who says he is not afraid of death is a liar." But while it's...

Food and Recipes

Rick Stein's Autumn Vegie Soup

"One of the rather pathetic realities of the fact that so many of the restaurants in France are disappointing these...

LOADING MORE ARTICLE...