DEAR ABBY: Your advice to the grieving widower "In Need of Someone" (June 22) was spot on. I met my husband when I was 14. We married at 18, and he died when he was 44. After his death, I had no idea how to be a person because I had always been a partner.
In the early years, I cried every day and was searching, like "In Need," to fill that empty spot in my life. Then one day, I started figuring out what to do about the other holes in my life.
I had not been the breadwinner, so my income was poverty-level. I had no college and not a lot of work experience. I knew if I was going to be able to keep my house and put my kids in college, I had to work on these other holes. In the process of school, working three jobs and keeping up with life, I realized I had never thought about what was important to me.
Over the years I have seen several close friends lose partners and go through exactly what "In Need" and I have experienced. Your advice is so true. Volunteer. Get a part-time job doing something you like or a job that will just give you someone to talk to.
Go to a support group, go to a church, but do not get into a serious relationship, because if you do, you will go from one dependent situation to another. Every person I know who went right into another relationship later regretted it. The new person is not your lost partner, never will be and will never measure up. Go into a relationship only if you are willing to let the past go and are willing to change YOU.
Be open to another opinion and a new lifestyle. You might like doing something you never thought you would see yourself doing before. You are not going to know unless you try. Do not look for a Band-Aid to fix the emptiness. Look for a seed to plant and nurture, and be prepared to be amazed at the beauty that will be opened up to you. -- SHELLY IN ILLINOIS
DEAR SHELLY: Thank you for sharing the important life lessons you have learned. Other caring readers also responded to encourage "In Need" as he moves forward:
DEAR ABBY: I lost my husband after 30 years together. I'm still working on getting "from hollow to whole," as "In Need" wrote. Your advice that he should "figure out the boundary between where you left off and your wife began" is an important insight. I've never heard this from a grief counselor, but it's exactly what I've been trying to do for the past three months. You can't live with someone else if you can't live with yourself.
I'm working on becoming whole again, and it's happening slowly. "In Need" should do the same. It may take longer, but it works better. -- TAMMY IN OREGON
DEAR ABBY: "In Need" should get some hobbies. If I met a nice person and was considering pursuing a relationship and I found out he had no hobbies, no outside interests or friends beyond his late spouse, I would be gone. Among my friends, I don't know a single one who would want a relationship with someone whose life was totally wrapped up in his spouse and "needed" a replacement. -- NANCY IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR ABBY: After my wife died, I joined Widowed Information and Consultation Services in my home state. It was a wonderful way to be with others who had lost their mates, and it helped me realize I wasn't the only one going through this.
Also, I decided to say "yes" to any invitations from friends to join them for dinner or a social gathering. Being around others helped to stave off the loneliness. In addition, I decided to travel by myself to Europe for a month, joining a group tour. I eventually found a wonderful lady, also a widow, and we have been married 15 years. -- ROBERT IN WASHINGTON
DEAR ABBY: "In Need" should consider adopting a pet, a dog or cat, that will love him unconditionally. Because of my pets, I am never alone, always loved and have creatures who depend on me. It might make the days ahead easier for that widower. I wish him the best. -- MICHAEL IN THE MIDWEST