I feel guilty, my ex-wife was diagnosed with depression when we separated: Ask Ellie



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Q: I was married for 17 years. We met at university, but she gave up after she got pregnant on our honeymoon.

We had three children and we were very busy, separately. I knew years ago that we grew up in very different ways. His life was almost totally about children. I spent as much time as I could with them. She did not share any of my other interests (my job, sports, fitness).

I had an affair with my co-worker. We were married after I divorced my wife four years ago.

I stayed close to our children and we are all getting along. My ex and I are more than civilians when around our children and when there are serious issues to discuss.

But she has been diagnosed with depression since the day I left. She is taking medicine, sees a therapist, but speaks periodically of suicide (never tried). My eldest daughter says that the mother often cries or sleeps.

I feel guilty sometimes, but I have no idea how I can help her.

Worried ex-husband

AN: Nobody will give you a medal for affection, but it is important that you do it for the good of all.

She should continue her therapy. The sessions are your safe place to try to understand what happened and heal.

But you, your children (your parents?), A close friend, can alert your therapist and your doctor about any troubling changes. Keep the numbers handy for everyone, including one from a hospital mental health unit – if the suicide talk increases.

In the meantime, consult a counselor. Another professional may have suggestions on how to turn your guilt at some point into an approach that might help your ex to focus on getting involved with life again.

You can not be your savior, but you can take some responsibility when she is in danger of getting hurt.

Q: The husband of our adult daughter can not work due to a medical problem. He's waiting for an unlikely disability payment. My daughter is the only provider and her job is at stake.

They want to live with us (plus our grandson, 4 years) and / or have us support them financially.

After years of struggle, we finally have some savings in case one of us (in the early 1970s) needs home care, medical equipment, etc.

Our other adult children (plus four grandchildren) also have needs but did not ask for help.

We love our daughter, his wife and our grandson. However, I feel they should exhaust any retirement savings (RRSPs) or other savings before turning to us.

We feel guilty if we do not help them maintain their home, but we fear losing our own economies, security, independence and tranquility. (Three more people in our house are three too many).

However, my daughter is suffering a lot of stress and I do not want our decision to be the cause of a collapse.

Torn

AN: There are other ways to help. Search for the potential disability payment route (go to: Canada has a disability claim website; if you live in the United States, disability plans are more vague, but should be sought).

Also, insist that the couple meet with their bank manager and accountant and use their own savings and RRSPs for now.

Encourage them to discuss viable options with an accountant – for example, the couple rents the house and moves to a smaller, less expensive apartment.

Explain your personal concerns for your own future to this couple. So encourage your daughter to consult her doctor to control her stress while the couple learns how to handle this change.

The tip of Ellie's day

Feeling guilty about cheating / divorce does not change an ex's reaction, but attention to mental health signs can help others respond to their needs.

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Read Ellie Monday to Saturday. E-mail [email protected] or visit her site, ellieadvice.com. Follow @ellieadvice.

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