DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to two of your readers who complained about "ghost syndrome," which occurs when someone suffers a tragedy such as divorce or terminal illness, and formerly supportive friends withdraw or disappear.
My family suffered another kind of tragedy that resulted in the same insensitive treatment. My husband, a highly placed executive, lost his job in 1990 because of company downsizing. We had been part of a large circle of friends. After the layoff it was as though we had caught a contagious disease or had fallen off the face of the earth.
Please let your readers know that the loss of a job is like having the rug pulled out from under you. Illnesses surface, self-esteem plummets, marriages are stressed and a general feeling of hopelessness pervades each day.
It would have been so helpful if a friend had invited us over for dinner, or had taken one of our children to a movie.
My husband and I finally found jobs out of town. We were grateful not only for the income, but also for a chance at a fresh start with the opportunity to make new friends -- because our old ones had vanished. -- LINDA W., FORMERLY OF TOLEDO, OHIO
DEAR LINDA: I'm sure your letter will strike a chord with many of my readers. Job loss is one of the most challenging circumstances a family has to face. It is a time when the compassion and sensitivity of friends and family -- helping with groceries or child care, offering to update a resume, or dropping off a stack of videos for a night of free entertainment -- can make all the difference.
People who care would not wait to be asked, which can be difficult for a family used to taking care of themselves. Such gestures are deeply appreciated and long remembered.