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Many reach out to offer help to grieving widower

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

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

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for 30 years. He has always been self-centered. We have discussed this over the years, and it hasn't changed his disposition. I bought him an "It's All About Me" coffee cup years ago as a joke, and he enjoys using it!

We both have office jobs and day-to-day issues and problems with our employees and co-workers. If we talk on the phone at lunch or over dinner, he describes his daily issues in excruciating detail, looking for my feedback/input and then moves on. There is never a time I can update him on my issues and get his input to help with mine because he's too busy thinking about his issues.

He cares deeply about our adult children, but doesn't give them input on their issues either. If I don't remind him about the challenges (i.e., buying a new car, looking for a new job, etc.) they want our advice on, he would never reach out to them to assist. I am not sure if this is a personality trait I must live with or if you have some ideas to improve this situation. -- ALL ABOUT HIM

DEAR ALL ABOUT HIM: Has it occurred to you that in some areas your husband may be less self-centered than an empty vessel? He may not help you with your daily issues because he doesn't have the answers.

Assuming you have talked to him about this until you are blue in the face, the next time he asks for your input, you might consider being less helpful. Or, beat him to the punch and tell him about your problems before he has a chance to tell you the ones he is having.

As to your adult children, they should go directly to their father when they seek his advice and continue to approach him until they get it.

DEAR ABBY: I have a dear friend I've known for 25 years and I consider to be family. We recently had a falling-out because I set some boundaries I feel are necessary for my own wellness as I grow into my 40s. The boundaries revolve around disrespectful or belittling speech.

My friend is gay and excuses the disrespect as the way his community speaks among themselves. He often calls me the b-word in fun, as well as similar names. I have told him it hurts me, but he refuses to acknowledge it, dismissing it as "you know, since high school that's how we talk." He might show some restraint at times, but when he's drinking (which is often), he reverts back to making cruel or hurtful comments.

I am now a single mother, looking to grow and evolve into a better person, rebuild my self-esteem and possibly find a partner in life, but my friend keeps pulling me back into a dark place every time we speak. I care too much about him to walk away from this friendship. What can I do? -- BOUNDARIES SET IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR BOUNDARIES: You have already taken the first step. You told your friend (frenemy?) you will no longer tolerate being called a b---- or any other offensive name. For some in the gay community this may be considered "fun," but it ISN'T funny to you. That he would continue doing this after you expressed that it hurt your feelings makes me wonder if he values your relationship as much as you do.

Maintain your boundaries by leaving his presence if he uses that language. Oh, and one more thing: When you know he's been drinking, avoid him because, if you don't, you know what will follow.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 41-year-old woman who has been with my fiance for eight years. Before we decided to become a couple, I made clear to him that if he had no intention of moving south once my kids graduate, he should not get into a relationship with me. When we got together, I assumed he understood and would be moving with me. We have bought vehicles together and a house.

Earlier this year, he took me on a cruise and proposed. Again I made it clear about my plans to move south and told him not to give me a ring if he didn't plan on going. Well, here we are all these years later, and we have been fighting because I have only a year before I can leave. Is it wrong of me to not feel bad about moving considering I made my intentions clear more than once?

It has long been my dream to move south. I believe he's on the fence about it, but I know deep down he doesn't want to. I won't feel bad leaving him behind since he knew I was going. I feel like eight years of my life have been wasted. -- FRUSTRATED IN NEW YORK

DEAR FRUSTRATED: If you two have been happy together during the last eight years, they weren't "wasted." They may simply be one more chapter in your life. Rather than fight, you and your fiance (or are the two of you married now?) need to have a calm, serious discussion about what's going to happen, because if he isn't on board for at least giving southern living a try, you two will have to separate your assets (house, cars) before you relocate. It may be less expensive emotionally and financially if you can keep things amicable.

DEAR ABBY: I'm 48, about to be 49 in less than a month. I have had mostly good health, but I do have high anxiety because of some trauma from my past. With the world now in hibernation and many of my peers passing away due to illness or some other tragedy, I'm feeling very much like I could be the next to die. I'm not suicidal, but I have had "premonitions" in the past about events that later came true. For some reason, I have been feeling like I am close to death recently, and it scares me. How do I snap out of this preoccupation with death? -- STRANGE FEELINGS

DEAR STRANGE: Turn off the news! Quit reading about and listening to the body counts. They are enough to scare anyone to death. In a sense, we are all "close to death" -- it's just a question of when. You will increase your chances of survival if you pay attention to what the medical experts have been saying.

The message is simple: If you are in fragile physical condition, hunker down and limit your exposure. Stay in contact with friends by cellphone or your computer. If you are healthy and can go out for exercise or to shop, wear a face mask in the presence of others, wash your hands often and practice social distancing. However, if your anxiety persists, discuss it with your physician, who may be able to prescribe something to calm you down.