Agony Aunt

Patricia Marie, MBACP qualified counsellor is a member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, practising in Harley Street, Essex and Scotland. She has many years experience of dealing with domestic violence, relationship problems, bereavement, depression, addictions, post traumatic stress and many other emotional issues. If you have a dilemma, please email

My daughter aged 13 died 6 months ago

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Wednesday, 06 May 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

I do not know what to do, or where to go for help. I keep having panic attacks, and can't go on feeling this way for much longer. My daughter aged 13, died 6 months ago, after suffering a devastating degenerative condition. She gave me the greatest purpose in life, and now she's no longer here, I feel lonely and abandoned.

When my daughter was alive, I received much support from family and friends. However, since she's gone I have had little or no understanding from my close ones. In fact, if I mention my daughter, the conversation soon changes, leaving me frustrated and tearful. They insist time is a great healer, which offers no comfort whatsoever. I don't want counselling as this will not bring my daughter back, just wanting my friends and family to listen to me.

I am lucky to have another child, and a caring husband, but he gets annoyed with me for expecting too much from people. I am very close to my mother, but as soon as I mention my daughter, she becomes extremely upset, so I withdraw from opening up about my feelings. So I ask you, am I wrong for expecting others to be there for me?

Patricia Marie says.....

The loss of a child is the most devastating experience a parent can face, and you should not be expected to 'get over' the pain it causes at any stage.

For thirteen years you took care of your daughter who was totally dependant on you, and as you so rightly say, gave you a purpose. I make a heartfelt request to you to see that your purpose as a mother still goes on with your living child.

Let me ask you not to see your husband as annoyed, nor your friends as lacking compassion. It's not uncommon for friends to pull away during a grieving period, as they often do not know what to say. Have you considered your friends could be feeling guilty that they have children who are alive and well? They may well want to help, but don't know how - so tell them what you need. And don't push your husband away, as he too is having to deal with his own grief, as indeed is your mother who seems to be struggling to come to terms with the loss of her granddaughter. Your quarrel is not with them, but with what life has thrown at you - taking your beautiful daughter from you. Whilst you have every right to feel angry, by expressing it to others, you will only be hurting yourself.

Counselling won't bring your daughter back. Nothing will. But it will allow you to explore the feelings that you are clearly both needing and wanting to express. Grief can feel very lonely, even when your loved ones are close. I think you would benefit greatly from attending a bereavement group, as sharing your sorrow with others who are going through similar experiences could be comforting, and will help you to feel understood. Furthermore, I urge you to see your G.P for help with your panic attacks.

When you're lonely and wanting to feel close to your daughter, light a candle and enjoy those special memories you have - which can never be taken from you.

Your life is forever changed - but it's not over. It must seem at this moment that you won't ever recover from your loss, but be patient, and allow yourself time to heal. I believe with the right help and support, you may begin to find a way forward that acknowledges and continues to incorporate the love you will always feel for your daughter.

Cruse offer bereavement support groups in most areas: 0844 477 9400 

What do I do?

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 01 May 2015
I am a 55-year-old childless woman and have been reasonably happily married for 20 years.

When I was 18, I had an abortion. My parents were very strict and insisted I had an abortion as I was due to go to university, and they also didn't want the shame of their only daughter becoming a single mother. At 21, I married my first husband but we were childless for the 5 years we were married, and then he left me for someone else. They went on to have 3 children. I then met my second husband, who had a 5 year old daughter from his previous relationship. He insisted that he didn't want any more children, and I foolishly accepted this. Now I am full of regret, and wished I could turn the clock back.

A few months ago, my beloved dog died in my arms. She has been my baby, and I cannot get over the loss.
I am so unhappy, I have no children, no grandchildren and no dog.

I have made such a mess of my life, and feel I am being punished for the termination I had all those years ago. My husband is very angry with me, insisting unless I pull myself together, he will leave me. I don't know what to do.

Please help me.

Patricia Marie says.....

You are a woman who has never recovered from a forced abortion, but has transferred any anger she may have felt with her parents to herself - when it was not your fault at all.

You say you had no choice but to go along with their wishes, just as you accepted your second husband's decision not to have any children. Then your first husband's infidelity, and the sheer trauma of him then having a family with another woman, makes it no wonder you are feeling as you do.

You have endured some painful experiences, and although you cannot change the past, finding some self-acceptance within yourself will stop the past from anchoring your future. I believe you are carrying a huge amount of unnecessary blame, and have the lowest self-esteem.

You are not being punished by any other influence - but by your own self.

Can you enrich the relationship you may have with your stepdaughter?

Sometimes easier said than done, but a valuable lesson to us all is to make the very best of what we have, rather than dwell on what we haven't.

You very much need to stand up for yourself, starting right now, by telling your husband that instead of giving you an ultimatum, he needs to be more understanding, caring and supportive of you. Sit him down and tell him exactly how you are feeling, so that you can work together as a team, before the marriage declines to an irreparable state.

I feel you may both benefit from attending Relate, for some counselling sessions with a couples therapist.

I presume that over the years you have suppressed your feelings, and the loss of your beloved dog has aroused them.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to get another pet, which would offer the unconditional love you are seeking, and help with your loneliness. Wipe away those tears. You haven't made a mess of your life - things have happened to you, as they do to all of us. Accept that and move on to the next chapter of your life.

