Ask Dr. Giles: Should I ask hospice about counseling for my 17 year-old son?

Carol writes:

Our family is meeting with Hospice and trying to get things in order for Charlie as there are no more medical interventions to try. He is jaundiced, not eating and weak. My question is about our son Ben, age 17. He is having a great deal of trouble sleeping. Do you think asking Hospice about counseling for him is the right way to go? Ben said he thought he could do it so he’s open to that. Our daughter Sarah, age 20 hasn’t mentioned it. My heart just breaks for them. I lost my Mom when I was 17 and it is very hard. Even though they’re not children, they don’t really have all the skills of coping or working things out. Do you think Hospice is a good place to start? Thank you.

Dear Carol,

My heart goes out to your family. I think it is very good that you are keeping track of how your children are dealing with this emotional time. Seventeen year-old boys are not known for their emotional insight, so the fact that your son is open to counseling–and recognizes that there might be a need for that–is impressive and a testament to your good parenting. I would definitely ask hospice about counseling for Ben and I would also offer counseling to your daughter. If Sarah is ready for that, she will accept the invitation as Ben has. If she is not, then you can offer again later–but be prepared for the possibility that she might not be ready for a long time. As you may have already discovered, each child deals with loss differently. The challenge as a parent is to be aware and sensitive to those differences and be ready to help when they are ready to receive the help. The timeline for grieving is different for each of us and it’s best if all can respect–and be patient–with those differences.