Dear Amy: I lost my husband almost a year ago.
After the funeral, many promises were made by my friends and fellow churchgoers that they would always be there for me in any way they could.
Those promises were sincere, I’m sure, but the majority just went on with their lives. I understand this.
My question is, why make these promises if you can’t keep them?
Honestly, I would have appreciated a phone call to see how I was, someone to drop by or invite me for a coffee. I will be alone all week until my son comes to visit on the weekend.
It’s been a lonely year.
Dear Lonely: I am so sorry for this loss, and especially for the loneliness that followed.
Often people make these promises after a loss, but partially fail to keep them because after the structured memorial events we don’t seem to have a cultural roadmap for what to do next.
People are wary and uncomfortable dealing with the loss of another, but as you point out, it’s actually very simple! A phone call, an invitation for coffee, a visit.
Instead, you probably feel dropped.
I hope you’re being a little proactive here. What about when you call to ask a friend if they can meet you for coffee? In particular, others who have lost spouses may jump at the opportunity to come together.
I also hope that you will rejoin your church family. Ask your son to give you a ride and stay for coffee hour.
Dear Amy: My husband’s mom and sister recently moved to our city and things have been bumpy. I hope you’ll think along about a disagreement that has arisen.
My mother-in-law has a number of chronic health issues. She lives with her daughter ‘Jackie’, who is single. Jackie works from home and has a fairly flexible schedule.
My husband and I have two toddlers. We both work long hours away from home.
My husband and Jackie have struggled to strike a reasonable balance between caring for their mother. She does not need daily care, but she does have regular doctor appointments and does not like to drive.
Jackie thinks she and my husband should split the load 50/50. My husband thinks this would be right, but not fair.
He has many responsibilities at home with our children in addition to a much more demanding work schedule than Jackie’s. It’s also a lot easier for Jackie to fit in since she lives with their mom.
I think it is difficult for her to understand the demands of small children.
She has become angry and unfortunately their mother’s health is unlikely to improve significantly.
I try but struggle to see Jackie’s perspective.
Dear M: Jackie doesn’t understand the pressures of having two toddlers at home, and you probably don’t understand the challenges of living with and caring for an elderly and chronically ill parent.
I’m not sure it’s up to you to decide which is “easier” for Jackie since she lives in the household. You have to assume that she has a lot of day-to-day care that you don’t know about. You also have to imagine what the situation would be like if Jackie got overwhelmed and decided to leave.
One solution would be for your husband to hire a caregiver to help his mother one morning a week and on Saturdays.
This would give Jackie a break from housework and would relieve both siblings from running errands and household chores so they could spend more time with their mother in a less nurturing role.
(You can also bring your mother-in-law to lunch at your house on some Sundays. Crazy as things may be in your household, spending a few hours with your family might be good for everyone.)
I agree to have a family member accompany her to doctor’s appointments if possible; the siblings should check the calendar a month in advance and do their best to share this responsibility.
Dear Amy: Your response to “Stop Haunting My Dreams” fell short for me. You mentioned that you have a recurring dream of appearing for a final exam in college, but end up in the wrong room.
I have the exact same dream!
Dear Graduate: Dozens of people responded and experienced the same dream!
I suggest we all synchronize our dreams and show up en masse in the wrong room. Some of us may not be wearing pants.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or write a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.