Dear Ellie: I’m a man, 49, whose wife of 21 years passed away due to cancer, two years ago. Outside of work, I’ve spent most of my time grieving since then.
I went to grief therapy for months to understand the process, especially why I hardly leave the house to meet any of my friends.
Instead, I either spend the whole weekend reading/sleeping or just respond to emails to assure people reaching out to me that I’m fine, just not social at this time.
I know that I need to move on. But what does that mean? I’m not ready to even say the word “date” aloud. But I know I can’t go on staying isolated. Can you help me find a normal life again?
It’s hard to realize it, but reaching out for advice shows you’re ready to get out the door. I’m not talking about “dating,” because that’s a very different matter. You need a reason to go somewhere — it could be a walking trail, where it’s the surroundings you focus on instead of your past.
You need to be where there are people, too — such as those involved in things you may care about, e.g., a local community youth program needing leaders, a library project, etc. You can learn about such happenings in your neighbourhood, online etc. And the good news is that many such efforts/events are free.
Watch for outdoor happenings this summer, e.g., Shakespeare in the Park, if that interests you. Connect with a long-time friend and suggest meeting up for coffee, or to see a movie together. These are healthy steps toward opening your mind and vision outward, and letting your internal wound start to heal.
You have permission to do this, without feeling guilty. You loved deeply, and you’ve grieved deeply. Keep moving forward, allowing yourself to find new meaning and purpose in your life.
I’m hoping for you that readers who’ve experienced a loss and learned to enjoy life again, send their stories for you to know that you’re among many who’ve learned how to adapt to their new reality.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the man who was unsure when to intervene when people needed help (May 18):
“Decades ago, when I was on the 5:10 p.m. cream-and-red, almost full streetcar, heading away from downtown, an agitated young man loudly threatened the close-to-retirement driver, who hunched his head between his shoulders.
“A passenger vacated the nearby lone seat. In a calm, neutral tone, I projected: “Please sit down and be calm.”
“Startled, the young man swung around, kicked the doors open and disappeared into early winter darkness.
“A similar scenario played out on a bus with three passengers in summer, a couple of decades ago. The thug came at me, but the driver and a male passenger worked in tandem: a hard brake, the thug secured by back collar and belt, and delivered to the sidewalk, doors slammed and we got away. Nobody spoke.
“Both times were informed by the long-ago action of my wiry 57-year-old mom who had lowered her shoulder, charged past many onlookers and flattened a brute who was kicking the head of an immobile man on the ground.”
Signed: Mom’s Daughter
Ellie: Brave, bold women! True angels of mercy, saving fearful innocents from raging bullies. Society needs more brave souls confidently willing to help others in danger, rather than wait for someone else to act.
FEEDBACK regarding the working daughter, 27, who refuses to pay rent to her mother (May 20):
“The daughter is “taking advantage,” but needs to be told her mother’s household costs.
“Her mom should record her expenses and income and show she’s unable to continue supporting a working adult daughter.
“The mom must include all expenses - e.g. car/house insurance, mortgage/rent, property taxes, etc.
“The daughter is otherwise only aware of the bill she sees, e.g., her phone. Be sure to paint the total picture.
“Also, present options, e.g., both of them moving to separate apartments. At 27, the daughter’s already legally been an adult for nine years.
“Showing her all the costs and Mom’s inability to cover them, respectfully treats the daughter as a mature and steady earner who must meet her responsibilities. Or, the only solution is that she’s on her own.”
Ellie: It’s a crucially important life lesson.
Ellie’s tip of the day
The death of a beloved partner calls on all your human resources - e.g., accepting grief, connecting with its reality, and renewing social outreach.
Send relationship questions to email@example.com.