DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Hurting in Lake Forest, Calif.," the widower who felt isolated by family and friends after his wife's death, prompts this letter.
The fact is, most people don't know how to deal with someone experiencing grief. Most people don't call after a death because they don't know what to say. They are afraid they might "upset" the person who is grieving by mentioning the deceased. They don't know what to do if the person gets upset or begins to cry. These people need to know that the person who is grieving is feeling sad anyway, and talking about their loved one doesn't make them feel worse, but better (eventually). "Hurting" said it all by pointing out that his friends and family have disappeared at a time when he needs them the most.
Grief is a process for each individual. There are many normal emotions associated with grief, including anger, sadness, guilt, confusion and denial. It is important for everyone to know -- grievers and supporters alike -- that it is OK to feel and express all of those emotions.
Please tell your readers, the next time they know someone is experiencing grief, to PICK UP THE PHONE OR PAY A VISIT! It may be the only one the grieving person receives. -- GRIEF EDUCATOR IN LOUISIANA
DEAR EDUCATOR: There is wisdom in your letter, and I hope it enlightens those who need it. There is a great deal of discomfort about death in our society. Some people act as if death is contagious. Others are embarrassed by grieving and don't know what to say, so they say nothing. However, a kind word can soothe an aching heart. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Please tell "Hurting in Lake Forest" there are many ways to deal with widowhood. My husband passed away two years ago. We had lots of friends we socialized with frequently. I don't know if the women were afraid they'd have to pay for my meal, but after the funeral, all of them disappeared.
I joined a health club, began volunteering at the local hospital and began a new life for myself. Now I'm enjoying new friendships -- and so can the widower in Lake Forest. -- LIVING WELL IN TUCSON
DEAR LIVING WELL: Bravo! Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Tied to every ending is a new beginning. I couldn't boil water without burning it when my wife died. I had to learn how to cook in order to survive. Eating alone was no fun, so I invited a couple for dinner and was the brunt of good-natured jokes and kidding about the mess I made in the kitchen. However, they helped me clean the mess and gave me an "E" for effort.
I continued to extend invitations, and this resulted in dinner invitations at the rate of about two for one. I'm still clumsy in the kitchen, but I get the job done. At age 73 (and still single) I am still having dinner parties and being invited out a couple of nights a week. -- NEWPORT BEACH BOB
DEAR BOB: You're right; it's important to reach out instead of waiting to be taken care of. Other suggestions sent by readers for "Hurting in Lake Forest" included: joining a grief support group; checking with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and attending military reunions -- or anything that gets you out of the house and puts you in contact with other people; joining AARP's Widowed Person's Service; joining a little theater group; taking classes at a commumity college; volunteering in schools, libraries, hospitals, shelters and charities. The choices are endless.