Ask Amy: Sudden loss brings on unexpected grief

March 31

DEAR AMY: My husband died unexpectedly. Since his death I have had to deal with overwhelming paperwork and people.

To everyone who means well: Please do not tell me to get a pet. Please don’t say that I will meet someone who will fill the void. Oh — and (my favorite) — please don’t say that he is in a better place and that I will see him when I die. Do not tell me that if there is anything I need I should just call. Unless you can raise the dead there is nothing you can do for me.

Please just tell me you are sorry.

What I would like to know is: How do I cope with the immediate loss and pain? Does the emptiness ever go away? Does it ever get any better? Will I ever stop crying? -- Unexpected Widow

DEAR WIDOW: I am so very sorry for your loss. Your anger is understandable, and one potentially powerful thing for you to understand right now is that any way you feel is the “right” way to feel.

Grief (like love) presents its own peculiar roller coaster of emotions.

However, if you let people in they will help, even if they don’t know what to say or are clunky in their attempts to comfort you.

Do you need a hand with paperwork? Maybe a friend can come over and help you organize it over coffee. You need a break and you must give yourself a break.

You will feel better but this process of healing is slow and gradual.

Your journey should start with you being gentle toward yourself and choosing to do whatever you can to get through these tough days.

Grief counseling would help you immeasurably. Your local hospice center can give you a referral for a grief group, where you will be among others who can understand, comfort you, and be comforted by you.

Joan Didion’s account of her husband’s sudden death is touching and powerful: “The Year of Magical Thinking” (2007, Vintage). This book might help you to understand what you are going through.

DEAR AMY: How many times does one need to be excluded from a girls’ group before they should realize that they are just not “one of the girls”?

I am in my mid-40s and have been friendly with a local group of ladies, consisting of neighbors and others. We have spent New Year’s Eves together, have attended the block party together, and see each other regularly in and around town.

I thought we had bonded to a point that I was considered a friend. Yet, when I see them out all together attending a local function or having a girls’ night at a local bar, I feel left out. They are friendly to me when they see me, but never include me in the first place.

What’s the deal? Should I continue trying to be in the group, or walk away? I’m really too old for girls clique nonsense. -- Too Old for Cliques

DEAR TOO OLD: You ask how many times it takes to realize you are being excluded, and the answer is: as many as it takes.

Groups like this often start with a nucleus of two friends who more or less make the plans and run the pack. These groups have a unique dynamic that cannot be easily pierced. Your exclusion is not necessarily about you, but more about the established social habits of the rest. One obvious suggestion is for you to make an effort to organize a group activity: Make the plans, contact the “girls” and accept the attendant social responsibility and risk.

If you try this and are still consigned to the fringes, then yes, you should accept it.

DEAR AMY: “Conflicted in South Carolina” wrote to you, describing his “demand” that he have a night away from his wife and young children once a month so he could go on overnight breaks with his guy friends.

This daddy needs to grow up. Play dates and sleepovers are for children. -- Renee

DEAR RENEE: Scores of readers agree with you.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2014 by the Chicago Tribune

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