Needing advice......LONG!

pplantladyJanuary 9, 2006

I have shared here before with the loss of both of my younger brothers and I got some great advice and comfort, so after this weekend....I just knew that I had to come back and ask for your advice on this. My good friend is having a hard time and I don't know what to do or how to help her.

Carol lost her hubby a year ago January 8th. They had been together since they both were in their teens ....23 years I think it was.

She had a party this past Saturday for Mike's we could all get together again and remember the good times. She called me and asked me to be there and to spend the night with her. (I spent the night last year....when he first passed away as she had never been alone and she wanted me there)

When she asked me, she told me that she was going to get drunk and she needed me there to watch out for her and " roll her down the driveway and put her to bed" (She lives in an apt and the party was in the community yard)

First of all, Carol doesn't drink. I found that an unusual request but I figured whatever makes her feel comfortable and get her through this hard day....I am her friend and I will do whatever she needs.

When I first walked into her apartment I did let out an audible gasp! I didn't mean to but I was so shocked. There were literally piles of stuff everywhere. You could hardly walk without stepping on something or tripping.

Now neither Carol or I have immaculate homes. They were always comfortable and clean....but lived in. This was not Carol!

Both sides of the bed had piles of stuff so in order to go to bed, you had to crawl up from the bottom while also climbing over stuff.

The kitchen , which is small, had crap everywhere. Cereal boxes on her stove, bags, trash, tupperware lids on the floor. I wanted to just cry at the sight of it.

Carol is very strong and she puts up a good front.....but when you see how it really is's heartbreaking. We talk on the phone a lot but I hadn't been over in a few months......she is not doing well.

She almost died a couple of years ago from Pancreatitis. She was in the hospital for two weeks.....9 days in ICU. Mike and I took turns being there. She is having problems with that again and will not go to the doctor. The last time she went they were trying to tell her that she needed to stop and go on with her life. The doctors were also trying to get her to a therapist. She will have none of she stopped going. This could kill her!

In her home she has one wall with a huge picture of Mike and angels everywhere. She has his ashes in a chest underneath this shrine......and in a locket around her neck. I got up in the middle of the night Saturday and she was laying on the living room floor....holding Mike (ashes). She had a pillow and a blanket and she just wanted to sleep with him. I told her to come to bed....she needed to sleep.....and to bring him if she wished and put him in the headboard. (she was afraid he would fall off of the bed) That way she could still touch him but get some rest. She drank until 3:00 am and I was so glad that she wasn't ill.......but I was sooo tired.... it was do what makes you feel comfortable....but get to bed and get some rest.

I don't know how to help her. We are like sisters....I've offered to help her get her house in order......go to the doctors with her.....come over weekly.....

All of that just seems like a bandaid though.....HOW DO I HELP HER?

Does anyone out there have any advice that can get her through this? She needs to go on....but obviously can't. After I lost my last brother...I was put on Zoloft and that helped me immensely. She will have no part of that.

What can I do????

My heart is breaking for her.......


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Wow, Patti, I wish I had an answer for you. Carol needs a reason to keep living. I gather she has no children? No pets? Does she hold down a job?

I've often said that our environment reflects our state of mind. I've created (and lived in) conditions of squalor myself. That sort of mess reinforces the grief and depression that created it.

If she's prone to pancreatitis, the last thing she should be doing is drinking. It's possible she's drinking alone at night to numb her emotional pain. After my daughter died I had an uncharacteristic urge to drink every night for weeks. I didn't give in to it because I've seen too many people develop alcoholism from drinking for reasons like that. After a while it subsided.

Patti, I suspect there's a reason for Carol's self-destructive behavior, and goes back to my first paragraph above. You can't force her to the doctor, but can you think of anything--volunteer work, maybe?--to distract her at least some of the time?

Also, does she have any family you could talk to about this? I don't know if some sort of intervention would help, but it's something to think about.

Best of luck. You're a good friend.


    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 10:23AM
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Contact a grief support group, or the social services at your hospital or talk to your friends Dr/nurse etc for help. She seems to be on a self destruct program and apparently has nothing to live for. One day at a time, even one hour at a time. Try to get her involved in an outside volunteer group, where it be church, senior citizens, pets, etc. She is asking for help and you need help finding it to aid her. Is there senior centers in your area, also the AARP has helpers all over the US. Sounds like she needs medical help, maybe a different dr will be more supportive. Is she near a large medical center, or a teaching hospital? Here in ND we have UND, which a lot of young people attend and they are great. They listen and work with people. Be firm, use tough love and let her know you really care. Is there others that will help you kind of form a mini support group, with someone going over there daily, just for a very short period of time> Are her bills getting paid>..
Prayers and hugs for whatever you do.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 12:31PM
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Susan and Mari,
Thank you both so much for responding. I truly appreciate your suggestions.
Carol is on disability for arm and neck problems caused by working some years ago. Before Mike died she took on babysitting two small kids which she is still doing TG. That has enabled her too keep her apartment and her bills paid. She is a very responsible person. (I am a bit worried about the kids being there now though after seeing her place)
Carol also has a son and his wife that just live down the street and they are with her alot (early 20's). They've gotten in a regular Sunday night routine of taking her with them when they go bowling on their league and then out to dinner. She enjoys that.
Carol also has a cat that is her fur-kid and keeps her company.
There are lots of neighbors and friends around her daily that she visits with.
She did tell me that a few of the other ladies have offered to help her clean but she told me that she was embarassed to have them help. She didn't want them going through her things......but it would be okay if I were to help her.
She often talks about the day in the future that her son will make her a grandmother. She looks forward to that.
I just don't understand that she seems to be doing well and saying all of the right things but in reality she is dying inside and doesn't care. I have never lost a partner/hubby.....heck I've never gotten that close to anyone so I don't know how one would really feel. I know how it feels to lose siblings but does the loss feel even greater if it's a spouse?
I will try to find a grief support group locally for her and maybe go with her a few times to get her feet wet. I also think that I could get her doctor information from her son and maybe give him a call and see if he can help or just what his thoughts are and go from there. I don't think that there is a teaching hospital near us but thank you so much Mari for all of the great suggestions. I will start looking into some of the local resources and see if I can get some help for her.
I really am surprised that a few of her friends didn't let me in on this. Maybe they haven't noticed.....although just being in her apt it would be hard not too. Carol does have a tough exterior also and maybe she's been telling the others what they wanted to hear too. I just don't know.
I came here asking for some advice and I did get some wonderful suggestions.
Thank you both so much!
Hugs to you,

