I Don't Know What to Do for My Daughter.

Updated on February 11, 2015
L.D. asks from Tucson, AZ
27 answers

In August my husband got very ill with what we eventually found out was liver failure, he passed away in October. It's been a really rough time for my three girls but perhaps hit my oldest the worse. She is 14 and had to start high school the day after my husband was admitted to the hospital.

Shortly before christmas I decided I would move from Virginia to Arizona to be closer to family and so that I could work for my father's company. We have been here in AZ sense Thursday and my oldest has yet to go to school. I have been trying to avoid forcing it out right. My other two went on friday but I told them they could wait until monday if they wanted. Sunday night my daughter was shaking and crying in her shower saying she wanted to die so she could be with her father and was exhausted and lethargic monday morning so I just let her stay at my moms house all day. Today she got up and got dressed like she was going to get on the bus only to tell me she was going to walk to her grandmothers. (Only about 2 miles, a pretty safe walk.) I just let her go, but I did tell her she couldn't run from school forever.

My mom says she is too depressed to learn and is just scared in the unfamiliar city, she thinks I should put her in therapy. I tried after my husband died but she refused to talk. I don't have the extra money to spend for her to go to therapy but not to talk. I don't know what to do for her. I want her to go to school and make friends, so she can distract herself a bit, maybe even come to like Tucson. I don't want to be the bad guy and drag her too school by her hair (not literally) but I don't know how many other options I have when she won't help herself.

What can I do next?

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answers from Boston on

Yeah, I'd have her in therapy. A good therapist will wait for them to open up. She needs an outlet Nd a safe place to talk about her feelings. She also is going through the stages of grief.

She shouldn't be forced to talk, but I would have her go to school and meet with the guidance counselor. She need to set some normalcy and routine in her life to focus on.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

You know that she needs therapy, but it is not as easy as just choosing one and going with that person. She needs to feel comfortable with her therapist, connect with him/her. If she needs to see a dozen of them to find the right one, then do it!

Sit down with her and talk it over with her. She is old enough to get a game plan that you both can agree on. She has had zero control over everything lately, she needs some control.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I can't imagine :(.

So I think you should keep trying counseling. There are lots of places to get help from and finding the right person will make all the difference here.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm sorry for your loss. These must have been such tough months. I'm glad you had a family business to turn to and are able to live near your folks at such a difficult time.

As for your daughter, the most troubling statement was "...saying she wanted to die so she could be with her father."

Please take that statement seriously. Act on it to help her before she decides to act on it and possibly harm herself. That one statement alone should be the red flag that gets her to therapy immediately. She really should be evaluated for suicidal thoughts and might even need inpatient treatment--shaking, crying, talking about wanting to die, all are far from normal fear of a new school. She fears a lot more than school. Her mind is on her father, not school or friends.

I would not let her walk to grandma's on her own right now, or be at the house alone; even if she's not truly suicidal (and you don't know that for sure yet), she needs watching. She is in a very dark place and no longer has any of the friends, teachers or other support she left back in Virginia.

You mention that she "won't help herself" but if you have ever seen anyone really deep in the throes of depression and grief -- I have -- there are people who just can't get their heads above water enough to "help themselves" and if others don't take charge, they will drown. They can't get out of bed long enough to eat a meal, much less go outside, take on new responsibilities like work or school, and distract themselves out of depression. That's where you as the parent step in and help her until she has the tools again to help herself.

Please listen to your mom and find a therapist this week. Therapists will tell you that certain major life events are intense stressors: A death or a move are two of those events and your child has undergone both almost at once. Her father sickened and died very quickly, and before she knew it she was leaving every place she associated with him too. So for her this is not a clean slate or new start as it might be for you or her siblings. She may see this all as being ripped from the places or people she associated with him.

I"m not saying that as criticism of your move -- you have extremely valid, realistic and healthy reasons for it, but you as the adult can see that and separate your emotions from it a bit. She cannot see that or do that yet. Try to think like she's thinking, not like you as an adult would think.

