My mother visits the cemetery everyday and talks to dad, when should I start to worry about her?

11 answers | Last updated: Oct 03, 2016
Jakki asked...

My father died a month ago. My mother is going to the cemetery everyday & staying for hours. She have a strong christian faith. She knows he isn't there. But she refer to talking to Dad. When should I be worried about her?

Expert Answers

Shelly Beach, MRE, is a seminary graduate; instructor at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan; author of seven books; and contributor to The NIV Stewardship Study Bible. She speaks nationally on faith, writing, and caregiving and is a host on the website Help for My Life in roundtable discussions on care issues. Beach's most recent release is Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey.

Your mother is expressing her grief in a way that gives many individuals comfort "“ visiting the graveside of a loved one she's lost. Talking to dead loved ones helps some survivors move through the stages of grief, even though they'd admit that their loved ones aren't really "there." Interestingly, the Jewish faith provides for family and friends to sit beside mourners to empathize with them during a grieving process that takes months and years.

You haven't mentioned whether your mother lost your father after a long illness or suddenly. Either way, spouses can find it difficult to absorb the reality of the loss of their loved ones. Experts report that it can sometimes take months for partners to understand their husbands or wives are really gone after death.

Visiting a grave can be a way to try to remain connected to those who've died. Spouses may also feel comfortable expressing their deep emotion at a cemetery after the death of a loved one.

One key to healthy grieving is to help survivors talk about their loss and work through stages of grief:

  1. Offer to visit the gravesite with your mother and encourage her to talk about memories of your father.

  2. Ask your mother's friends and your siblings to talk with her about positive memories of your father.

  3. Encourage your mother to seek counseling to help express her grief.

  4. Allow your mother time to move through the various stages of grief that can include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Be concerned about your mother if she begins to exhibit symptoms of depression. Of course, some level of depression is to be expected after the loss of a spouse. But becoming "stuck" or demonstrating a wide range of symptoms can signal clinical depression. If you have these concerns, seek the advice of a medical professional. Look for a number of the following symptoms, exhibited over a period of weeks or months:

  1. Feeling sad, empty, or tearful most of the day

  2. Significant loss of interest in activities that were previously part of daily life

  3. Significant weight loss or weight gain; decrease or increase in appetite

  4. Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

  5. Fatigue or loss of energy

  6. Agitation or slowed thoughts

  7. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions

  8. Thinking or talking about death or suicide

If your mother begins to exhibit a number of the above symptoms over a prolonged period of time, consult a health professional.

Community Answers

Jakki answered...

Ms. Beach Thank you this is helpful. Dad did have a long illness. They where married for 55 years. He was the center of her world. Her beaning care taker 24/7 for 3 years. She is lost so she goes where she saw him last. "She will say thing live your Dad said hi." I refuse to play into that. I will tell her He didn't He isn't there. She will reply I know he isn't he is with me. I'll reply yes his memory is in your heart. But my true worry is that she goes everyday & stays for hours. She wont let us change anything in the house but she says she can't stay there. (During the day)but she wont come to any of our home ether. I will keep close check on her. Thank you, Jakki

Patsaison answered...

It is normal to mourn, after so long a life together, with love and caring. Grieving is a process. Time heals. I would just be there for her, and indulge, and help her through the process. Each person is different, in terms of time frame, and each person progresses through the steps at their own pace. I would not worry at so early a stage. Just be suportive. When my mother died, I was totally lost, and couldn't do much for three months (my mother lived with me, died at age 93). Now I still miss her a lot, but have progressed and started to rebuild. When my father died, 12 years before that, my mother and I grieved together, and it also took a lot of time. Eventually we moved on to life without my father.

Vwnut63 answered...

i think she is fine, let her grive in her own way, my husband passed away 9 yrs. ago, i lived within 2 miles of the gravesite, i also spent a lot of time "talking" to him..i slowiy stopped going everyday.But i did go thur depression..all i wanted to do was talke about the good times we had, but no one wanted to talk about the past, just the future and i wasn't ready yet. but i got thur the depression, but it takes time. and more time. God Bless

Bonniecanby answered...

Your mother is fine. I don't go there and talk to my late husband everyday. But I still go there to talk to him or my best friend who died two weeks ago. You or I can't say what she is or isn't hearing. There have been times in the laast two weeks that I have heard their answers to problems. I live within block of the grave sights.

