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BEL MOONEY: How can I feel less isolated after losing my dad?

Dear Bel,

I am 38, never been in a relationship and lost my beloved father a couple of months ago — it is such a difficult time. There is so much to do when someone dies and I am missing him.

I have my own home but saw him most days and we were close. My parents split when I was a child and Mam died young years ago.

I don’t have any friends as I find people just don’t bother to keep in touch. I don’t work as I have long-term health problems that make everyday tasks a struggle.

However, I don’t look unwell and can look after myself. I did a few hours a week volunteer work until some years ago when I gave up due to my health. Yes, I could do some volunteer work again or go to clubs to meet friends and at least be among people, but the other reason is fear of Covid.

I have been double jabbed but am terrified of catching it and dying. I suffer with flu-like symptoms as part of one of my illnesses, so would rather be at home. This is not depression but feeling like death.

People often don’t keep in touch. So-called friends come and go and are disloyal. To me a friend isn’t the same as unconditional family love. Dad had always been there for me my whole life. If I had friends, their priority would be their own families and not me. Even a romantic partner is not unconditional love.

I am fine without a partner but it would be more socially acceptable to have one. I wouldn’t be able to look after kids with the health problems I have anyway, and couldn’t imagine having a sexual relationship with a boyfriend.

The other problem is I have three sisters one of whom, Sarah, treats me like rubbish. The others are half-sisters and hardly bother with me or Sarah.

Who would I put down as my next of kin? Who would check up on me if I became ill or died? I left one job years ago as I was treated badly and they never even phoned to see why I hadn’t come in.

I am stuck for company and have been on my own for the last few weeks since the funeral.

I’m fed up with how my three sisters treat me but I feel I have to keep in with them as there is no one else. It’s all such a mess.

I am on my own mostly anyway so it wouldn’t make too much difference if I cut them all off. What do you think?

LAURA

This week Bel answers a question from a woman who asks how she can feel less lonely after losing her father

As is often the case, I want to let readers know that your original email was much longer, but here I print an edited version.

What is missing is an extraordinary long, angry, convoluted screed about your sisters, especially Sarah who, you say, ‘slags off all members of our family’.

Thought of the day 

Even in the bleakness of despair 

Some spring of hope still clings, 

As in a cleft among these barren rocks, 

Cyclamen still springs. 

Old Cretan mantinada (traditional folk poem) 

So I began reading a letter I thought would be about bereavement but turned into an unapologetic exhibition of ‘slagging off’ itself.

This was disturbing, and so I believe we need to take a rather tough look at what seems to be the root of your problems. You won’t like it but what’s the point of just patronising you with, ‘Oh you poor thing’? I want you to take a fresh look at your life.

Believe me — I do feel genuinely sorry for anybody so obviously unhappy and incapable of dealing with body and soul, friends and family.

Your health problems I must take at face value, although your claim that ‘everyday tasks are a struggle’ followed by the repeated assurance that you look fine and can look after yourself, starts a warning bell ringing — which grows much louder when you mention your terror of catching Covid.

At just 38, you seem to have embraced an invalidism which could have many causes. Have you talked seriously to a doctor about the possible mental health origins of your physical state? I think you should, because you clearly do need help.

I am sorry for your loss — but you seem to be missing your father’s ‘unconditional love’ believing it to be your due. Did he spoil you?

You don’t want a relationship or friendships because you’ve convinced yourself they’ll fall short of your high expectations. Everybody disappoints you and you blame them.

When it came to the interminable, self-pitying sister-saga, your relentless negativity and (from time to time) sheer nastiness about everybody became utterly depressing. Is it any wonder ‘people just don’t bother to keep in touch’?

You will think me harsh, but my intention is kind. You are too young to give up on life — to bury yourself in sick recrimination and isolation. With no self-awareness you accuse Sarah of ‘droning on about her health’ and lacking ‘empathy and compassion’.

Please read your original letter twice — and try to build bridges with your sisters. It has to be the first step out of this morass.

My man faked his death to escape me

Dear Bel,

I live alone and try to be the best person I can be. But my life has been upturned, if not wrecked, by a man.

I met Jeff a couple of years ago. We became close quickly. At the start, things were a bit odd, because of my insecurity. I’ve always been the ugly duckling of the family.

But we worked together and ironed out the creases. I’ve worked hard to improve my confidence.

He was strong-willed and if ever he hurt me and I told him, he’d blame me and ignore me for a couple of days. Overall, we were happily settled and things looked positive.

