For Dorothea Morefield, the waiting gets harder, not easier. In the month since her husband, Richard, was taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Morefield has approached daily household tasks, such as making the beds and cooking dinner, with increasing distaste.

It was different when her 19-year-old son, Richard, was murdered. During those cold March days three years ago, Morefield welcomed the diversion that everyday tasks could bring, welcomed anything that could take her mind off the night young Richard and four other people were herded into a freezer at Roy Rogers Restaurant on Little River Turnpike near Alexandria and shot in the head.

"Now you just want to say, 'I want to crawl into a corner and stay there until it's all over. I can't go on with anything else, with the rest of life,'" Morefield said yesterday.

"But if our experience is any guide, you have to face the whole pain of things. You have to understand that pain in order to recover.

"But that doesn't make the pain any more bearable."

Morefield had come back to Washington from her San Diego home yesterday to take part in a State Department briefing for more than 100 relatives of the 50 Americans still held hostage at the embassy. Her 21-year-old daughter, Betsy, had come up from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to join her.

In a strong voice that seldom betrayed the underlying rush of emotions, the 45-year-old nurse said she now dwells only on the happy memories of her son's life. When she thinks of her husband, she said, it is never with despair, only with hope.

"Rick's death was final. We were presented with it, and there was nothing we could do. We felt a despair, a hopelessness," she recalled."But this time, we have never felt despair. The overwhelming hopelessness and despair of that situation are just not a part of this one."

"If we have strength, if there is strength there, it comes from our unity as a family," she added.

Richard Morefield, 50, had been with the State Department 24 years before he was sent to fill the consul general's post in Tehran last July. Because of the unstable political situation there, Dorothea Morefield and the couple's remaining five children did not accompany him.

The Morefields had been stationed in Bogota, Colombia, when word came of Richard's new assignment. With their youngest two children, Dorothea Morefield went back to her hometown of San Diego and rented a small house. Betsy stayed at the University of Virginia and her brother, Donald, 20, remained near the rest of the family at the University of San Diego.

It was not the first time Richard had gone on a long assignment abroad by himself. Usually the Morefields had traveled from post to post as a family, first in Branquilla, Colombia, then in Uruguay and Oslo. In between his foreign stints, the Morefields had lived in the Washington area for several years at a time.

They were living on Canterbury Drive in Annandale when Rick, a freshman at Northern Virginia Community College, took a job at the Roy Rogers Restaurant. On the morning of March 6, 1976, Betsy Morefield awoke and found her brother had not returned from his job.

So she and her mother got in a car and drove to the restaurant, which by then had been hemmed in by police cars and ambulances. Mrs. Morefield identified herself, and a resque squad chaplain told her what had happened to her son.

"For a long time, it seemed like such a senseless thing that Rick was gone," Betsy Morefield said yesterday. "That didn't draw me towards religion particularly. But this situation does. Because there's hope."

But her every hope travels in the company of a host of worries. The upcoming exams at the university seem pointless, Betsy said. For a time she even considered dropping out of school for a semester.

"But then I thought my father would shoot me if I didn't graduate in May," she said with a small laugh. "I hope he's there for the graduation."

"He'll be there," her mother said, nudging Betsy and grinning. "He'll be there."

Mrs. Morefield then turned her small 5-foot-2 frame towards her taller daughter, and said that the meeting of the hostages families on the eighth floor would be resuming soon; they had better return. Smiling their farewell, the two disappeared into an elevator off the State Department lobby.

Forty-five minutes after they left, President Carter strode into the lobby and went up to the eighth floor. He stayed there for more than 30 minutes, answering the families' questions and then talking to each family.

"The president said that the only thing of importance for him is the return of the hostages," Mrs. Morefield said later. "That is the single issue: getting them out as fast as possible. He said the last of the hostages is as important as the first."

Like the other family members, Dorothea and Betsy Morefield posed for an individual picture with the president. "I told him I admired his wife," Mrs. Morefield said. ". . . He said he was impressed with her too . . . His mood was that he was one of us. He was sharing what we were going through.

"I felt very reassured. He told us what we wanted to hear. Certainly the fact that he came and told us was worth a great deal."

As the president returned to the lobby, a crowd of State Department employes applauded loudly.

A minute later, the families followed the president's path out to waiting buses. From the lobby floor, from the walkway above them, the applause swelled louder than before. It grew in intensity as each new family walked through. Near the end of the group came Dorothea and Betsy Morefield.

Stopping for a moment, Dorothea reached into the crowd to grasp the hand of an colleague of her husband.

"It's a tremendous reception," she said, her voice catching. "I know State Department people. They don't do this."

Later, as a person wished her well, Mrs. Morefield brushed the remark aside. "Don't worry," she said "I'll talk to you again when he comes home.' CAPTION: Picture, DOROTHEA MOREFIELD . . . waiting gets more difficult