I will be heading there today "easter". I am alone and need to talk to someone to work out a problem. If an answer comes who is to say how?? Your mother like me was a 24 hr a day caregiver. Right now she might be feeling that her life has no meaning without him.

She needs you to support her. Don't critizise her. Things will work out. Give her time. She is going through depression. Anyone that says that didn't is a lier. She probably isn't working since she was a caregiver for 3 yeaars. It takes time to develop new outlets. If she is at all like me she is also having trouble dealing with everyday tasks. Just love her as she is. She needs you now.

About you answered...

This is for the mother who just lost her husband a month ago and visits the cemetery daily. Right now I would support in your mother's actioin to speak to your father, even though she and you know he is not there. It is more of an expression within herself she is expressing outwardly. I worked in a cemetery for years and sometimes I would see the same woman came twice a day everyday and stay for around an hour at a time. This went on for close to six or seven months. Then she slowed down and then she came on Memorial Day. Your mother is adjusting within her soul. She is letting out what ever she feels is necessary to say. She is closing her door but not so to speak, taking the key away. The key represents memories the door closing is closure. She will be fine. Maybe if you can, join in with her or let her know you understand. Then she will begin to feel her purpose is completed and her heart has spoken out for the last time. And life goes on but the key will always allow her to never lock the door that she can visit from time to time in life to even smile, laugh out loud, meditate on, share with or just plain remember. Healthiness for one to heal may be different to each person, but the main point is to come out of the hurt and emptiness feeling full of special memories.

Piver answered...

Excellent answers. Let your mother go on grieving in her own way, but be there for her and watch out for her mental and physical health, as you have been advised by the other answers. As a care-giver 24-7 for 3 years, she has suddenly lost her job! What else is she to do with her time? Eventually, she will be able to stay home - where he was for so long and now is not. And eventually, she will be able to find other activities for her time and energies. But right now she needs to do this. Piver

A fellow caregiver answered...

I can understand your mother going to the cemetary every day this soon after your father's death. My mom and dad were married 66 years when she died after a long illness. My dad has gone to the cemetary seven days a week for two and a half years. He stays less than five minutes and is ready to go. We have struggled to understand this. We have talked to doctors and ministers and grief counselors. None of them have seen anyone continue this daily routine for this long. It takes several of us to continue this daily ritual as my dad can no longer drive. We have become angry and resentful of my dad as he refuses to agree to a comprise on going a couple of times a week. This has become very time consuming and expensive and has caused us to have to alter our daily routine and we have become a slave to this prolonged situation. We know dad is lonely and depressed and he takes medication. We just do not know how to stop this and feel we have been denied the right to grieve my mother's death in our oen way.

Chris861 answered...

My mother died almost 11 years ago after a short struggle with cancer. My father, with few exceptions visits her grave site daily. He will spend 30 minutes to several hours there. My sisters and me believe he refuses to move beyond a certain point in his grief. He says on my mother's deathbed he promised he would visit her everyday. In addition he continues to sign birthday cards with her name. I know he knows she is gone but in my opinion he refuses to let the relationship he had with her go away and wants to remind all of us what she meant to him. In addition he seems to have adopted the cemetary as his "hangout", where he tends to attend others grave side ceremonies. To me all of this is abnormal but don't know what to do since he wont' listen if we try to talk to him about changing. Any advice?

Lostmymom 8/21/2014 answered...

I would like to add that 1 month to 1 year is a very crucial period for someone going through grief. There is a difference between years and years of this behavior and it only having been 1 month. If it is within 1 year of the death, consider it to have "just happened." There are many stages, and criticizing any of them at this point can really stunt that process, and do more harm that good, however good intentioned.

If someone is showing signs that they may hurt themselves physically, that is when intervention is in order, and you may want to reach out for professional assistance.

Grief counseling may also help process things in a healthy way.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Family or friends that visit a grave of someone is in the denial stage of grief, especially if they talk to the person buried there. If this womans mother is a Christian then she should know that he can't hear her. She is refusing to accept his death and she is looking for answers. She should know that they probably won't ever see each other again, even when all Christians go to the new heaven because all old things are forgotten. Notice I said probably, if we do remember friends and/or family all we will know is that they are family or friends and we love each other.