Dear Amy:

My wife suffered a massive heart attack a few months ago. She died way too young.

I'm raising two boys on my own now. Everything has changed.

We're all seeing individual counselors. I also hit a widow/widowers group twice a month for support.

Still, sometimes I just get so down that I cry (a lot).

My co-workers and family just do not understand what we are going through. I try to tell them to lay off, but they keep telling me and my kids to "just get over her."

I'm at the point that I hesitate to answer or return their phone calls.

Do you have any advice for me to get my family and friends off my back?

It's still too soon for us to let my wife and their mom go. This may take years.

Mark in Illinois

Your grief, sadness and pain are evident in this letter. It is obvious that you are hurting terribly. I am so sorry for this huge and sudden loss to you and your family.

However, I can't help but wonder if your grief is making you misinterpret people.

I find it almost impossible to believe that your co-workers and family are urging you and your boys to "just get over" your wife. I have a feeling that they are perhaps trying to help you by urging you to get on with your lives, which is not the same thing.

You don't "just get over" a beloved wife and mother. You do, however, need to move through your grief and continue to live, even in an extremely altered state -- because you don't have a choice.

It is understandable for you to get sad and cry. It is good for your boys to see that all of you can continue to express your sadness. However, it's not good for your boys to see you depressed, crying and rejecting friends and family. Of course it is frustrating that others can't understand the depths of your grief, but it is necessary for you to demonstrate to your boys that you are somewhat in control of your anger and sadness.

Please take everything that you have mentioned here to your therapist and your grief support groups. Describe exactly how you are processing your grief -- you may be clinically depressed and you should be evaluated for this debilitating illness. Any treatment for depression wouldn't take your grief away, but it might take the edge off and enable you to get through the day and gain a wider perspective.

Moving through grief and getting on with your life do not mean that you are forgetting your wife or "getting over" her. It means that you are honoring her memory by learning how to live again.

A book that you might find helpful is, "When a Man Faces Grief/A Man You Know is Grieving," by Thomas R. Golden and James E. Miller (Willowgreen Publishing, $6.95 paper). I hope that you will continue to search for ways to examine your grief in order to understand it.

Dear Amy:

Having had cancer about 20 years ago, I wanted to share my experience with kindness.

Often I spent long, miserable days alone at home during all my surgeries and radiation treatments.

Besides the love and support from family and friends, what gave me a great morale boost was that every day, one, two or more people from where I worked would bring lunch and eat with me.

They had a calendar at work where my co-workers signed up. There never was a day that at least one didn't show up. The food and the companionship were the best therapy and helped motivate me to recover and get back to work with these great people.

I'm still grateful.

Gene Bowen

For many of us, our co-workers are also our friends and de facto family. I'm happy to help you to express your gratitude to these thoughtful people.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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