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by Abigail Van Buren

Widowed Spouses Rightfully Find Comfort in Each Other

DEAR ABBY: "Just Wondering in the Bay Area" (July 26) asked about proper protocol regarding dating after a spouse's death. A recently widowed man was dating a widow from his wife's circle of friends. The women were appalled and now shun the couple.

Many men and women who lose a spouse have finished grieving by the time their loved one dies, especially those who suffered through a long illness like cancer. Everyone grieves differently, some in private and some by sharing time with others. It is only natural that two people who have both lost a spouse would find comfort in each other's company; each knows the other understands what they've been through. Those who shared friendship before the deaths of their spouses have even more in common -- enjoying the fond memories without feeling threatened.

True friends would be delighted in knowing that friends who suffered such catastrophic losses had found comfort and happiness with each other. If this is the kind of friendship these women have to offer, I'd say John and Peggy are better off without them. -- SUSAN IN MINNESOTA

DEAR SUSAN: Thank you for sharing your thoughtful viewpoint. Most of the responses I received suggested that these women should have put themselves in their friends' shoes before shunning them. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My husband's first wife died about a month after my first husband, and after each of us had been married for more than 40 years. As members of the same church, we shared our experiences and began dating about two months after his wife's death. We didn't stop grieving; we grieved together. We were married 11 months later. No one realizes how devastating the loss of a spouse is until they have experienced it. -- MARION IN MCHENRY, ILL.

DEAR ABBY: My parents had been married more than 55 years when my father died this past May. Less than a month later, my mother was invited to lunch by a widower from her church. They are now an "item," and I couldn't be happier. My father was an emotionally and verbally abusive man who refused to change or get help for his obvious issues. My sibs and I are thrilled that Mom, at the age of 75, has finally found someone who will love and respect her and make her happy. -- HAPPY FOR MOM IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR ABBY: My grandfather remarried at the age of 94, three months after his wife died. The woman he married was a former neighbor. The relatives were in shock, but Grandpa was ecstatic! At his age, a month is valuable time, and he had the good fortune to "start again." I would consider it a compliment if my husband were to marry a mutual friend. After watching my grandfather celebrate life anew, I realized that his second marriage was a testament to his love for my grandmother. -- GRATEFUL IN OAKLAND, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: There is a saying in grief recovery which is appropriate: Women cry, men replace. In my experience, the happier the marriage, the more quickly men remarry. John and Peggy need support and understanding from their friends. They do not deserve to be shunned. -- BEEN THERE IN TEXAS

DEAR ABBY: I believe that after one's mate has passed, the "contract" is null and void. It's how you lived your marriage that is significant. The speed at which you find someone to bring some joy into your life does not diminish the love of your late spouse. Life is too short for sackcloth and ashes. -- BARBARA IN PITTSFIELD, MASS.

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