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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Keep Reaching Out to Old Friend Suffering Grief From Husband's Death

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were very close friends with a couple for many years. We moved away, but stayed in touch and, in the past few years, were able to visit. Six months ago, when we were visiting their city, they said that they had no friends.

Alas, the husband died suddenly of a stroke five months ago. I know that the wife has no siblings or parents left.

I have sent her a formal sympathy note and three more casual follow-ups. I wrote a poem in his memory. It seems almost like stalking, but I remember how bereft she was when her sister died and felt that sympathy was not sufficiently extended (in general -- I don't think she was pointing the finger at me).

I don't want to permit her to think that we are not feeling a lot of sympathy for her having lost her husband of almost 50 years. Yet her silence indicates that either our overtures are unwanted, or that her condition is so bad that she is emotionally overwhelmed.

When does an old friend stop reaching out? I do not want to continue down an upsetting path, nor do I wish to appear insensitive.

GENTLE READER: Indeed, the lady should have acknowledged your great show of sympathy. Miss Manners does not generally accept bereavement as an excuse for ignoring kindness. On the contrary, responding is a way of representing the deceased, as well as encouraging continuing friendship, of which this lady is apparently in special need.

But please do give it a last try, this time by calling or visiting, as your generous correspondence has unfortunately failed.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Death | Friends & Neighbors