Words intended to comfort only trigger man’s grief

Published 9:03 am Friday, July 31, 2020

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DEAR ABBY: My wife died unexpectedly two years ago, after 18 years of a happy marriage and two kids. While we are doing as well as can be expected, one thing seems to set my grief off. It’s when someone refers to my life as my “new normal.”
I’m not sure I can put my finger on why this phrase bothers me so much, but if I had to guess, it’s because I suspect people are using it to hint that it’s time I moved on. Why is it that people who would be deeply offended if I attempted to tell them what to do with their life, seem to think it’s acceptable to imply that I have grieved enough?
As I look at my life, I know it is forever changed, and it will never be “normal” again. It will be what it is, but I will have lost forever the love of my life and the mother of my children. Right now, I am trying my best to keep them healthy, working to keep a roof over their heads and dealing with my own grief. (We are all seeing our own counselors.) I have zero time and energy to invest in anything or anyone else.
Am I just holding onto the past? Are these people thoughtlessly saying something hurtful, or is it something completely different? — ANNOYED IN ARKANSAS
DEAR ANNOYED: People often are at a loss about what to say to someone who has lost a parent, a spouse or a child. While they may be well-meaning, what comes out of their mouths can be hurtful rather than comforting.
Something I have learned from experience, as well as from my readers, is that EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENTLY. It’s an individual process. Do not assume you know what these people are implying when they make that statement. “New normal” is a catchphrase that’s popular now. It is used to describe conditions as the quarantines are being lifted or re-imposed. They may not realize how emotionally loaded that term can be. When it happens again, don’t be confrontational, but do tell them how it made you feel.
DEAR ABBY: What’s the correct way to break up with someone who lives with you? A friend of mine wants to break up with his girlfriend, who lives in his home along with her adult son and teenage daughter. His concern is she has no place to go. She refuses to work a steady job, so he pays all the bills and supplies her with a vehicle and spending money.
She wants desperately to get married. After two or three years of living with her, he knows he won’t marry her. He says she’s a nice person, but she’s a terrible housekeeper and has no ambition. My friend is a financial planner and works three to four side jobs, etc. He doesn’t have a clue how to end this, but he wants to. How should he dissolve this live-in relationship? — ASKING FOR A FRIEND
DEAR ASKING: Your “friend” needs to summon up the courage to tell this lady he isn’t in love with her, doesn’t plan to marry her and he wants her to move. When he gives her the unhappy news, he should also give her a date by which he expects her and her “children” to be out of there. Advise him that if he’s smart, he should first discuss this with his attorney and, possibly, offer her enough money for a deposit on a place of her (or their) own. He’ll be glad he did.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable — and most frequently requested — poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby — Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.

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