DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband passed away three years ago. We were together for more than 20 years. He was my soul mate. Seriously. Many of my friends who are married used to complain about their husbands all the time, but I actually enjoyed my husband and the time we spent together. Now that he is gone, I feel so alone. I have been invited to go on dates with various men. I have gone out with a couple of people, but nobody measures up. At the same time, I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life. I am still young. What can I do? -- Lonely Heart, Chicago
DEAR LONELY HEART: Do your best to recalibrate your standards for a partner. That does not mean that you should lower your values. Be clear about the type of person you would enjoy spending time getting to know. Also be clear that you are not looking for a replacement for your husband. It is not likely that anyone would measure up to the partner he was for you, nor should anyone try. Instead, it is more realistic to look for a companion who shares some of your interests, who wants to spend time with you and who wants to savor the goodness of life with you.
Many widows express thoughts similar to those you have described. For those who recognize that they can keep their deceased husbands in a sacred place in their heart and still enjoy the company of someone who appreciates them for who they are, some amount of contentment can be cultivated. Give it a try.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Both of my children have left home. One is in college. One is already working and on her own. My husband and I got divorced a few years ago, so I am alone at home. I feel helpless. I have gained more than 50 pounds. I hardly feel like going to work. Honestly, I feel like nobody needs me, so I am worthless. I know that is the wrong way to think, but when I wake up in the morning, I wonder how long I will live. I am afraid to tell my children. I don't want to burden them with my worries. I don't really want to tell anybody. I know I sound pathetic. I need to do something. -- Drowning in Sadness, Westchester, N.Y.
DEAR DROWNING IN SADNESS: The reality of the empty nest can be jarring for many people. When the children grow up and leave, an ache can fill your being. That is only exacerbated by the departure of a spouse. No wonder you are sad.
The good news is that you see what's going on in your life. Yes, you do need to do something about it. Please go to your doctor, get a physical and ask for a recommendation for a therapist. You need help climbing out of what sounds like depression. A therapist can help you recognize your own value so you can choose to live -- for you. You are worth more than the sadness that is shrouding you now. Claim you. Now.