PS: Something else that I forgot to mention....
She has personally lost quite a few people this year including her father. They were fairly close and she watched him die a horrible death just a few months ago. Two of her aunts died this year (not very close), her ex-father-in-law (kind of close) and a few aquaintences. She has been through a very tough time this year.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 8:51PM
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I apologize! I just realized your name is Marie ND and here I read Mari (end) LOL. I thought that sounded different LOL.
My apologies.... Marie... nice to meet you.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 11:03PM
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Patti, I'm so sorry for your friend! You've already gotten some very good advice and I don't think I can add to it.
Keep us posted.
I have a friend who lost her husband yesterday morning, very suddenly, from a massive heart attack. He was only in his 50's. I want to help her any way I can, also. It's so hard to see people you love grieving and really, all they want is for their loved one to come back. Of course, we can't do that. Makes one feel so helpless.
Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2006 at 10:39AM
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I actually went through/am going through that with a friend. HEr loss was a divorce/death of son in accident/loss of job. Very overwhelming for her. PLUS her houskeeping skills were good BECAUSE of husband MAKING her. SHe is just not a good housekeeper. Now add mother dying, father dying and she just has a hard time getting herslef to throw ANYTHING out. It's like that is letting go of somethign and she just can't. Right after Matthew (the son) died (about 2 months), we convinced her to help us clean the house. We promised NO JUDGEMENT. It was HELL. THe garbage we found was overwhelming. SEriously disgusting. It was almost a garbage house. Cat sh!t everywhere. But we got it clean. Fast forward 3 years...had to be done again. Now we realized she is just a lazy housekeeper. Ex threatened to take kids away. One problem we found was she couldn't go into the laundry room (where litter box for cats is) because it meant going past Matthew's (now empty, in more ways than one obviously) room, she couldn't do it. SO three of us friends walked her down there, holding her hand. We stopped in the room, talked, cried, comforted. Got her into the Laundry room (she'd been going to the laundrymat for those years!!) and she saw the horrible mess/stench, etc. We told her we couldn't help her again. WE'd support her all we could, but she'd have to do the work herself. We came up with a plan for her (she followed it for a while), and left it up to her to help herself. Now mind you the latter was about 5 years AFTER Matthew's death, when she finally had more of a handle on her grief.

SO that all said, my suggestion. Sitdown with your friend. Tell her that you can see that life has obviously gotten too much for her. She has to start taking steps to help herself, and they will have to be baby steps. Since you understand she won't see a therapist (doesn't matter her reason's, she's just not ready, everyone grieves in their own way), she HAS to for her health get her house under control. You can help her, if she wishes (and you can). Now this may take you a week, one room per day may make it manageable for the two of you. You may have to rent a dumpster. We should have!!! Pleanty of garbage bags (get her involved so she sees how much this has gotten out of control). And start in one corner of one room and CLEAN, BOX and THROW. WHen you're done, you'll probably have to go through the house again (you know how when you clean, you have to re-clean). I would suggest NOT boxing up a lot, but rather THROWING a lot.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 10:59AM
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Carol might have had an inner packrat that came out with her husband's death OR she could be hanging onto everything because of the losses she has sufferered. Our minds do funny things to us sometimes and give things power that have no power. I have a brother and SIL who live like pigs and own a store that is a total stinky mess. The only way they would let us help clean it up would be if we were to walk over their graves to get there.
If Carol keeps it up she will lose the kids she is babysitting. If she said you could help her by all means do that but remember to get that trash off the property as quickly as possible. The more it piles up, the more overwhelming it will be.
Good luck - you are a good friend...

    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 2:13PM
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I am new to this site so I have just now seen your post and felt compelled to respond.

April 24 will mark one year since I lost my 41 yr old husband to liver failure so I can say first hand that this is a life's challenge for which there is no manual. It's like being plucked up from your old life and plopped down on a new road that you MUST travel, but given no road map. You are not even given a chance to prepare for the journey, even if your spouse suffers a lengthy illness prior to their death.

Fact is, the world changes with one click of the clock. At 9:45 a.m. on 4/24/25 I was a loving wife; at 9:46 I was a widow. I didn't know how to do that; still not sure I've got it figured out, but I'm healing.

Please feel free to email me and I can give you many sources to help your friend. She may, like me, not want to talk "face to face" with anyone and would prefer the ability to go to one of many online support groups where she can feel more "anonymous" yet still find understanding of the roller coaster of emotions she is now on.

Love, Hugs, and Prayers,
j lynne

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 12:51PM
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