Helping My Brother Cope With His Wife's Death

des_arc_ya_yaJuly 24, 2011

My brother and I were the only two children in our family. He is now 66 and I am 61. We lost our dad ten years ago and lost our mom in Dec. of last year. In April of this year his wife was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer. She died on July 2.

I had kidded him after our mom died that if he would let me I'd just move in with him and sit in his lap all the time. That's just how bad I felt! We were a small family of four and were very, very close.

One of our mom's fears was about how we would make it without her and daddy. She was always so adamant that we stick together and take care of each other and we have done that.

I feel so helpless trying to help him cope with the loss of his wife. They were married forty years and he's still grieving for our mom and now this.

I went to see him this afternoon and when I left we both were just sobbing. We live about 80 miles apart. His children are all grown and gone and he and the dog are alone in their house.

I know all the things that you're supposed to do and say to grieving people, but it seems like with my brother and me nothing is adequate to take away even a little of the hurt.

Please give me some advice if you can spare some and remember my brother in your prayers. Thank you so much.

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I am sorry to hear about the loss of your brother's wife. I would suggest some sort of grief counseling or support group. You may have to try more than one. Sometimes they are listed in the paper, churches have some, YMCA, the social service person at a hospital/medical center and even the funeral homes have resources. This is something you just don't get over fast. Maybe start a journal, find pictures, talk about the good times, and yes even crying. The hurt will dull, but may never really go away. Is he still living in his home? Maybe down the road, he might consider moving into a assisted living home, or an apt in a senior complex. Just make sure NO ONE takes advantage of his being lonely. Also make sure that no one takes advantage financially--that is try to borrow money, sell him something he does not need, or one scam is someone will send/bring him something they claim the spouse ordered but really did not. Make sure all the legal stuff is in order, and someone else is on the checking account to protect him (and you) Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
My praryers are with you and your family.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 10:47PM
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Oh Yaya, I'm so sorry to hear this. I'm sending best thoughts for your brother and for you.
I think the best thing you can do for him is just talk to him. A bug part of the grief I think is the over-whelming loneliness. Check in on him in the evenings by phone.
It is early... July 2nd was a second ago on the grieving calendar. But after some time, might it be possible that he would consider moving closer by you?
Your family is in my thoughts.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 3:08PM
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Ya_ya, I'm sorry to hear about your brother's loss. These are hard times to deal with and gardenspice is right, the grieving calendar is much different. I read once a survey of men and women between the ages of 70 and 79 that shows that some widows and widowers experience high levels of depressive symptoms up to two years after the loss of their spouse.
So, it might be helpful to keep sticking together especially during these hard times. While you may not be able to remove the circumstances that make your bother vulnerable to loneliness, you can still take some steps to lower this hurdle to a manageable height.
A growing body of evidence suggests that religious activities help older people to find meaningfulness and significance in life and to experience happiness, a sense of usefulness and greater life satisfaction.
Religious faith provides people with a philosophy of life as well as a series of attitudes, values, and beliefs that help them interpret and understand the world around them. In addition, religious activities bring older people in contact with other people and thus "reduce the possibility of social isolation and loneliness.
You may try sharing in some of these activities with your brother to help him out.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 12:24PM
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YaYa..there is really nothing you (or anyone) can do to make his journey easier. It's his and he will have to travel it in hes own way and time. Everyone suggest "counseling", but not everyone is comfortable baring their soul around a group of people. I'm one of those. The depression he's going through is part of this's normal and should be experienced. A lot of people suggest "medications" and while they may make the journey easier "right now"...unless he wants to continue taking something from now on...he will, at some point have to experience this "normal" human emotion. It sucks..but that's just the way it is. My husband's Uncle died in 1999. Due to choices in the first year...she is just NOW dealing with the grief of losing him.

Email me...I lost your email address!!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 11:42AM
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Thank you all so much for your help and your ideas. I can use a lot of info that you've given me and I appreciate it.
He is definitely not the type, no matter what, to make rash (bad) decisions during times like this. So, thankfully that isn't a worry.

He's 66, in good health and keeps an immaculate house. I tell him that after I leave his house I go home and mop floors! LOL

Hopefully he'll be in his home for many more years. I realize that the loneliness is something that I just cannot take away. It just hurts to see him like this.

Thanks again. We'll keep on keepin' on, I guess.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 11:29PM
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Hi YaYa,

How are you doing? and how is your brother? Being that you guys live kind of a ways apart, did you feel the need to move closer?

I hope that within these last few days things have gotten relatively better. I know that it is only time that will help. Proverbs 12:25 states: "Kind words will cheer you up." (Today�s English Version) Keeping your feelings, or your brother's, bottled up inside may make it difficult for them to deal with their grief.

On the other hand, discussing their feelings with someone they trust will open the way for them to receive "kind words" of encouragement when they need them most.

What you are doing is so loving and it is a blessing that he has such a close relationship with you.

Hope to hear from you soon,


    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 8:52AM
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Came over here to see what's going on and saw my old post. It has been seven months since my DSIL passed away. I'm still talking to my brother at least a couple of times a day. His grandson just left last night from spending the weekend with him and he said it was rough seeing him go.

The last week or so has been really rough on him and neither of us really has a clue as to why.

I'm hoping when spring gets here and he can get out more things will look a little brighter for him

On a totally diferent note, the strangest thing happened a couple of months ago. A car pulled up in his driveway and he went to the door. There stood a couple that my brother knows, but not well. They ran a local florist and my SIL knew them a lot better than my brother did. Anyway, they were on their way home directly from the man having been in the hospital. When he opened the door the man was crying. He told him, "I know you're gonna think this is crazy but I absolutely could not go home without stopping to see you. I promised that I would. While I was in the hospital I coded and they had to bring me back. During that time I saw (my brother's wife) and she told me, "You're gonna be okay and you're going to get to go home. Please, when you see (my brother's name) give him a big hug from me and please tell him how much I love him and always will!"

My brother said that he and his wife were both just sobbing. Now, whether or not he actually saw my SIL, or not, is not important. As my brother and I said, the fact that this man felt so strongly about what he needed to do was a message from her. My brother was, of course, both saddened and comforted by what the man did.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of you going through the loss of loved ones - may you find comfort in your memories.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 12:00PM
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bump - I really want you all to see this post.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 1:03PM
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Ya Ya: Your Feb 6 post was wonderful. For what it is worth, I believe the man did see your DSIL. My own brother lost his wife on 12/26/11 and I am going through what you are going through. It is so difficult to see someone I love go through this. With our parents, the grief was shared. With a spouse it is an entirely different thing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your brother.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 1:37AM
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Joyce, sorry that I'm just now seeing your post. My sympathy and good thoughts going your way. I hope that you've been able to comfort your brother in some way and that both of you are learning to live with this "new normal".

Things are not great with my brother, but he has made it alone for 13 months. I pray that each day gets easier for both our brothers!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 9:14AM
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I just joined this community so I could congratulate you and your brother for such a beautiful story that you and your family had and still have despite the loses.

I am shire your brother has overcome his bereavement and think that when people have brothers and friends like you two have each other you don't need counselling.

I can see that you truly had a loving family.

best regards


    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 8:55PM
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