Please don't think of therapy in terms of cost here. The statement "I don't have extra money to spend for her to go to therapy but not to talk" sounds as if you are expecting her to come out of her shell fast to justify the expense, and as if you feel she's not "helping herself" enough. Therapy takes time -- she has to open up to that therapist, which means she has to have time to build trust, and if you are worrying after every session whether she's talking yet, she is only going to clam up more. If money's really tight, there are doctors who charge on a sliding scale or who will set up payment plans. Good therapists don't want to see a teen, who has been through what she's been through, go without treatment just because nobody inquired about a payment plan. Your mom might also help pay. I don't usually advocate borrowing but this is the one time I would, if it were essential.

Be aware, you may have to try more than one therapist to find one who works for her. Please don't let the cost stop you from trying. Seek ones who specialize in grief in teenagers, most of all.

Go see the school counselor (alone, yourself) today. Not tomorrow or next week but today. The counselor should want to see your daughter tomorrow--ask for it. On your private visit with the counselor, talk about the best way to get your daughter into school. The counselor might recommend starting with just a tour of the school, with you along, and brief meeting with teachers and the counselor before anything like a full day of school happens. The counselor also might identify a girl your daughter's age who could act as a kind of "student guide" for her -- someone to show her around, sit with her at lunch the first day or week, etc. Believe me, counselors and teachers do know kids who make good ambassadors for the school, and who would be sensitive to your daughter's situation (but dont' worry, no counselor is going to tell any student the details of your daughter's issues).

I'd expect your daughter to act out or possibly get very upset and emotional at school. That may be another reason she's avoiding it -- she might fear that she will break down there in front of total strangers, so she'd just as soon stay home. Talk to the counselor about how the counselor or teachers would handle that. Any teachers she has MUST all know about her situation, I think. Teachers can be very kind and helpful in cases like this if they know what's going on behind the scenes with a student.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Your daughter has suffered several major losses. First she loses her father and then her life as she knew it because you moved. She is adjusting to a new city, new school, no friends after losing her father. Most if not all teens would have a difficult time. Her life has changed in major ways. At 14, friends are the teens main source of support. She is alone. Yes she has family. However friends go to other teens for support. Friends that they have known. Friends that last through good times and bad. She has lost those friends.

Making new friends is difficult and takes lot of physical and emotional energy that she does not have. She certainly needs counseling. I suggest you call the school and arrange to talk with the school counselor or the school district psychologist. Perhaps they can help you find support for your daughter. Ongoing counseling is essential. Always take a statement of wanting to die seriously. She is close to the end of her "rope."

The county in which you live has a mental health clinic with a sliding scale. That's one resource. A primary care doctor may be able to start her on antidepressant meds. The doctor may be able to refer her to a mental health provider.

Above all, do not try to manage her depression without professional help. Accept that she is depressed. Do not try to talk her out of the way she feels.
Be compassionate. Encourage her by being positive in encouraging her to hold on. Do not force her to go to school. Work with a professional to give her strength to try school. Take what she says seriously.
Be careful to not to tell her to snap out of it. Tell her you will find help for her. If she says she doesn't need help continue finding help. My 14 yo granddaughter prides herself in being tough. She refused to go for counseling. She attempted suicide. She goes to counseling every week. Her mom goes once a month. Fortunately she recovered and the hospital provided resources for help. She has private insurance to pay part of the cost. Because her parents are low income they also get help with medical expenses. You may be eligible for state insurance. Call the state Human Resources.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Oh my goodness, I am so sorry to hear about all that you have been through. Your daughter ABSOLUTELY needs therapy. At a minimum, I would reach out to the school counselor. She can meet your daughter, tell her about the school, and get her ready to begin there. This also allows the counselor to be able to check in regularly with your daughter, make sure she is adjusting ok. One more thing, the counselor should be a great resource for pointing you in the direction of more involved help. Whether it's an individual counselor (and can keep in mind your budget needs) or a support group, she'll know what's helpful in your area. I know here in Denver there is a center with groups for kids who have lost parents, I'm hoping there is something like that in your area.

Please, at least start by calling the school and speaking to the counselor to get plugged in somewhere. Your daughter needs you to support her but also to set boundaries and be strong for her. I can't imagine how hard this is on all of you, and I will pray for the strength to get through it. Please keep us posted.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Your daughter has said that she wants to die.
So you pay for therapy for her to just sit there and say nothing.
That's what a good mom would do, and I know you are a good mom.
She is grieving her dad's death and her move. How devestating for her to have her world COMPLETELY turned upside down.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My condolences to you and your girls. What a tough time you have all been through. You are a very strong woman.

