Wednesday, April 13, 2016

FTM Advice Column: Peter's Grief

Photo: The Guardian. 
Thomas Cox has been a youth and family mediator for almost 30 years. In that time he has been a family minister, been in private practice, run a school for at-risk kids, been the family counselor for an alcohol and drug treatment program and run an Intensive Outpatient alcohol and drug treatment program.

If you have a question you'd like to submit to Thomas, you can do so at tcox@familiesmatterky.org.

Ask Thomas, 

My ex-husband died 1½ years ago. He is the father of both my sons. We were divorced for 2 years prior to his death of a heart attack, he was 35. I have dealt with his death but my oldest son is 9 years old and still struggles. 

He is very demanding and does not want me to have a life. I have tried to date and Peter pitches a fit anytime a guy even calls the house. I put him into a grief support group that includes counseling. 

Peter says he just tells her what she wants to hear so it does not seem to be working. I have met with the counselor also and she encourages me to just give him time and he will get over it. I do not know how much longer I can wait; Peter acts like he is my husband and argues with me about everything. He is demanding and insists on getting all the latest electronic toys and games that are out, and he will not stop complaining until he gets his way.

I want Peter to let me be the parent, I want to be able to tell Peter no and him accept it. I want to be able to date and have another relationship. I have gone out but I have to keep everything secret and they are not allowed to call me at home when Peter is there. I try putting my foot down but Peter wears me down. 

How can I help Peter accept the death of his father?

I’m Lost


Dear Lost,


I do not know that your problem is Peter not accepting the death of his father. That may be part of the problem but some of the other issues you describe also relate to his being 9 years old and he has been allowed to get away with it.

No one can “let” you be mom, just be mom. Understandably you are in a tough spot. You have tried to be sensitive to the sense of loss your son is feeling over the death of his father, I get that. Counseling is a good thing and yes it will take time, but it is also time to resolve some of the “symptoms” he’s exhibiting in expressing his grief. Let him know it’s ok that he is still grieving the loss of his father, you understand that, it’s can be a healthy response… until it’s not healthy.

The behaviors you describe cross the line into “Not healthy”. I strongly encourage you to address it now or imagine the relationship when he’s older. Have a sit down with Peter, ideally with the therapist if they are open to it. Be clear what you will and will not accept anymore, allow him to respond but maintain you are mom, you love him, and you want what’s best for him and his current behavior is not in his best interests.

The therapist should be able to help Peter process and accept that you are an adult and will pick the people you want in your life, males and females, just like him. I do suggest caution before you introduce someone “special” in your life. That’s a life event that deserves to be handled with care and it can help to have a therapist to facilitate the conversation. If the therapist is unwilling to help with this, or you and Peter don’t feel they have a connection, find another! It doesn’t have to be a therapist, is there anybody in his world that you trust that Peter is comfortable talking with like a minister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor, family friend or coach? The key is someone you trust that he has a connection with?

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Thomas is a single parent with three kids, with an 18 year-old senior still at home, and three grandchildren. He is also an award winning professional comedian and motivational humorist, having performed in comedy clubs, schools, and been the keynote speaker for various social, community, and professional organizations.

Currently Thomas is in private practice offering problem solving services and is the Executive Director for Families Matter offering services to children, adolescents, parents and families.

His office is in Newport and can be reached at 859-431-7747.

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