How do I deal with grief and want to keep going?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 30, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have bipolar II depression and was first diagnosed when I was 40 years old. I have struggled and lived with this for 27 years. I've had psychotherapy, taken medication, been in and out of hospitals etc.

I was married 23 years the first time, 5 years the second and failing at this third marriage of 3 years. My son, age 47, was found dead in his home in May. He, too, was severe Bipolar 1, schizophrenic, but took medication and was not struggling financially at all. His death was devastating to me as we had a very poor relationship since my divorce to his dad. Our relationship was up and down like a roller coaster, depending on where each of us was at the given time.

I have 4 children in all and two are bipolar, one living in assisted environment. The two healthy children, a boy and girl, are married, have children and have wanted nothing to do with me for years now. I am dealing with my son's death all by myself and it has been 6 months now. I have continued to write my other children, ask for forgiveness as to whatever I did to hurt them. They just don't answer and have told me they do not want me in their life.

For ten years now I have continued to acknowledge them on their birthdays, holidays, etc., with cards and gifts. They do not ever respond or acknowledge me in any way. It has been very difficult on birthdays and Mother's Day to fight my depression and sadness and keep going.

My question is now that my son is dead, how do I keep on "wanting" to live. My family and children reached out to my ex-husband on the loss of his son and have been very supportive, but no one has made any attempt to reach out or understand that I lost our son too. I have no one to talk with or go to who would care or understand what I am feeling. My Faith has kept me alive to date as I do not want to disappoint God by taking my own life. Each night when I go to bed I ask God to please, please take me home to be with Him and my son....however the next morning my eyes open and I am still here. There is no more I can do for anyone here. So what can I do to want to keep going when I am not needed by anyone? I have buried my mom, my dad, my only sibling (brother) and now my son, whom I loved so much. What makes one want to go on in life, when they are no longer wanted or needed by anyone?

Thanks for any opinion you can give me.

Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

I am very sorry to hear about all you have been through. It sounds like you are now feeling terribly alone and life is overwhelmingly empty. I would suggest several things for you to do right away. The first is to be sure you are working with a good psychiatrist and be sure your mood disorder is being properly treated. Some of the difficulties you describe may be, at least in part, a result of depression, and that is a treatable condition. Second, I would strongly suggest you work with a counselor or psychologist, if the psychiatrist you work with does not provide talk therapy. Many psychiatrists focus primarily on medication issues. You could get much relief talking to a mental health professional about the terrible losses you have suffered, and finding ways to deal with your understandable grief. A therapist may also be able to help you assess your marriage and perhaps find ways to revive that relationship. Third, I would strongly suggest you contact the Alliance for the Mentally Ill chapter in your area. They can be of great assistance to you with education about your illness and practical suggestions. Finally, I would strongly suggest you look to find new social groups. Unfortunately, you can not control your children's behavior. Hopefully they will want to reestablish their relationship with you in time, but for right now it appears you need to look in other directions for comfort and meaning. You might feel better by getting involved with a church or other religious organization, volunteering for some other cause you believe in, or perhaps by getting involved in a grief support group in your area. When you are feeling a bit better, please let us know what helped.

Community Answers

10singer answered...

What Dr. Robbins shared is encouraging to me because I also have dealt with rejection/abandonment by my family (siblings) which relates to my diagnosis and I have found that my family of origin is not actually my real family. I have begun to cultivate friendships with people who affirm me, who respect me, who appreciate me as they say "warts and all". They express compassion towards me regarding my illness while it seems my brother and sisters just don't want to deal with it even though actually I cannot think of anything significant that I did or did not do that would have caused them to react this way towards me. At any rate, I've found "radical acceptance" is the only way to deal with this very hurtful issue in addition to building a support system of friends who I can call when I really find myself in a bad place. My mother has always been there for me and my brother who has schizophrenia and now that she is 92 years old, having memory loss, and failing healthwise, I am struggling with the fact that she can no longer provide the support that she did before. This is proving to be a difficult adjustment for me. Ultimately, though, the thing or should I say the One who really gets me through is God. Even, when at times I scream at Him, "Why did you do this to me, give me this disease" eventually I experience His incredible compassion and love towards me and He calms the storm in my soul. Sometimes, all I can cry out is "Help" and He does not only when I'm alone and feeling suicidal but in the way He provides me with friends. I prayed for a long time and did a lot of work with my therapist, joining a church, singing in a jazz vocal ensemble where I met my closest friend, singing in church, etc. and all in all it's given me a sense of meaning and belonging. My suggestion is consider any activity (creative (music, writing, art), sports, spiritual that you can engage in especially with other people. It restores a sense of purpose. Another great resource is a website called "Meetup". I believe it can be found under and it's a website where you list your interests and then get matched with groups in your area that are doing things you like to do. Interestingly enough, "Meetup" was suggested by a therapist who worked with police officers who go out on calls dealing with people in mental health crises/suicide prevention after I expressed how lonely I was feeling and how I couldn't seem to make any friends. In closing, I just want to say that God so values you just as you are and I truly believe He understands when we ask Him to just take us home because we are so discouraged and at such a point of despair. The book of Psalms as far as I am concerned is a prayerbook for people in despair and difficult situations. Know that I am praying for you and never, never give up. Believe it or not, although you don't know it or them right now there are people out there who need you and need to know you that you haven't even met yet and God will bring them into your life.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I have not found church to be a safe place when I am depressed. Those people mean well, but like to share their own problems while dismissing depression and grief (put a smile on your face!) as a problem I have chosen. Some days are better than others when it comes to depression and I have a pretty good handle on it. But add the grief and it becomes unbearable. I have to grieve, it is normal and unavoidable. I am bipolar and doing pretty good. My bipolar son committed suicide and most days I'm coping with that better than many parents I know. But on those "dual days", life is very bleak.