DEAR ABBY: Six years on, widow can’t let go of husband

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DEAR ABBY: I have a dear friend whose husband passed away six years ago. They had a 45-year marriage with plenty of ups and downs. She’s 81 and in excellent health. You would think she was 60 if you met her. She is very youthful and full of energy.

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The problem is, when I’m with her she constantly talks about her late husband as if he’s still with us: “Oh, Joe would love this,” “Joe always said …,” “Joe would say …,” etc. During one luncheon, she mentioned him 20 times as if he were sitting with us! In retrospect, her marriage now seems to have become the greatest love story ever told, and Joe has risen to sainthood. It’s unnerving.

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Is this healthy behaviour? It seems excessive to me. On the anniversary of his death, she says she’s “going to stay home and be with Joe,” which translates to her being at home, alone, becoming depressed and crying. I hear how sad and emotionally drained she is afterward. I am at a loss about what to do, if anything. I offer a sympathetic ear, but should I say anything to her, and if so, what? She has a grief counsellor, and I’m wondering if he’s really helping her move forward. My friend seems stuck in the role of grieving widow. I don’t mean to be insensitive to losing a life partner, but I worry about her mental state. Please advise what I can say or do to help her. — DOESN’T SEEM NORMAL IN CALIFORNIA

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DEAR DOESN’T: I am relatively new to the grieving experience, having lost my husband 3 1/2 years ago, but allow me to share some insight. The adage that there is no timetable for grieving is accurate. Some widows and widowers are able to move on quickly. For others, it takes a long time for the ache to subside, and their spouse pops into their consciousness every day. If your friend needs to idealize her “up and down” 45-year marriage, please don’t rain on her parade. Let her enjoy the fantasy, if it is one. And, when you know she’s going to be depressed and crying on those milestone anniversaries, ask her out to lunch or dinner so she won’t be as isolated as she feels. If necessary, tell her that after such a great loss, it’s no wonder she’s feeling awful, AND SHE SHOULD MENTION IT TO HER THERAPIST.

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DEAR ABBY: In lieu of a regular “pizza night,” some good friends invited my wife and me to join them at a high-end restaurant. We agreed. We had a good dinner and an enjoyable evening. When our separate checks arrived, our friends paid theirs with a gift card. Ours was a whopper, and the reason they wanted to eat there became quite obvious. I was annoyed because I felt our friends should have applied their gift card to the entire bill, and we would then split it. My wife says we had a nice evening and I shouldn’t feel miffed, but I still think we were treated poorly. What are your thoughts about this? — HEFTY BILL IN THE SOUTH

DEAR HEFTY BILL: It would have been gracious for your friends to have applied the gift card universally. However, the two of you are good friends with this couple. You had a nice time and enjoyed your meal. This is not something worth nursing a grudge over, so let it go.

— Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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