What if I Feel the 'Wrong' Thing?

Teens Ask Helen About Grief

Helen Fitzgerald's column for Beliefnet focuses on the grief of children and teens. If you are a teenager dealing with loss, or a parent struggling to help your children come to terms wih grief, consider Helen's column a resource.





Q1. You wrote about kids getting depressed when somebody dies. That's fine, but what about kids like me who have to spend all their time taking care of a sick mother? Nobody has died in my family, but I am depressed anyway because I feel that life is passing me by. I know I'm being selfish to say this, but I almost wish that she would die. Am I a lost cause, or is there something I can do to save my life from going down the drain?

A1.

The fact that you were able to write me this question tells me that you are not a lost cause. Because you're a teenager only once, I can understand your feeling that opportunities are passing you by--friendships, parties, sports, and, of course, romance. Having to take care of an ailing parent is not part of anyone's agenda for the Ideal Adolescence.

So you're feeling selfish. I'll tell you something, you aren't the only one. When my first husband lay in a coma month after month, dying with terminal cancer, I also had days I secretly wished he would die. You don't have to feel guilty about thinking such a thought, just so long as you do nothing to make it happen.

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It sounds like you are feeling overwhelmed by the pressures on you. You have a right to feel somewhat depressed. Your mother is evidently in failing health, and you are being deprived of the wonderful services that mothers normally provide. Now it's almost as if you were the mother.

Of course, you want your mother to be well cared for, and I'm sure you are doing a good job, no matter how you wish you could be doing something else. But you may not have to miss out on

everything.

Even if you have to be at home nursing your mother, you ought to be able to spend some time on the phone with friends. Discuss it with your parents and work out some ground rules on use of the phone, making sure that it's available for essential calls but clearing certain times for your use. With call-waiting, a relatively inexpensive feature to add to your phone, no one will have to worry about missing a phone call.

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Helen Fitzgerald
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