OUR Agony Aunt and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas. This week a woman gets in touch with concerns about about her sister who has recently suffered a miscarriage.

After really looking forward to being a mum for the first time, my sister had a miscarriage two months ago and is in a bad way. She’s not coping with day-to-day life at all.

She spends most days in bed, and even when she does get up, she just sits and cries.

She’s not washing regularly, and I have no idea whether she’s eating properly. She has stopped going out and I think is close to shutting down completely.

I am also worried she’s going to lose her job. I know her employer is expecting her to go back to work in a couple of weeks, but in her present state, I can’t see this happening.

Her partner isn’t much help either, he seems to be carrying on as normal, as though nothing happened. I thought by now she would be getting over the worst of it, but if anything, she seems to be getting worse.

I have tried saying that these things just happen sometimes, and that she needs to talk with someone, but she just gets more upset whenever I bring it up.

Yesterday I called in to see how she was, and she wouldn’t see me. I did speak to her later on the phone and she apologised. She said she’d had a particularly bad day and just couldn’t face anyone, not even me. I am now worried that she might do something drastic unless she gets help soon.

I hate seeing her like this; she used to be the strong one. I have got to do more to help her but have no idea what to do.

P. A.

Fiona says: She is not alone

Your sister is indeed in a bad way, and you are right to be concerned. Miscarriage is a distressing and traumatic experience. However, it is important to realise that, while it may seem extreme to you, your sister’s reaction is understandable following the loss of a much-wanted child. It can create a potent mix of anger, shock, grief, sadness, and guilt.

As many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and while some have obvious medical causes, sometimes it is simply not possible to know why. This lack of knowledge can also make it so hard, and the fact that it is common doesn’t necessarily make it easier to deal with either.

Some women can bounce back quickly, other need more time. I suspect that your sister falls into this latter category and needs additional support. You’ve been a great help to date, but I think she needs professional support going forwards.

Please encourage her to contact the Miscarriage Association (miscarriageassociation.org.uk). This organisation operates a helpline (01924 200799), an online live chat service and maintains a list of local support groups. It also has a wealth of information about miscarriage and other sources of help around the UK. If your sister continues to avoid talking about it, I suggest you obtain the ‘Why me’ leaflet from the association and leave it for her to read in her own time.

I would also encourage her to talk to her GP again, as she probably needs to be signed off from work for longer on health grounds. Your sister will likely never forget this miscarriage, but I am sure she will come to terms with it in time. Meanwhile, please do all you can to support and love her, she’s lucky to have you. Finally, please don’t judge her partner too harshly. Distancing himself from what has happened may simply be his way of coping with this sad situation.

So stressed about money

I have been married for six years and have two children. My husband has a full-time job and works most evenings to bring in some extra money. The problem is, things have got really tight over the past year or so. We never have enough money and are massively in debt.

We can’t seem to get ahead of it, especially with the recent hike in energy bills. Food has become so expensive too and I even had to use a food bank for the first time last month. We have cut back where we can, but we are basically broke. I am sick with worry about our debts, and I think it’s getting to my husband too.

He thinks I don’t want to work and am just being lazy, but that is just not true. The fact is, I have no experience and little in the way of qualifications. Yes, jobs are out there but they are all badly paid. By the time I pay for child-minding and travel, and the tax man takes his wedge, we’d be out of pocket. I have tried to point this out to him several times, but he just gets angry.

I know it’s because he’s tired and stressed out, but it still hurts. I am sure it must be affecting our children too and I think we are at breaking point. Please help.

M. L.

Fiona says: Debt advice is available

If meeting your debt payments is leaving you short of food, you need to tackle the issue now. Debts have a nasty habit of compounding over time, so the sooner you deal with it, the better – and that means working together.

When your husband is in a calmer mood, explain that you are not lazy and that looking after a household with two children doesn’t just happen by magic – it’s hard work!

Then say you know he’s worried about income (you are too) but it’s the debt that needs tackling first. Hopefully he will see that the decision about whether you work or not can’t really be addressed until you’ve got some measure of control over your debts.

To help with this, I suggest you contact StepChange (stepchange.org), a registered charity which has an online debt advice process. If you don’t have access at home, you can go to your local library to use the computers there or you can call them on 0800 138 1111. They can help you to analyse your debt and work with you to put in place a scheme to make it more manageable.

In certain circumstances, these schemes can include limited write-off of some of the money you owe. They can also help organise respite periods, in which payments are suspended and an Individual Voluntary Arrangement where you pay a manageable amount over a given number of years. The important thing is that creditors are given a clear indication of your willingness to settle the debt and you are given a bit of breathing space.

Once this is in place, you can then begin to look in more detail at your household budget and whether it makes financial sense for you to work. StepChange can help with this process too, as it has budgeting and benefits calculator sections on its website.

You could also explore way to reduce your household bills and boost your income at home through the moneysavingexpert.com website. For example, did you know you can rent out a room/s in your house or flat and earn up to £3500 tax free per person each year? It might be enough to make a bit of a difference, if you’ve got the space to do it. But that’s just one possible suggestion. Start with some advice and support with your debts – and take it from there.

My forgetful husband blames me for everything

If anything goes wrong in our house, it’s my fault – at least that’s what my husband would have me believe. He’s 74 and blames me for everything.

For example, last week he went out to get a newspaper and when he got back, he left the car running and forgot about it. It was over an hour before I noticed and when I queried it with him, he said it was my fault for giving him a cup of tea.

On another occasion, he’d taken a phone call while cooking some bacon under the grill. It took the fire alarm going off to make him realise there was a problem. Once again, it was my fault for not noticing sooner.

These are not an isolated incidents and they seem to happening more and more often. However, if I point them out, he gets angry. I am worried about him but what can I do?

L. W.

Fiona says: See the gp

These might be symptoms of dementia, or they may just be forgetfulness – but either way, I think you are right to be worried. Both incidents were dangerous and could have had far more serious consequences. And I suspect your husband may think something is wrong too, hence the anger and deflection of blame.

As a first step, encourage him to see his GP, who can do an initial assessment. Once this is done, a baseline can be set which can then be used to determine if things are getting worse. And if it is dementia, an early diagnosis would also increase the chances of slowing its progression.

Given his behaviour to date, it’s likely your husband will resist this suggestion, so don’t engage in the blame game or be confrontational. Instead, tell him that you love him and explain that you are worried about him. Hopefully, this will give him the push he needs to get help.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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