Life According To Lenson
Brother Killed by Drunk Driver
By Eileen Lenson
Sep 21, 2012 - 11:19:41 AM

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Drunk driver kills brother

Q:  A drunk driver struck and killed my older brother last month.  He was on his way to work at the time, never expecting that he would not ever be able to kiss his wife, see his daughter grow up, or be able to live to see old age.  I am of course grieving his loss, but I also am so angry at the driver and all other drunks on the road.  I can't sleep well, or focus properly at work, and I know my boss is getting impatient with me.


A:  I am very sorry for your loss.  Experiencing your brother's death would be difficult enough, but it is compounded by the fact it was caused by a senseless and avoidable act on the part of a selfish and irresponsible driver.


Everyone grieves differently.  The sudden loss of your brother makes the grieving more difficult.  The fact that he died as a result of a criminal act also complicates your bereavement process.  The legal process can be prolonged, which will impact on your emotions as you go through the grieving process.


Make sure you do not ignore your feelings.  Identify those with whom you can share your painful feelings.  Holding in your feelings and not expressing them can prevent you from healing emotionally.  Taking care of yourself will ensure that you are there for your sister-in-law and niece as well as yourself.


Expressing yourself through writing can be helpful at this time, and is another way of managing your feelings in a healthy way.  You mentioned the anger you have at the drunk driver.  Consider sitting down and writing the driver a letter - never to be mailed - about your feelings.  Include how important your brother was to you, how much you miss him, and your thoughts about the driver's responsibility in this tragedy. 


Be kind to yourself.   Give yourself permission in the coming months to let go of some obligations that are burdening you.  Expect a roller coaster of emotions.  Some days will be more difficult than others.  Anticipate dates that include your brother's milestones, such as his birthday or the anniversary of his death to be challenging.  Schedule activities for those dates that involve surrounding yourself with caring friends or family to help you through those moments.  You may find that using these sad times of loss to do something meaningful in his memory is helpful.  Contribute your time to one of your brother's preferred causes, or work on a scrapbook of memories for his daughter.


Unfortunately, the only way to get over your grief is to go straight through it.  It may be tempting to self medicate by turning to prescription medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol.  Abuse of chemicals will only result in your inability to work through the stages of grief, and you will be stuck with unresolved grieving.  The result can be that when another loss occurs in the future, you will find yourself grieving both for the new loss as well as the loss of your brother.  The unfinished grieving for your brother will compound the grief you are experiencing for the new loss.


Make sure to take care of your physical, not just emotional health.  If you haven't much appetite, make the meals you do eat count.  Snack on small healthy foods.  Exercise, or at least go for walks.  One final note:  don't be afraid to experience enjoy and celebrate the happy moments in your life.  Happiness will not erase your feelings for your brother, but will be the way to take care of yourself.



Elderly Husband Resents Wife's Dependency

Q:  As a senior citizen I thought I'd be happier at this point in my life.  The problem is that my wife is very dependent on me.  Six months ago she broke her hip, went to rehab and received physical therapy.  But the residual weakness in her leg has resulted in physical limitations.  Never a real confident woman, she now is afraid of something happening to her.  As a consequence, she wants me to accompany her to everything she is involved with.  It is escalating to the point where she wants me to schedule her medical appointments, even though the limitations are in her legs, not her dialing finger.   I try to be supportive but I'm feeling resentful and more like the hired help.


A:  Probably what started out as helping your wife temporarily has evolved into a full blown dependency on her part.  A physical trauma, such as a broken hip, can amplify both positive and negative personality traits.  You mentioned that she was "never a real confident woman".  It is likely that the experience of the past six months has made her less confident in her own abilities and more reliant on you.


Help your wife focus on her strengths.  Evaluate together with your wife and either her physical therapist or physician, what she is capable of doing and what tasks she truly needs assistance with.


It is important for you to not enable her dependent behavior.  Because of your love for her and sense of responsibility, you may agree to do things for her that you increasingly resent.  Dependent individuals tend to not be self-starters, and may resist initially.  I suggest you remind your wife that maintaining as much independence as possible is important for her. 


Celebrate your wife's accomplishments with her, large and small.  As her confidence grows so will her self-esteem.  This in turn will result in her being more willing to take on various tasks, thereby relieving you of the feeling of being suffocated by her dependencies.



Empty Nester Lacking Purpose and Direction

Q:  I am married with 3 children, all grown and out of the home.  My husband travels out of town for work.  When he goes to the Far East, he is gone for two to three weeks at a time.  I find myself resenting him when he is gone, and we fight constantly when he returns home.  What should I do?


A:  It is possible that as an empty nester, you had a different vision of how you would be spending your child-free years.  Your feelings about hisabsence indicates to me that you may be lacking a sense of purpose and direction at this transitional point in your life.


Assuming your husband has no control over the frequency and duration of his trips, I suggest you accept this reality and focus on developing your life with a focus on autonomy.  Resenting the things that you cannot change makes you a victim. 


Victims are powerless to change things.  Instead of blaming others, look within yourself.  As a mother and wife you have undoubtedly concentrated much of your energy over the past couple of decades on meeting the needs of your family.  Sometimes in the process of caring for children and a husband, women lose sight of who they are as individuals.  As empty nesters, they need time to discover their own personal interests and passions.  With trial and error, you can gain clarity and move through this next phase of your life with focus and passion.


Work at identifying what you value, what you want to achieve, and what is on your bucket list that remains unfulfilled.  Take the steps to meet these personal interests.  Plan on an exploratory trial and error process during which you research classes, activities, community services, mentoring, religious affiliations, etc., to better understand what you would like to do. 


Once you are in control of achieving your personal happiness, you will find yourself less dependent on your husband to provide you with a sense of purpose.  As your self-increases, your resentment of him will decrease. Taking ownership of responsibility for your own happiness and personal growth, you will find the limited time you do share with your husband enhanced.




Do you have a question about something in your life you would like to learn, change or solve?  Submit your questions to Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach at  Prior to establishing her private coaching practice, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker, author, and international speaker, for 20 years.  For further information, visit her website at

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