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Dear Annie: Shared loss, different grief

Dear Annie: My teenage son died in an accident three years ago. He had so much ahead of him. I miss him so much.

I have been through counselling, which has helped me cope better with my grief, but my husband refuses to talk to anyone about his feelings. Our relationship has been really affected by his inability to open up and I’m starting to worry about him – and us.

Whenever I try to talk, he changes the subject or shuts the conversation down. How do I get him to talk about how he is feeling? – EB

Annie says: How awful that you have had to endure the loss of your child. And so suddenly. And how courageous of you to seek support so soon after his death.

What I can hear is how this experience has created a divide in your relationship with your husband. I imagine this is particularly lonely-making – to go through something that on the one hand unites you and your husband in a way nothing else can, and yet to discover that your responses to it are totally different.

This is very common in child loss. Whilst the loss may be the same for both parents, the way each person responds to it is often worlds apart. And it can be incredibly difficult to accept one another’s different approaches.

I can really understand that if you feel there is no space to talk about the loss of your son, your relationship suffers. And you also say you’re worried about the effect it is having on your husband.

Unfortunately there is no forcing another to open up. If your husband isn’t ready, he simply won’t be able to. But you can tell him how the absence of open dialogue is impacting you, and explain to him that you hope to be able to share your experiences when he is ready.

You could tell him about your experience of therapy and how you found it supported you, and if you feel comfortable, you could gently suggest he considers it.

If you’ve lost someone close to you, or been affected by a bereavement, psychotherapist Annie Broadbent is here to help. If you have a question for her to answer in this column, write to her at

About Annie

Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.

She is the author of bestselling book Speaking of Death (What the Bereaved Really Need), inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.

Regretfully, Annie cannot enter into personal correspondence

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