Dear Dr. Archer,
I'm 20 years old, and my dad passed away last year. It caused great depression within myself and my family. I realize this is normal, but after a year, my mom has still not returned to her old self.
My mom now has a temper, and she will shout at me for no reason whatsoever. What should I do to help my mom return to her former loving self? Thank you for your help.
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father. Losing a loved one can be a very trying time, but keep in mind that each of us mourns the loss of a loved one differently and we cope in our own way.
Some people cry and others get angry. The stages can pass quickly or they can linger.
For your mom, try to be understanding and patient, and realize that her anger is not because of anything you've done. Take a look at what makes her angry to the point of shouting. If she fusses at something as simple as washing dishes, it’s not about you or her, it’s about her loss. If she gets angry and says it's "her house," she may feel like she's losing control and is using anger to reassert it.
My advice: Frequently assure your mom that you love her. Tell her you will get through this together. Encourage her to talk; if not to you, then a trusted friend, family member, clergy or even a therapist if she'd prefer. While it's good to let her vent, she should not cross boundaries and hurt you. That's taking it too far and should be avoided and you may have to gently remind her.
For your part, Sheela, take a step back and let her do what she can without you. It will make her feel like she can run her household on her own, and if she needs help you can be there to back her up. Spend time with your mom just to talk or do something fun together. No chores, no problems, no issues -- just positive, enjoyable things that the two of you can enjoy together. She will cherish those moments.
Above all, let your mom know that you miss dad, too, and that you're proud of the job she's doing. Let her know you're there for her any time she needs you. That, Sheela, can be the best gift you can give her right now.
Time truly does heal most wounds, so I think this will gradually get better. Keep us posted, Sheela. I wish you the best.