06/20/2007DEAR ABBY: I live next door to a 75-year-old man whose wife died a few months ago. I'm fairly new to the neighborhood and heard of his loss just before Easter. As a caring gesture, I took him a homemade casserole and left my number in case he needed help going to the store or a cup of coffee. Since then, he has been over once with flowers to chat and have coffee, and is now calling me every few days inviting me for lunch, a glass of wine, etc.
I am engaged to be married and he knows this, but my fiance lives in another town. I realize my neighbor is lonely, but he appears to be thinking romantically. I am 30 years his junior and busy with my life. I only just met him and have nothing to say except to listen, which would be OK if I didn't think he was looking for more.
When he was here for coffee, he kissed my forehead several times when he left and wanted several hugs. I feel so sorry for him, but I don't want to lead him on or hurt him more than he already has been. Could this man actually be thinking of another woman this soon after his wife's death? How should I handle this? Please reply ASAP! -- LUCY IN LAS VEGAS
DEAR LUCY: It is not unheard of for a widower (or a widow) to miss physical contact and companionship after the loss of a spouse, and start thinking romantically within months of her or his death. You were kind to reach out to comfort your neighbor in his grief, but the time has come to make it clear that you are not available for the kind of companionship he is looking for.
Remind him again that you are engaged to be married, and that he should find a grief support group that can help him work through his loss and re-establish a social life. To do so is neither rude nor unfeeling, and it may be the push in the right direction he needs to get moving with his life again -- because right now he is barking up the wrong tree.
CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: An estimated 320,000 people who suffer from severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression with psychotic features) are incarcerated in our jails and prisons today.
If you or a member of your family has been diagnosed as "mentally ill" and has spent time in jail or prison, please write and tell me about it. Your first-hand experiences are needed for an important mental health study being done by an elite group of psychiatrists. Please address your letters to The C.P. Committee, Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP), Room 322, 701 W. Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21201.
I want to thank you in advance for taking part in this important study. Your personal comments will help GAP to identify the seriousness and magnitude of this problem rooted in the mental health/justice fields. Your participation may help to effect major change in these areas, and have a profound impact on the treatment of many of our loved ones. Please share your comments today. -- LOVE, ABBY
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)