Contact the school. They should have a guidance counselor and a psychologist. Let them know what is going on with your daughter and they will give you direction.

My high school had 'peer counselors'. It was like an outreach program. Kids who were interested in helping others were screened and then offered some training, and then lent a helping hand to peers. They reached out to kids going through divorce, who just moved to the area, lost a present, etc. it was receptive to a lot of students. The new school may have something like this.

Ask the counselor or psychologist for a referral to at least 3 licensed CHILD therapists in the area asking specifically if any specialize in grief counseling.

Call these therapists and 'phone interview' them...how can they help you in this situation: 1) loss of father, 2) loss of peers, 3) new school and 4) how a teen can manage these while dealing with the issues of being a teen.

If you do not have insurance most will offer reduce fees for cash payment. Please ask about this.

If you live in a township you may have a family service center that will offer discount counseling.

If you live near a community mental health center you may qualify for discount outpatient services.

Is she in contact with her old friends? How often? Can they come out and visit over a long weekend (presidents day?)

Are there cousins around that are her age? Neighbors? Activities at the local library?

I would contact the school and then decide about getting her to school.

So sorry you are going through this, and I hope it gets better soon.

ETA: not sure of the dynamics last time you had her to a counselor, but refusing to talk IS a part of the therapy process. This part of the process can take up to 6-8 sessions to process through, again depending on the dynamics. But it is a part of the therapy process, and this should be discussed with her therapist.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

your daughter is reeling.
so are you, of course, and your other kids. {{{{{}}}}}
but this girl needs a counselor, and needs one today. i know it must be tempting to want to micromanage how the counseling goes and get her moving, but this is her grief and her counseling and you need to step back and let it unfold.
but it needs to happen.
talk to the school. sometimes their counselors are good, often they're not nearly equipped to deal with this. talk to your insurance company.
but whatever you do, stop thinking about it as a money situation. i DO understand that money is desperately tight and 'wasting' it on a kid who goes to counseling and doesn't talk must be maddening.
but she's your child and she needs this.
distraction, school and keeping busy are all important pieces of the complex puzzle of rebuilding. but the your first priority right now is to get her into counseling. she can't handle all these devastating blows by herself.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I am so so sorry for what you all have gone through. You have lost your husband, the girls have lost their father, and you have lost your partner in parenting, leaving you in charge of your daughters.

It sounds like significant depression. She's lost her father and she has lost her neighborhood and school, all very quickly. I understand why you moved, and it might not be a bad idea to have her be in a school where not everyone is asking her about or avoiding talking about her father, but she also doesn't have a support system yet.

I think you have to put her in serious therapy. Find a counselor who specializes in grief. She's also at the teenage "feeling lost" age and feeling like she has no one anyway. I think it might be unrealistic to think that a new school can distract her from all of this. I would see a counselor by yourself first, and develop a strategy, but I don't think her therapy can be optional. The other kids might need something too. They are all too young to help themselves, so as overwhelmed as you feel yourself, you have to make the superhuman effort here.

If money is a problem, see what your insurance covers, and you can also inquire of the local clergy (regardless of your affiliation) to see if there is a pastoral counseling group that helps kids just like yours - with limited funds. The city's office for children's and family services may be of help. Groups like Jewish Family Services are also well known for helping everyone, regardless of religion. Most offer sliding scale therapy. I think your daughter cannot be given the option of just skipping school or being off on her own for a 2 mile walk right now - she needs significant intervention.

the school may be able to help in some ways to help with orientation and integration but it doesn't sound like her cousenling needs can be met entirely by them.

Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You need to get her a counselor. You should also take her to the school and meet with the counselor there. Let them know what is going on so they can be a resource for her and support her during this transition. The counselor may also suggest someone local who works with teens or a local grief support group for teens. Her statements that she wants to die should not be ignored. She is depressed and needs help. If you feel she is legitimately suicidal, she may need in patient care. Please listen to your mom and find her someone to talk to, or at least stare at. I would at least be making calls and plan to take her to class on Monday.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Your daughter has spokwn out loud of her wish to be dead like her father. School isn't going to fix that, she needs therapy. Whether she talks or not, get her an appointment ASAP and take her regularly until she can deal with this major upheaval better.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Poor kiddo.

