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

I can't bear life without my husband

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 11 December 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

I can't bear the thought of Christmas, or in fact next year, without my beloved husband, who died three months ago.

What is the point of my life without him? How do I even start to get on with my life now he is gone?

Patricia Marie says...

Dealing with the death of a loved one is an extremely difficult and traumatic experience, and the pain is significantly heightened at this time of year when others are joyously celebrating the festivities. It's not going to be easy this very first Christmas without your husband, but instead of focusing on life without him, perhaps allow yourself some time to remember the special times you enjoyed with him. I often suggest to those grieving that they could light a candle in memory of their loved ones. Keep a photograph of your husband nearby, and open up to your family and friends, as they care for you and will be conscious of your loss. At times you may feel overwhelmed, but this is perfectly natural. Starting to address your grief, often through tears, does provide relief, and promote healing.

Cruse Bereavement Care offer professional help and support, including group counselling which I feel could be particularly beneficial, allowing you to see that if others can make it through their losses, than so can you. Learning coping techniques may give you hope for the future, and, even better, perhaps supportive friendships could be forged, through experiences shared within the group.

At this moment you are clearly suffering, but you don't have to hurt forever or manage this alone. Be compassionate with yourself as you work to relinquish old routines and establish new ones. Life without your husband will inevitably be different, but, given time, you will hopefully soon realise your life is still very much worth living, and certainly not over.

I recommend 'Death And How To Survive It' by Kate Boydell, a unique, practical and uplifting guide to coming to terms with the loss of a partner.

Cruse Bereavement Care: 0844 477 9400

A Christmas Message

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 04 December 2015
Christmas is a magical time of year when happy memories are often made, but the festive season can also be a source of great anxiety caused by the extra workload, financial pressure and anticipation of potential family disputes.

The responsibility of hosting Christmas can be overwhelming, as we are expected to produce the perfect meal, beautiful table decorations, gleaming cutlery and sparkling glassware. A way of lifting some of the pressure would be for each family member to contribute so everyone can enjoy the day. Perhaps one could prepare the starter, another cook the main, and another prepare dessert. Don't worry if anything goes a little wrong, as it should be fun just being together round the table enjoying each other's company. And do remember, everything is enjoyable in moderation. Too much alcohol could ruin the day, not only for you but for those in your company, and try not to over indulge in the seasonal fayre, to avoid any unnecessary ailments. After the festive lunch, instead of settling down to watch television, perhaps you could enjoy an invigorating walk with the family.

The purchasing of presents at Christmastime can be extremely stressful. Organisation is the key to avoiding any last minute panics. Shopping online can make life so much easier, by avoiding huge crowds and having to deal with heavy loads of shopping. Work out what you really need, and stick to a budget. If you are concerned about the expense, consider writing some gift vouchers, which cost nothing. Adults could be given personal vouchers for your offer of babysitting, house cleaning, ironing or gardening. Edible treats wrapped festively would be well received. Or, if you can knit, perhaps a cosy woollen hat and scarf. For the children, how about making some mini family albums, as children love looking at family photographs. Everyone would be sure to love these thoughtful personal gifts.

If you feel torn between invites during the festive period, try to choose the fairest option and perhaps suggest one member hosts Christmas this year, and the following year another takes their turn. If there are any unresolved issues amongst the family, agree to not discuss these until the New Year, and focus on the children as top priority, particularly in the case of those from broken relationships. Christmas can remind us of those we have lost, so try to celebrate their memory by raising a glass to them, or if your grief is too painful, allow yourself some time out for recollection.

If you know of anybody who is likely to be on their own at this time, give them a friendly phone call, and if you're able to extend a festive invitation to them, even better. If you are facing Christmas alone, perhaps consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter which would help make a difference to someone's life and provide you with company.
Focusing on the traditional side of Christmas, having realistic expectations, enjoying the festive treats and relaxing together will bring a sense of closeness at this special time of year. Just being with our nearest and dearest is all most of us need to create the perfect Christmas.

Thankfully the majority of us will enjoy what Christmas brings, but for many the time of year makes no difference to their suffering. Whatever the problem is, or however difficult things may seem, no one has to manage alone. There is always someone to offer help and support at the end of the telephone.

Here are some useful free phone numbers to have in case of an emergency situation. Please note these services are available 24 hours every day, including Christmas Day:

Alcoholics Anonymous: 0800 9177 650

ChildLine: 0800 1111

Domestic Violence: 0808 2000 247

Samaritans: 116 123

Silver Line: 0800 470 80 90


Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 27 November 2015
Dear Patricia Marie, 

I recently unexpectedly inherited a large sum of money from an elderly lady for whom I used to work as a housekeeper.  I had worked for her for the last five years, during which time we had become quite close, as I seemed to be the only contact for her with the outside world, and to my knowledge she had no living family.  I would sit and read to her and we would discuss the day's news.  I would take her out sometimes to places she remembered from her youth and we would laugh about some of her stories.  However I had never even considered what would happen in the event of her death, and when she died quite suddenly, I was very distressed as I knew I would miss our time together.

My problem is that my husband has big plans for my inheritance, and I don't agree with him.  I want to do something in her memory, and also give some of it to worthy causes which I knew she supported.

My husband wants to spend, spend, spend.  I have always known that money changes people, but I am actually quite disgusted with his manner over this.  