He works away and so we spent periods of time together and apart. But last year I sensed the dynamic change and thought he’d met someone else. I was heartbroken but he reassured me that although he had friends, we were fine.

I said if he’d met someone he was free to go. He stayed but became more critical — putting down the things I loved.

Eight weeks ago, while he was working up north, I received a phone call from his sister informing me that Jeff had died suddenly in the hotel room he was staying in.

When I asked about a funeral, she said he’d paid for a cremation — and that she’d call me once she had received his ashes so we could scatter them.

This is where the wickedness starts. Two weeks ago I received a visit from his friend telling me he wasn’t dead at all. He’s set up a new Twitter profile (our main form of communication in absence) under a jokey name. His dedicated set of lady followers have access to the profile.

I understand that relationships break down and people fall out of love, but why do something so cruel?

Bel, I cannot tell you how humiliated and heartbroken I am — so embarrassed I’ve kept up the death lie to family and friends. My bosses even gave me bereavement leave. I feel not only foolish but a fraud. How do I trust people now?

ANNA

How astonishing that a man who had shared a part of your life should choose to perpetrate such a loathsome lie and that his own sister should make that appalling phone call, willing to listen to your shock and grief and then tell that fantasy about the ashes.

I often say that nothing shocks me any more, but that isn’t true.

In your longer letter you say: ‘I didn’t deserve’ this, and readers will certainly agree. These days there is a phenomenon known as ‘ghosting’ — when people just cut off a relationship with no warning or explanation, leaving the victim reeling.

And I know of two long marriages that were actually ended by an email out of the blue, saying: ‘I want a divorce.’

Of course, this is the point when some might say: ‘Aha, there must have been signs.’ And it’s true that sometimes we choose not to see — let alone read — the writing on the wall.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

You suspected something was wrong, but Jeff denied it. Typically, he didn’t have the courage to face an honest conversation about your relationship, so made things much worse for you by mockery, then evasion, then the most appalling dishonesty and cruelty.

He knows you have always suffered from low self-esteem yet still chose a course of action designed to make you feel even lower in spirits than ever before.

Why act like that? I suspect your relationship was unequal from the start, and you in fact put up with worse behaviour than you describe in your letter.

You always hated your appearance (something very hard to overcome) and the awareness that he was interacting with other women on social media must have made it worse — a drip-drip-drip of demoralisation.

None of this is your fault, and I beg you not to shoulder any blame — as you were too prone to do when he hurt you.

If I were you I would just go on keeping his shameful secret; I see no advantage in telling the people you work with, who kindly expressed compassion for you. After all, you really need it now.

You tell me you love books and music but right now those interests give you no comfort. Don’t worry, that state will not last and you should start arranging trips to concerts with friends, who’ll surely be glad to keep you company.

Do you know of a book club to join? Gradually, Anna, you will rebuild your life and realise that far from being ‘awful’, you are a brave, good soul far better than the cruel man who never deserved you.

And finally… A little ‘self’ help can go a long way

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to face September when rainy August called summer into question, when the pots I planted at the end of May look as tired as I feel, and the days are growing shorter.

These days various pressures make it very hard for us to get away so we sit talking nostalgically about May 2019 and our last holiday.

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected]

Names are changed to protect identities.

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

I know that many of you will be feeling the same. Wretched Covid deprived us of the life we knew and the future doesn’t look that healthy either.

As for the world . . . I love my newspaper but find it hard to stomach the TV news any more. What’s to be done?

From time to time we all need to find ways of shifting our heads and heart into another dimension — but the step that takes you from cloud-capped gloom into a patch of light is far from easy.

These are the days when I think of advice I have dished out over the years, look in the mirror and say: ‘Pull yourself together, woman.’

All the old clichés are true, too. Go out and do something! Start a project — even if it’s tidying! Get in touch with somebody you have not seen for ages. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and count your blessings.

So, I made a date to meet a new friend in London for a day of art, conversation and lunch — with a cheeky glass of wine or two for good measure.

I emailed another new friend and invited her to something only to receive an immediate ecstatic reply of yes, please.

I got in touch with a very old chum I tend to forget about.

I decided to forget the book idea I’ve been mulling over — because who needs extra work?

I walked around the house, looked at everything anew and realised I didn’t mind the stained ceiling, leaky shower, dust and spiders’ webs, because it’s home.

Consciously, I gave thanks for my family. And then felt better. That’s called self help.


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