As a disclaimer, I’d like to say i know it’s not my place to “fix” my girlfriend. i just want to know what i can do for her to help her cope.
My girlfriends mother collapsed and died from liver cirrhosis when she was very young, and my girlfriend (we’ll call her L) was the only one there to witness her death and deal with the situation. this day forever haunts her, and she has a lot of problems processing this trauma as an adult. she’s told me, through tears “ i want to think about it. i want to think about her death or im afraid ill forget.” shes told me multiple times that she constantly thinks about it and its making her really depressed. id like to know what to do rather than just saying how sorry i am and im here for her. ive told her she should seek professional help but so far she has not. any help is greatly appreciated.
The problem you have described is very personal. It is something that she will have to deal with when she’s ready. It’s not clear why she is refusing professional help but you can certainly continue to encourage her to go. She may not be open to it now but she may be in the future. Hopefully, that is the case.
Many people have the wrong idea about mental health treatment. Some of the more common themes involve people feeling like a failure if they ask someone else for help with their personal problems; believing that only “weak” people need help; not wanting to reveal personal information to a stranger or to tell other people their business; believing that therapy doesn’t work; or believing they can’t afford it, among others.
Those aforementioned false ideas (and others) about seeking out professional help prevents many people from receiving help. The resultant effect is that many people suffer with curable psychological problems. They suffer simply because they believe in misinformation about the nature of psychological help.
With your girlfriend, it’s not clear why she is resistant to treatment. One potential theory is that she worries that the treatment would erase the positive memories of her mother and thus she is unwilling to even try. That, of course, is untrue because therapy does not work that way. Therapy does not involve changing memories. Like many others, she might be ill-informed about the nature of therapy.
If she’s unwilling to go to treatment, then, you’ll have a choice to make. Her problem is affecting the relationship and thus it’s affecting you. You’ll have to decide if you want to continue your relationship with someone who is refusing help, for a treatable problem. Will that be okay with you?
She is purposefully choosing not to resolve this problem. Her reason may be fear. You need more information about why she is refusing treatment. Knowing more about why she is reluctant to seek treatment might give you insight into what she’s going through and how you can best support her.
The bottom line is this: you can’t fix someone else’s problems. They have to do the work themselves. Hopefully she’ll take your advice and go to counseling. That would be the best outcome.
Your power in this situation is very limited and will mostly involve you continuing to be supportive. How long you will want to continue in that role, is something only you can decide. Thank you for your question. Good luck and please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle