Q. I would welcome instruction in the etiquette of bereavement, particularly in how the remaining member of a couple resumes relationships with couples who were friends before the mate's death. It is now three months since my wife passed away, and there are at least four couples with whom we had been friendly, couples who were solicitous during my wife's illness and who attended her funeral service, but who have made no effort since to get in touch with me.
I hesitate to get in touch with them. Indeed, I am under the impression that it is their social obligation to resume the relationship under the altered circumstances. Shouldn't they at least call to see how I am getting on, and perhaps invite me to come by for dinner or drinks or something sociable?
I admit I am hurt and at a loss to understand their silence. I remember Danny Kaye's response when asked how he liked the Himalayas ("Loved her, hated him"), and entertain the terrible thought that these people were friendly only because they liked my wife.
But rather than sulk and feel sorry for myself, I would like to bring my feelings in the situation under control. Is my experience an unusual one? Should I call them and see how they are getting on? (But doesn't that look as if I am angling for an invitation?) Shall I invite them to come visit me? (But I hate cooking or preparing for guests. My wife did that.) I welcome your comments and suggestions.
A. Miss Manners' comment is that your situation is a very usual one, and her suggestion is that someone -- in your case, you -- had better do something about it.
Miss Manners has an explanation more likely (but less amusing) than that of the Himalayas. It is that, with the refusal of the society to recognize forms for bereavement after the funeral, people simply do not know what to do. As there is no official mourning period agreed upon, they are afraid of intruding into yours with festive invitations.
Another possibility is that these people have not discovered that it is impossible in modern society, for many reasons, to adhere to the once prevalent, but always silly, custom of entertaining only pairs and not individuals. Widows are more likely to be victims of this ridiculous notion than widowers, because women tend to live longer than men.
In either case, the social burden is put on the bereaved person, which is unfair because such a person is already in an emotionally weakened state. But shouldering it, as you realize, is better than the alternative, which is sulking.
In your normal state, you do not invent trouble for yourself by considering whether your friends will interpret your kindness in inquiring after them as angling for an invitation. Please cease that whole line of thinking. You can only flatter them by saying outright, "I am ready to see people again, and I've missed you."
You must also stop thinking that you cannot entertain people at home simply because you -- instead of your wife -- now have to do the work. Hating to cook is an extremely poor idea for people who live alone. Your entertaining need not be as elaborate as was hers, but you can surely provide some sort of food and drinks for your friends. And if you can't, you can take them out.
Miss Manners hopes that these problems will be considered when people start parroting the idea that formal customs of mourning -- including a general recognition of when mourning ends -- are barbarous.