There are a LOT of excellent resources available to you through the Department of Mental Health. Please reach out locally. Google free or low cost counseling. I don't know your faith, but many churches also have licensed pastoral counselors. It might be that finding an excellent church would be a good way for your daughter to connect, seek answers, heal, and move forward.

I am so very sorry for your family's loss. ♥

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I was 15 when my mother moved our family across the country and it was difficult for both my brother and myself and we did not have the tragic loss that your family has suffered. I agree with other posters that your daughter needs some type of professional therapy. Might I also suggest, if you don't already have one, get her a dog. My daughter has a social anxiety disorder, and her doctor recommended a pet. I can't begin to tell you the difference it made. It sounds simple, but it does work. A pet provides judgement free love and understanding and offers no advice, just comfort, not to mention a bit of responsibility in the caring that is required. I suggested a dog over a cat because a dog has the added benefit of making a person feel safe and protected.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Go in and speak to the school counselor/therapist. He or she will be able to help you and for free. They can provide you with many answers on how to help your daughter and get her back on track. You might consider home schooling for the rest of the year. That will give her time to acclimate and not lose any time. But make that appointment with the counselor ASAP. Good luck to you and your family.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm so sorry for your loss.
Your daughter is fighting a true battle.
Call the school.
Talk to the guidance counselor and explain what's going on.
Ask if she can come for a tour. Her and the counselor.
Perhaps they can arrange a student to accompany them that can kind of act a liaison between her and some kids at lunch, study periods, etc.
IME, teens are highly compassionate with their peers when they're facing adversity. I'm sure the fact that it's a new school and she doesn't know anyone is a huge factor.
Many schools contract with outpatient therapists/mental health facilities that come into the schools and bill your insurance. Maybe this school has that? If she can meet in private at school with a psychologist, s/he will be able to evaluate her and make further recommendations.
So I would:
1. Decrease the school anxiety about the unknown with a tour after talking to the school counselor
2. Inquire about mental health services availability at the school.
3. If there aren't services at the school, ask counselor or physician for a few referrals. Now that some time has passed, perhaps she'll be more open.

If you feel there is a danger of her hurting herself? ER. ASAP.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

You have received a lot of good advice. Nothing to add... I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss. I hope your daughter finds her way- and I know you'll be there for her every step.

This is obviously a stressful time in your life and your family's lives. You need to be sure and take care of yourself, too. Please keep us posted.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

She's experiencing a significant depression. She needs to be in therapy. I would try to find a good individual therapist asap. Yes, start with her school guidance counselor as a resource. If you don't have the money, find a way. Start working with your insurance company, employer, etc. Free or low-cost services do exist if you need them, you just have to dig for them. This should be your number one priority. Even borrow money or take out a loan if you have to, just get her into therapy.

Having had a depressed teen in therapy and through a number of hospitalizations as well as residential treatment, I would say to try an individual therapist first. See if you can find a good grief specialist to meet her more frequently than weekly, at least for right now. Watch her carefully. She's at risk to harm herself. She should not be left alone. Secure your household medications.

A lot of people have suggested inpatient, but please really consider some of the cons to that. Be very, very careful of getting her into any kind of hospitalization or general depression group treatment right now. I would not go that route. The reason is that other troubled teens will become her peers. Especially since she has no other friend group in her new city. And she could pick up some life-changing horrible coping skills. I regret my daughter's first hospitalization. She was exposed to cutting at her most vulnerable state and you don't want to be dealing with that awful, awful addiction, trust me. Of course there are grief-loss support groups may be helpful, just make sure to vet them carefully first.

Distraction is good. Positive activity is good. Any time you can get her out of the house and get her physically active (supervised), encourage it. Volunteering, etc. Try to find good outlets for her. If she can go with you to meet the school counselor, that would be good. You can explain her situation, and they can help her find a path back to school, even if takes a little time.

I am so sorry for your loss, and for what your daughter is going through. I will be thinking of you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Try the school counselor. School would probably be good for her. Get her there.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

L., I am so sorry for your loss.

