Home Australia DEAR CAROLINE: My siblings live abroad, I don’t have children and now my mum’s death has left me lonely and empty

DEAR CAROLINE: My siblings live abroad, I don’t have children and now my mum’s death has left me lonely and empty

by Elijah
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DEAR CAROLINE: My siblings live abroad, I don't have children and now my mum's death has left me lonely and empty

Q I’m having a hard time getting back on track with my life after my mother’s death. She suffered from dementia, and for the last five years I was her primary caregiver, able to take a break just three days a week to continue my work while we paid for part-time care with her savings.

My siblings, a brother and a sister, couldn’t really help me as one lives overseas and the other 200 miles away with a husband and family – hence most of the work that falls to me.

Since her death five months ago, I realized that I had gradually given up everything to take care of her. I was so exhausted by the combined demands of her care and my job that I had very little time or opportunity to socialize, so I let my friendships fall by the wayside. I’ve been divorced for 20 years and my last relationship ended five years ago, partly because he said I never had time for him.

I don’t have children, by choice, but now I think that if I had, maybe I would have someone to turn to. I feel so alone and empty. I have two kind friends who have tried to encourage me over the years, but I feel like such boring company.

I’m only 59, but when I look in the mirror and see a disreputable, scruffy, troubled woman, I wonder what happened to me. Where do I start?

DEAR CAROLINE My siblings live abroad I dont have children

A I’m sorry to hear that. Dementia is devastating. I assure you that you are not boring. You’re exhausted, grieving and most likely depressed (see your GP just in case). Start with the basics to boost your confidence: a makeover, a new hairstyle, pretty clothes. Also have your own physical health checked; caregivers often neglect their own health, including dental and optician appointments.

I can hear your social anxiety loud and clear. It may seem very intimidating, but agree to go with your two adorable friends to a new group or class, or even just to dinner, so you can get used to interacting with the whole world again. Please also contact your old friends.

It often seems difficult when it’s been a while, but imagine if it were the other way around: would you be happy to hear from a friend you haven’t spoken to in ages? Of course you would, and so would they. Exercise is also crucial for well-being. Could you handle a small dog? It would bring joy, make the house a lot less empty – and also get you out of it each day.

Please seek grief counseling and support groups: cruise.org.ukfor example, or mariecurie.org.uk. Once you begin to expand your social network, you will soon discover that there are others like you who share similar experiences and, therefore, a wealth of empathy as well as understanding for what you have experienced .

What can I do to help my stepson?

Q I am deeply worried about my stepson. I have two adult children from my first marriage, but my wife’s youngest son is 13, and when he’s not in school, he barely leaves his room. When he does go out, mainly for meals, he is uncommunicative at best.

I fear he spends all his time on his phone with the horrors hidden there. I get along with him pretty well and have tried to talk to him about it, but he just says he’s fine.

My wife doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem. She says boys are like that at his age and he’ll get over it when he grows up. We started arguing about him quite often.

A I agree that your stepson’s removal is a concern. Teenagers (especially boys) can become surly and uncommunicative when they reach adolescence. But it seems so much more than that – and, as you say, the internet poses a huge threat to the mental health of our young people.

You need your wife’s cooperation but, of courseshe will feel like she knows her son better than you we can therefore see an interference there. However, she seems disengaged and I wonder why. Does she really think there is no problem, or perhaps she has a rather fragile relationship with her son following his separation from his father and is reluctant to risk to move him further away?

You seem like a caring father-in-law, so I urge you to continue, because he clearly needs help. Start by contacting familylives.org.uk And internetmatters.org to discuss your concerns. So approach your wife again. Tell him that you care about his son very much and that you think it is important to work as a team to help him.

If you have a problem, write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email c.west-meads@mailonsunday.co.uk. You can follow Caroline on X/Twitter @Ask_Caroline_. Caroline reads all your letters but regrets not being able to respond personally to each of them.

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