I recommend you read: The Healing Choice by Candace De Puy, and Dana Dovitch. An enriching read about coping with the psychological aftermath of abortion, no matter how long ago.

My relationship with my daughter is becoming increasingly fraught

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 23 April 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,
My 17 year old daughter and I have always been close, but lately our relationship has become increasingly fraught. Just recently, her father offered to pay for her gym membership so she could lose weight, and I agreed it was a good idea. Now she's so upset and wants nothing to do with us. She has changed so much in the last few months since her close friend died in a car accident, which she refuses to talk about, has stopped socialising, and spends most of the time in her bedroom eating sweets, hence her rapid weight gain. She seems to get pleasure from giving me as much stress as possible and is causing such an atmosphere in what has always been a happy household. The main issue is, that five years ago, I put £10,000 pounds in premium bonds in her name, which will become hers when she's 18. Not only is she being difficult, but I think she'd spend the money, instead of using it for university as I intended. I'm happy to give it to her when she's older and wiser, but am I breaking both a legal and emotional law by withholding it from her?

Patricia Marie says.....

If the bonds are in your daughter's name, you would be acting illegally if you spent the money yourself, and behaving unethically if you promised them to her when she turned 18. I feel the more important issue here is the problem between you, your husband and your daughter. If you love someone, you should do so unconditionally, not only if they are slim or otherwise.

It sounds as if she found her father's offer a sign of criticism and rejection, especially at a time when she is grieving for the loss of her friend. Your daughter is clearly overwhelmed with emotion, hence the comfort eating, and in much need of some tender loving care. What you should have done is asked her if she had any concerns about herself and if there was anything you could do to help.

You need to separate the issue of the money from the issue of her hurt and embarrassment.

Tell her that she will get the money, as promised, on her 18th birthday. However, remind her it was intended as a support for university, and that you would be happy if it was used in that way. Also, tell her you're sorry if you said the wrong thing and that you are wanting to get your relationship with her back on track. Do urge your daughter to contact Cruse, an excellent organisation who could offer her the professional help and support she needs and very much deserves in coming to terms with the tragic loss of her friend.

Cruse Bereavement Counselling: 0844 477 9400

My husband makes no secret of his infidelity

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 16 April 2015
For the past two years my husband has been funding his mistress in a stunning apartment near to where he works. He constantly lavishes gifts on her, and pays for them to go on expensive holidays abroad. When I found out last year, I was devastated, but have gradually had to accept I either put up with it, or lose him completely. He makes no secret of his infidelity. In fact he's glad it's out in the open. He insists he doesn't want me, but would be set to lose an awful lot of money if we were to divorce, and refuses to give up his mistress. I am still sleeping with him and try to do everything I can to make my husband happy, in the hope that he will finish with this other woman. I feel empty, weak and worthless. Please help me.

Patricia Marie says.....

Why on earth would your husband give up his mistress, if at the same time he has you submitting to his every whim? He is clearly having his cake and eating it, demonstrating a total lack of respect and being completely uncaring about your feelings. It seems he is only interested in his own pleasure, and is happy to walk all over you.

It's no wonder you are feeling so bad about yourself, but you must accept some responsibility for allowing your husband to treat you in such an appalling manner.

You say your husband is funding his mistress, yet surely this is your money too.

He is totally manipulating you, and I urge you to stand up for yourself before you end up not just lonely, but penniless too.

Instead of focussing on his needs, try to concentrate all your energy on yourself. Go and see a counsellor who will help with your low self-esteem and lack of confidence. At this moment, having your husband to love seems the most important thing in your life. However, when you feel stronger within yourself, hopefully you will begin to see things more clearly, and seriously consider ending this dysfunctional marriage, so you can begin to live the life you deserve.

I feel you would benefit from reading 'Women Who Love Too Much' by Robin Norwood.

My husband and I have not shared any intimacy for over a year

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 09 April 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

I love my husband of over twenty years very much, however I'm finding celibacy very difficult. We have not shared any intimacy for well over a year now and I am unsure of how to deal with this.

Every time I attempt to be affectionate, he pulls away from me. If I confront him he just walks off.

I appreciate he works hard and comes home exhausted, but I do everything to make life as easy as possible for him, yet still my husband is so distant towards me.

We are both in our early fifties, but instead of enjoying life as a husband and wife should be, we have become more like brother and sister.

Would appreciate your advice.

Patricia Marie says.....

If two people are in agreement that they no longer want to make love, they can bond in other ways and still maintain a good relationship. However, if one person no longer wants to, it can be frustrating and hurtful for the other.

Your partner is being unfair by dismissing your advances without any explanation, which is causing you to feel rejected. You have every right to insist on hearing why he is behaving this way. If he refuses to talk, write him a letter. A painful question you need to ask is, has he lost all interest in making love, which can be caused by a number of factors including stress, depression and exhaustion, or is it that he no longer wants to be intimate with you because there is a relationship issue? You cannot move forward until you know what the problem is.

He needs to be honest with you about his feelings towards you, understand that your needs aren't being met and and that intimacy is a vital part of keeping a loving link alive.

Whatever the outcome, wherever things may have gone wrong, if you both feel this relationship is worth saving, you can start to work together towards a more positive future.

Relate offer excellent professional support ( which may prove helpful to you both. In addition, your G.P could refer you to a sexual therapist for further help.
Tags: agon, agony aunt

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