Sense & Sensitivity

Grieving Sister Needs Professional Help

DEAR HARRIETTE: My sister’s husband died a few years ago, and she is still grieving deeply. I try to connect with her and let her know that I care about her and want to be there for her, but nothing seems to be working. She works, but she is really sad. When she comes home from work, she sits around and drinks. When I go to visit her, I can tell that she has not eaten much. She’s usually in a daze. I suggested that she go to therapy, but she doesn’t want to do that yet. I suppose she is functioning because she does go to work every day, but this isn’t living. What can I do to help her? -- Grieving Sis, Los Angeles

DEAR GRIEVING SIS: You cannot force your sister to get help, even though therapy would be good for her. You might suggest a grief counselor, which is specific to her problem. She may be willing to consider that.

Otherwise, continue to visit your sister. Don’t tell her it will get better soon, because you don’t know that it will. And it won’t make her feel happier, either. It will likely make her think you are uncaring and that you don’t understand her pain. Instead, spend time with her. Bring her food when you come. Offer to take her to the movies or shopping or anything that will get her to think about the present rather than remaining burdened by the loss that is unbearable for her to remember. Be patient and loving. Your support does matter to her.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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