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Ask Ellie: Deal with grief before taking on new life challenges

A parent’s death can shake stability and self-confidence. Grief counselling helps to regain perspective.

Dear Ellie: I’m a man, 37, still trying to find his way through life.

Last year, I suddenly lost my father, 64, to a heart attack. This made me think — about what I have and have not accomplished in my life. I still live in my parents’ home, with my mom. I have a job that I enjoy, but I’m not earning the money I’d like.

During my teens and 20s I worked hard, saving as much as possible. I was able to put myself through college. I worked as a designer but never found my niche.

I returned to school for recreation and fitness courses. Over five years working for a municipality, I earn only $30,000 a year.

Family and friends urge me to attend teachers’ college but I need to get full-time work and get on with life.

I’m quite tentative when it comes to dating. It’s been 10 years since I’ve been in a steady relationship. I’m afraid to express all of this to whomever I’d be dating.

I feel like I’ve done everything I was supposed to and still find myself in this position. I welcome your advice.

A Broken Man

You’re not broken, you’re an adult son grieving your father’s death. So have countless people, including me, whose parent died too young.

You were a good son who adopted family values that you respected. But the times during which you sought results, were different from your father’s times. Each generation has different challenges — economies change, and affect incomes. Lifestyles change, too.

You’re still young enough to take on new challenges. But first, deal with your grief.

Your sadness is directing you to move forward in your life. Consider your interests, skills, goals. Seek a career counsellor online (for even one session) and be open-minded. Try attending grief counselling (free at some community and/or religious centres). And begin socializing gently with trusted friends — it will improve your spirits.

Above all, do not give up on yourself.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the woman whose husband suddenly said, “it’s over, there’s someone else.” (March 17):

“My divorce is consensual, though not my choice. Luckily, I have a great relationship with my ex and our kids are grown up adults.

“So, reading about that woman, I feel her pain. However, your advice to her is so right on I have to tell you how much I agree.

“There IS life after divorce and I’m experiencing that now myself, after health issues including severe depression that resulted in a change in medication that gave me a new lease on life.

“I’m happy again despite lots of challenges ahead. I even hope to find a new companion one day, and continue with the things I love doing.

“Great to read your columns.”

Readers Commentary: “I had a lifetime close friend. Her family became my family. Eight years ago, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and spent her final five years in care.

“We regularly spent time with her. We held her hand, sang, talked about the good old days, and often laughed. We had no way of knowing whether she was aware of anything.

“My friend died two years ago. I often think of her, feeling some sadness and much joy. Her family’s still my family. Mostly, I feel an abundance of satisfaction and gratitude.

“Once a good friend, always a good friend.”

Happy Memories

My husband has two married brothers. My sisters-in-law and I are similar ages and we all work full-time. Yet, the other two know each other longer and always huddle together at family events, making me feel like an outsider.

We all have children, so are also equally busy in our home lives. But they’re much closer with each other than with me. I learned only when my husband was out with his brothers, that the two families are going on a week’s vacation together. We weren’t invited.

My husband said it’s because they know this is his busy work period as an accountant, during tax season. But I feel they should’ve made the gesture to treat us as equal “family.” Your thoughts?

Hurt by Sisters-in-Law

The women’s behaviour is childish. However, the brothers’ “tax season” excuse is appropriate. Decide whether you really want to be closer with these women, and do everything as a group? Or enjoy your family’s independence.

Ellie’s tip of the day

A parent’s death can shake stability and self-confidence. Grief counselling helps to regain perspective.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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