Annie’s Mailbox for Jan. 29, 2011: Offer help to those grieving
Dear Annie: My husband died suddenly at the age of 46. For the first few months, you’re in shock and have lots of life-altering decisions to make. Simple tasks become overwhelming. I expected friends to be there to help, but I found out through talking with many widows that this is not the case.
I have always tried to be there for my friends, listening to their problems over a long period of time, helping with packing and moving, home repair projects, gardening, hobbies, etc. So why is it so hard for them to figure out what I might need help with?
I know some of my friends simply don’t know what to say to me, but it hurts that all communication stopped. How hard can it be to send an e-mail asking how I am doing or to drop by with a casserole? Grief takes time to work through. Just because it’s been two months doesn’t mean things are all right.
Everyone is there for the funeral, but not after. Could you offer your readers some suggestions of ways they could help a grieving person?
Dear Wisconsin: This is a question we get every so often. Many people are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, but support and contact are appreciated. It’s perfectly OK to say, “I don’t know what to say.” It is important to listen without judging or telling the bereaved person how they should be feeling. Everyone handles grief differently.
Often, the bereaved person is reluctant to ask for help. Friends can make this easier by offering. Call and say, “I’m going to the grocery store. What do you need?” or “I made a roast for dinner and I have extra. When should I bring it over?”
Here are some suggestions from the American Hospice Association: Shop for groceries or run errands; drop off a casserole or other type of food; stay in their home to take phone calls and receive guests; help with insurance forms or bills; take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry; watch their children or pick them up from school; drive them wherever they need to go; look after their pets; go with them to a support group meeting; accompany them on a walk; take them to lunch or a movie; share an enjoyable activity (game, puzzle, art project).
Dear Annie: My wife and I have been married for eight years. We each have teenage children from previous relationships. Both sets of grandparents are alive and well. When gift-giving time comes, my wife’s parents give equally to all the grandchildren. My parents, however, give more to their biological grandchildren, even in front of the other kids. Our children haven’t made an issue of it, but they clearly notice.
I have spoken to my parents, but they are firm in their conviction that only one is a grandchild and the other is a step-grandchild. It’s putting a strain on our relationship with my parents. It’s not about the gifts, only the equality. Am I crazy?
— Upset Dad
Dear Dad: Of course not. Your parents are sowing discontent, but you cannot make them less biased. Your choices are: Explain to your children that this is simply how they are, sorry; return all gifts until they get the message; even it out in some other way yourself. We think the kids are old enough to understand the grandparents.
Dear Annie: Like “Confused,” I, too, live with a husband who is verbally abusive and dislikes being touched. We have both been retired for almost 40 years, and it is a lot like being in prison, especially now that he is 87 and requires care.
Fortunately, I have family nearby, but I’d definitely advise anyone in my position to seriously consider whether they want to spend the rest of their life like this.
— Cold in Maine
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