What should I do? 

Patricia Marie says...

Losing a friend is never going to be easy, especially one who you saw so regularly, and with whom you had forged a strong bond. Keeping your own sense of calm and maintaining your friend's memory are an important part of the grieving process. You are understandably angry because of the pain your friend's death has caused, therefore, particularly sensitive to your husband's comments, which merely reinforce your sorrow. I doubt he means to deliberately upset you, but possibly is thinking that as you dedicated much of your time to this lady, you now deserve some enjoyment from her kind gesture. 

Make him aware of your feelings - that you are not ready to make extravagant plans yet, but are prepared to compromise. Hopefully he will understand that you would appreciate his patience at this upsetting time. 

Firstly it sounds like you need cheering up. So be extravagant for a day, and treat yourself to an item you would never normally purchase. Perhaps an exquisite piece of jewellery which can become a keepsake, and remind you of your friend each time you wear it.  She had probably taken her own worthy causes into consideration, and had intended you to personally benefit from her bequest, so enjoy it. Maybe treat your close friends and family to a meal or a theatre trip, and spend some quality time with those you love, which will create a feel good factor.

Then put off making any further decisions regarding this inheritance until you are in a more focused state of mind, when hopefully you and your husband can then look forward to having a rational conversation about this matter. Finally - do consider, yes, it is your inheritance, but if you decide to make any decisions without your husband, this may cause serious problems within your marriage, which I feel would be the last thing your friend would have wanted when she wrote her will. 

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Prayers for Paris

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 20 November 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

I have been horrified at the catastrophe in Paris this weekend, particularly as my son is shortly due to fly out there in a few weeks on a work experience project.  I am scared witless that another atrocity could occur whilst he is there, although I do realise it is just as likely that such a barbaric act could be carried out in this country, particularly in London, where I live.

How is it possible for us all to go about our normal lives without being affected? I worry about journeys I need to make on the underground, and even about going to a well attended restaurant now!

I don't know how to put this tragedy aside in my mind.

Patricia Marie says...

The stark reality of the Paris attack has brought about an international outpouring of utter shock and grief, both for personal loss, the loss of others, and almost for our own safety.  The aftermath of events such as this can cause heightened anxiety, and we would be wise to place limitations on our exposure to the media reports, and do our best to continue our daily routines to install a sense of normality.

 Theresa May, the Home Secretary, reassured us by saying "Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are working day and night to keep the people of this country safe and secure".  She added that those who attacked Paris "represent no one, and will fail to divide free countries such as Britain and France.  France grieves, but she does not grieve alone. People of all faiths, all nationalities and all backgrounds around the world are with you, and together we will defeat them."

 I cannot echo this bold sentiment enough, and hope you feel calmed and uplifted by this powerful, heartfelt message.

  Understandably, recent events have left you feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed.  Perhaps you could offer some positive advice to your son about keeping himself safe. Children of all ages look to their parents for guidance, so also remind him that these fanatics cannot stop any of us from living our lives. Reassuring him will make you feel more in control and help detract from your fears. 

Adults as well as children require a sense of community and belonging, to help us feel protected.  Don’t worry alone. Talk about your fears and concerns with your family and friends. It’s the love and support from our relationships which hold us safely in this world.

 Despite how devastating this act was, if we could all just try to put things into perspective, we would realise these tragedies do very rarely happen.   Finally and thankfully, take comfort in the fact that history has proven, good will always triumph over evil.

Family First

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 13 November 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

I have been seeing a man I met on the internet for the last six months.

Everything seems fine, except he really resents me wanting to spend any time with my daughters, aged 24 and 26. I made it clear to him from the very start that they were a huge part of my life.

Both of them have left home now and I try to see each of them at least once a week for a day or evening to catch up on what has been happening in their lives and because I do miss them since they moved out. We talk on the phone most days but somehow that is not the same as actually seeing them.

However, my boyfriend gets quite irritated if they ring when I am with him, and always tuts and shakes his head if I say I am going to visit one of them. And he never asks how they are, or suggests we visit together. He has no children of his own. He is now 54 years old and I think he wishes he had his own children, and perhaps resents my close relationship with mine.

What can I do, as I can see this becoming a big stumbling block in our relationship?

Patricia Marie says...

This man knew your children were part of the package at the outset, and can't pretend they don't exist just because he would rather have you to himself. He needs to accept how important they are to you, and not make you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with them, or indeed speaking with them on the telephone. You should never be put in a position where you feel you have to choose between your partner and your children.

Your boyfriend is clearly showing signs of jealousy. The trigger for this may well be that he is resentful as he has no children of his own, or alternatively there may be other factors contributing to his irrational behaviour. I suggest you open up to him about your concerns, as this may prompt him to share his feelings with you. Listen to what he has to say, but make it clear that his attitude towards your daughters is having an adverse effect on you, which if left unresolved could spoil your relationship, and may ultimately destroy it.

Instead of you visiting your daughters alone, invite them over to yours for dinner. Tell your partner it would mean so much to you if he could make an effort with them, even initially just for the one evening. Include him in the hospitality. Perhaps he could organise some games to help make him feel part of the family. You never know, if he allows himself to get to know your girls, he may actually enjoy their company, and even better, begin to bond with them.

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