DEAR ABBY: I was married to a wonderful woman who passed away five months ago after a heart attack. Why do people act as if the one who has passed away never existed? Please talk about her. Talk about her often. Tell me good things about her.
If you wonder about the right thing to say -- and I believe all mourners should hear it -- here it is: Tell me my wife loved me, tell me I made her happy, tell me she knew I loved her and knew she made me happy. Repeat it as often as you can. Out of all the friends we had, only one couple said those words to me. When I heard them I cried, but I was also comforted.
Also, it seems like many of my so-called friends have fallen off the face of the earth. Now is when they are needed most. I wish I knew why they don't come to see me. Is it me? -- ALONE IN ALABAMA
DEAR ALONE: Probably not. There could be more than one reason for it. With many couples, it is the wife who "nurtures" the social relationships. Also, your friends may be afraid that because they are couples and you are a widower, you might be uncomfortable spending time with them.
Something similar may be causing their reluctance to talk about your wife. They may fear that bringing her up in conversation will somehow cause you pain, which is why they avoid it. Death is an uncomfortable subject for many people, but I hope my readers will take your comments to heart.
If you want to end your isolation, you may have to call your friends and invite them instead of being passive and waiting for them to contact you. Please accept my sympathy for your loss.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are approaching our 25th wedding anniversary. I think it's quite an accomplishment, since many of the couples we know have called it quits.
I'd like to celebrate with a wedding-themed party with our friends and family, renewing our vows in front of them. In addition, I'd like my girlfriends to wear a bridesmaid dress from a wedding they have been in and stand with me.
My husband thinks a party would be "showing off" and that we should celebrate quietly, just the two of us. I'm surprised we could be married for so long and not be able to come to an agreement about this. How should we celebrate this big day? -- UNDECIDED IN NEW YORK
DEAR UNDECIDED: It's not showing off to renew wedding vows on significant anniversaries -- many people do, and a silver anniversary definitely qualifies. A party would be appropriate, but rather than expect your friends to dig old bridesmaid's dresses out of their closets -- if they even have them -- wouldn't it be more considerate to give them the option of wearing cocktail dresses they feel comfortable in if they wish? Hopefully, most if not all of them are also happily married, and if that's the case, I'm sure your anniversary party won't seem like one-upmanship to anyone.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)