I am wondering if it would help to have your dad arrange a company potluck including the families. I am thinking a Saturday picnic at a park. There must be someone who works for your dad who would have a daughter or son the same age as your girls. Arrange some games and all the kids have to participate. This might give your girls a non threatening way to meet kids their age, hopefully your 14 yr old will meet someone from her school. You could pre-arrange with the parent of this child to have her/him befriend your daughter at the picnic. This other child could give her the lowdown on the school, the teachers etc.

Your 14 yr old is greiving and scared. She needs to know she will have at least one friendly face at school. Maybe once you can get her to go to school and get used to the routine she will be able to open up to you and maybe a counselor.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Hugs to you!!! You all have a lot on your plate right now!

She can't help herself right now so it is up to you. She needs therapy, a youth grief support group, maybe, and time to heal. Maybe rather than jumping right in at a new school she could ease her way in with online school done at grandma's house. Talk to the school and see what they have set up. If there is a sport or activity she loves she could just start with that and jump in next year to full-time school.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Most therapist use a sliding scale fee based on income. You should not stop until you find someone who will see her that she can talk to. You may also want to consider the counselors at the highschool. They are there for beyond things like what do you want to be when you grow up.

I understand being depressed. I get that she is grieving, you all are. She doesn't get to avoid school any longer and threats against her life should be taken seriously. She may need to be hospitalized. This is serious business.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Muncie on

I would sit down with her, just the two of you. Some place quiet, hot coco and coffee for two. Tell her that it's time for her to get back on track for her education, that this is something she MUST do, but that you are with her now to have her tell you how she wants to handle it. Tell her the truth, by not having her in school at all you are running the risk of having the local law step in. She doesn't have to "go" to a school, if you both are willing you can home-school her. Tell her this.You both need to flex in this, she MUST get her education, but she also needs to be able to mourn. maybe if she agrees to go and keeps her grades up, you promise you won't press about " making friends" or "outside activities".

I am sorry for your loss. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

She's never been to this school ? You want her to get on the bus ? Why don't you take her there and see a counselor with her ? Does she know anyone in the building ? She's depressed and feels like she was dropped on another planet . You really need to help her with this . I am so sorry for all that you are going through . Please get help for all of you 😊

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on


I am so sorry for your loss, for what your family is going through, and for what your daughter is experiencing.

I've only read a couple of the responses, Mel R's being one of them, and it's one of the best I've ever seen on this board. Please take what she says to heart.

Talk to the school counselor today. Make sure the principal, assistant principal, and her teachers are on the same page with respect to her current status.

In addition, if you contact the national suicide prevention hotline, they can also guide you in how to talk with your daughter and help her through this. The website also has numerous resources for families. Please call so you can be an ally in your daughter's healing. The number is 800-273-8255, and they have trained counselors who will talk with you any time of day. Their website can be found at: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

You can also visit Grief.com, which is run by David Kessler, a grief expert who has authored numerous books and articles on the subject. The website contains links and information that I think could be helpful to you and your children as you adjust to life without your husband and their father.

Your daughter can't help herself right now, not totally. She needs every adult in her life---you, grandma, grandpa, teachers, counselors---in her corner helping her through this.

I know you are still going through your own grief, too, and have probably pushed aside your own feelings just so you can get through the days and take care of your family. Please take care of yourself, too, and reach out to all available sources of help. This all takes time.

Wishing all of you peace,

J. F.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

What was she like in school last fall?

Okay, not going to answer? Here is the thing, I wondered because if she was doing okay before the move it seems clear you just removed her from her whole support system. You don't seem to be her support system at all, perhaps because you are dealing with your own stuff. So now what does she have?

I don't know that a therapist is what she needs. What she probably needs is a mentor at the school. Every school has a few of those students that are just amazing who could take her under their wing, help her develop a new support system. Contact the school!! That is what I am saying! Do it now, explain what has happened, what is happening, have her explain what she needs without you around.

Something like saying you want to be dead is the loudest voice a child has to say I need help, I am not getting it! Listen to her.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I'm thinking you've left it too long and she needs to be inpatient for a while in a juvenile facility.

She's showing signs of severe depression and if you don't get in there and actively address this with a therapist you might lose her too. Please get some help for her. I would absolutely put him in the hospital and let her have some healing time where they can get her on some meds and she can scream and shout and cuss and hit and cry and yell and cry about losing her dad.

She needs this mom.

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