Dear Amy:

We have a dear friend whose 19-year-old nephew died suddenly.

They live close to us, but her nephew and his family live a few hours away. Because we had an unbreakable doctor's appointment for my disabled son, we couldn't go to the funeral.

Sadly, we didn't send an arrangement to the funeral home, and haven't yet sent out a card to his family. We are planning to do that, but for our friend, who will be coming home in a day or so, we'd like to do something out of the ordinary to let her know that we are truly sad for her. We want to do something less traditional and outside of the regular "I can't imagine how you feel" sentiment.

Our friend has been through a lot, and I know she's full of grief and worry.

What can we do for her to "move" her and show her just how much we care for her and her family?

Want to Do Something Nice

Even though you make this incident seem like some sort of opportunity to "wow" your friend, I understand your basic impulse.

Unfortunately, I can't suggest anything truly innovative that's guaranteed to "move" her.

That's because she already is moved. She doesn't need you to manipulate her feelings. This isn't about you or your ability to be amazing. Your friend's grief is about her.

I'm going to suggest that you do something so old-fashioned that it's almost new again.

It involves a casserole, a bottle of wine and you.

Take dinner to your friend. Let her tell you about the funeral and about how her family is doing. Listen to her as she remembers her nephew. Be with her.

There is a reason that people say, "I can't imagine how you feel," and that's because we can ONLY imagine how someone else feels in his or her time of sorrow. It's okay not to completely understand someone else, as long as you are there to bear witness.

Dear Amy:

I was widowed about two years ago and after much grief counseling, I decided to try dating again. I registered with an Internet dating site.

Two weeks ago, I had a very disturbing experience that left me feeling abandoned, rejected and depressed. A man 10 years younger (divorced), who had been e-mailing and phoning me for three months, asked me to meet him. He seemed kind, gentle and considerate.

He expressed concern about my widowhood and said he hoped we could enter into a long-term relationship. He holds a responsible job, and I did a credit check on him prior to agreeing to meet him.

He asked me to meet halfway (we live about 90 miles apart) at a hotel restaurant in the city. I went to the meeting place and he stood me up. He refused to return my phone calls and e-mails asking for an explanation.

What possible reason would this man have for rejecting and abusing me like this?

Is he afraid of commitment or just a jerk? Mentally ill or married?

I have spent nearly two years grieving and now don't trust any new men. My fear is that they will all be untrustworthy, rejecting and ill-mannered.

Hurt and Angry

When people use the Internet to basically "shop" for partners, it becomes so easy to contact and (virtually) "meet" people that basic manners seem as old-fashioned as a rotary telephone. There are simply too few negative consequences for being a jerk. There are Internet sites that provide opportunities to "rate your date" after the fact. Though I'm not crazy about the idea of trashing people, you may want to warn other women about this particular man -- or learn more about a prospective guy before you meet.

Don't dwell on this. Married, mentally ill or a garden-variety jerk -- he's not worth one more nanosecond of your time. Happy relationships can start on the Internet, but I also know of many people who have gotten tired of wading through the online jerks looking for a gem.

I hope that you also choose to go out into the "real" world and meet new friends the old-fashioned way -- in person.

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