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by Abigail Van Buren

Owner of a Failed Business Looks for Words of Sympathy

DEAR ABBY: Because of the downturn in the economy, I had to close my business. Let me tell you this -- if anyone wants to know who their real friends are, here's how: Own your own business.

Not one friend or family member has mentioned my business loss, much less offered condolences -- and they all know. People have told my husband, who was not part of the business, that they feel sorry for me, but no one will say anything to me about it. I feel like it's the elephant in the room at gatherings when no one mentions it.

Am I wrong to feel hurt by this? I don't know what to do about it. I'm amazed at everyone's rudeness and total self-absorption. Have we become a society that talks to one another only when the news is good, but is too busy to tell people they are sorry for their loss? -- DEPRESSED IN UTAH

DEAR DEPRESSED: Their reluctance to bring the subject up is not because they don't care. It's more likely that they're afraid to say the wrong thing and are afraid they'll make you feel bad if they mention it. This happens often when serious illness strikes or when there is a death in a family. Your friends and relatives don't realize that it's enough to say, "I heard what happened and I'm sorry," which would give you a chance to vent or change the subject if you didn't feel like talking.

I'm glad you wrote because your letter is timely. With businesses closing and people being laid off in record numbers, it is important that they not feel more isolated than they already do. You may not be able to solve an unlucky friend's problem, but knowing you care goes a long way.