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How do i support depressed sibling who had an affair

Community Member
My brother had an affair and his wife found out. They have been separated for a few months and I'm worried about his mental health. He doesn't like discussing his feelings but he is filled with guilt and self hate. He has told me he cries anytime he thinks about her and what he has done. He doesn't do much socially anymore and is isolating himself. He believes he deserves to be punished for what he has done and admits to hating himself and feeling lost. I'm struggling with how to help him. Obviously what he has done IS horrible but he can't live constantly punishing himself. I don't know what type of things to say to show my support. My family, his ex wife and I are very worried about his mental state. I asked to see him to just hang out one night and he said no and that he doesn't want that. He has also rejected other siblings trying to do the same thing. I'm not sure if this has to do with him disliking feeling pitied? I'm really struggling with things to say to him and how to go about trying to help him.
2 Replies 2

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Ceruleann~

I'd like to welcome you here to the Forum. It took a while for you to get a response and I'm sorry about that. Let me reassure you it's nothing to do with you, it is just one of the shortcomings of the system at times.

I think your brother is lucky to have family members and his ex all so concerted about him. He sounds like he is taking it all very hard.

Before going any further do you think there is any possibility of a reconciliation? To have strayed even once is a big thing, however people do learn from mistakes, and your brother sounds very much as if he views it in that light. Sometimes we de not realize what we had until it is taken away.

How to support him is not easy and there is no real set list of things to do, other than of course ensure he knows you will be there for him and care for him no matter what. Can I ask how serious you think this is? Are you worried for instance he may take his life? Sorry to sound so dramatic, but better to discuss such things than ignore them and just hope for the best.

I know you said both that he feels he deserves punishment and may dislike being pitied and that he may be refusing contact as a result. These are things centered on him, perhaps it might be different if he saw there was a reason outside himself.

I'm not sure I'm putting this clearly. As an example if you pointed out the great distress you were feeling over him and how he could make you feel better by hanging out with you - do you think that might make a difference? Pointing out that a few words from him such as "I'm OK", or "Don't worry" simply are not enough.

At a time like this the people around your brother are themselves under a great deal of pressure. Are you able to get together and support each other and talk things over often?

I hope you come back and talk about this more, you will be welcome (and answered more promptly)


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Ceruleann,

I think all you can do is be there for your sibling. I am a person who isolates myself when I’m feeling down or depressed, but sometimes what I want is not what I need. So my sister or friend will turn up with sushi etc or whatever and then I have to let them in, looking like a wreck, and I’m always so grateful that they have. He is in a dark place and he is punishing himself, but you need to try and get him out of his head. It might just be going for a walk with him and sitting in the sunshine. Or having takeaway and watching tv. I wouldn’t force him to talk, he may want to talk about things or he may not and he needs to know that both are fine. I think it’s important to be non-judgmental and not offer too many solutions or suggestions. Those are just the things I appreciate. I know how hard it is though.