our dad needs some help
March 29, 2008 7:16 AM   Subscribe

My siblings and I are trying to find kinds of therapy for my dad, in dealing with the death of our mom/his spouse 17 years ago. He's still very very emotional about any discussion of her, and has never talked to a "professional" about it. Ideas suggestions for types of therapy, and recommendations in the Washington DC area.

Our mom died seventeen years ago, and while everybody is entitled to their moments, my dad is extremely emotional and his behavior is often very volatile. He's always had a temper, but now he has tempter tantrums and gets angry/jealous after spending time with people who have been happily and healthily together for some time. He breaks down at any mention of our mom.

After my siblings and I suggesting therapy for quite some time, and leaving the issue at rest after his dismissal, he's finally brought up the idea himself. We're hoping that he may follow through and accept the help that he needs.

Specific issues we're dealing with: him being a caretaker of her with cancer, twice. Cultural issues, familial conflict (together, with our mom's side of the family), prolonged grief/bereavement. Someone located in the Northern VA/DC area.

Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated. My siblings and I want to get him help, but don't know where to begin.

Thanks much.
posted by jalebi to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
His doctor should be able to suggest names and/or organizations to you. Call and ask for help.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:29 AM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the reply Carol. I should add that he doesn't have a doctor... while he's had some personal education in biology and health, since our mom's death, he does not trust doctors and the medical industry very much. He hasn't seen a doctor regularly for quite some time (while his mental health is debatable, his physical health is quite good). :-\
posted by jalebi at 8:35 AM on March 29, 2008

I apologize that I am not able to give you a specific practitioner in your area, but I may have a suggestion for the type of therapy.

EMDR is a form of therapy that helps people through specific trauma. I saw it profiled on Dateline many years ago about how it was used with very high success on war veterans.

I went through it for my fear of flying and I can say it does work. In my sessions, I would think upon a specific fear or trauma. Meanwhile, I performws eye-movements -- look left then right, left then right -- as directed by either the practitioner's hand or audio cues. I don't know if this is typical, but the practitioner would stop often and we'd discuss my feelings. Indeed, each session is rounded out by traditional talking therapy.

Yes, it seems pretty damn silly sitting there doing this in the beginning. If your father was already hesitant to go therapy in the first place, he may see this as a bunch of crap and not want to do it. My only suggestion for you is to read about and see what you think. If you think it really can help, find a practitioner who is going to help ease him into doing it. If he's skeptical and launched into the eye movements in the very first session, it won't help him to accept the practice, I think.

I love my wife dearly and sometimes wonder how I will cope should the undesirable happen. All of you have my sympathy and hope that he can get through this and be a happier person.


posted by tcv at 8:43 AM on March 29, 2008

Your local Parents Without Partners might be a good starting point -- they may be reluctant to make formal referrals as an organization, but more than likely they'll have anecdotal recommendations from members. (Joining that group or one like it might be good for your dad too.)

There's another --very active-- group in Mont.Co. called SPARK (Single Parents Raising Kids). It's more family-oriented than individual-oriented, but their members might have recommendations as well.

You and your sibs are really great to be this supportive of your dad. My dad died 21 years ago and I can totally identify with the living parent's grief really overshadowing everything else in the family. Taking care of your dad, and walking around on eggshells around him, can make it hard for you to grieve the way you need to. Take care of yourself jalebi.
posted by headnsouth at 8:54 AM on March 29, 2008

I've sent you Mefi Mail with a specific referral. She was my therapist while my dad was dying, and it was hugely helpful.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:10 AM on March 29, 2008

are any of you guys local? suggest it as a family therapy situation, to help YOU. the fact that it will help him too is incidental and doesn't need to be mentioned. but just tell him that you love your mother and are finding his difficulty dealing with her death is preventing you from remembering and celebrating her presence in your lives as much as you would like, and that it's becoming more and more sad for you as you get older, get married, have kids, etc.

tell him that that you would like to go to a therapist to figure out how you can talk about your mom without upsetting your dad. tell him that the therapist needs him there to know what his limits are and therefore better help you. the premise is that this is to help you, not him.

basically, if you make it about you, not him, he'll be more likely to participate.
posted by thinkingwoman at 9:50 AM on March 29, 2008

Look for someone who works with Grief and spousal loss. Your father may be dealing with a loss much more profound than the death of your mother. Either way, a grief counselor will be able to help him address his pain and suffering.
posted by mynameismandab at 4:10 PM on March 30, 2008

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