Telling wid­ower he’s in a ‘new nor­mal’ just makes it worse


Dear Abby: My wife died un­ex­pect­edly two years ago, af­ter 18 years of a happy mar­riage and two kids. While we are do­ing as well as can be ex­pected, one thing seems to set my grief off. It’s when some­one refers to my life as my “new nor­mal.”

I’m not sure I can put my finger on why this phrase both­ers me so much, but if I had to guess, it’s be­cause I sus­pect peo­ple are us­ing it to hint that it’s time I moved on. Why is it that peo­ple who would be deeply of­fended if I at­tempted to tell them what to do with their life seem to think it’s ac­cept­able to im­ply that I have grieved enough?

As I look at my life, I know it is for­ever changed, and it will never be “nor­mal” again. It will be what it is, but I will have lost for­ever the love of my life and the mother of my chil­dren. Right now, I am try­ing my best to keep them healthy, work­ing to keep a roof over their heads and deal­ing with my own grief. (We are all see­ing our own coun­selors.) I have zero time and en­ergy to in­vest in any­thing or any­one else.

Am I just hold­ing on to the past? Are th­ese peo­ple thought­lessly say­ing some­thing hurt­ful, or is it some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent? An­noyed in Arkansas

Dear An­noyed: Peo­ple of­ten are at a loss about what to say to some­one who has lost a par­ent, a spouse or a child. While they may be well-mean­ing, what comes out of their mouths can be hurt­ful rather than com­fort­ing.

Some­thing I have learned from ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as from my read­ers, is that

ev­ery­one grieves dif­fer­ently. It’s an in­di­vid­ual process. Do not as­sume you know what th­ese peo­ple are im­ply­ing when they make that state­ment. “New nor­mal” is a catch­phrase that’s pop­u­lar now. It is used to de­scribe con­di­tions as the quar­an­tines are be­ing lifted or reim­posed. They may not re­al­ize how emo­tion­ally loaded that term can be. When it hap­pens again, don’t be con­fronta­tional, but do tell them how it made you feel.

Dear Abby: What’s the cor­rect way to break up with some­one who lives with you? A friend of mine wants to break up with his girl­friend, who lives in his home along with her adult son and teenage daugh­ter. His con­cern is she has no place to go. She re­fuses to work a steady job, so he pays all the bills and sup­plies her with a ve­hi­cle and spend­ing money.


She wants des­per­ately to get mar­ried. Af­ter two or three years of liv­ing with her, he knows he won’t marry her. He says she’s a nice per­son, but she’s a ter­ri­ble house­keeper and has no am­bi­tion. My friend is a financial plan­ner and works three to four side jobs, etc. He doesn’t have a clue how to end this, but he wants to. How should he dis­solve this live-in re­la­tion­ship? Ask­ing For A Friend

Dear Ask­ing: Your “friend” needs to sum­mon up the courage to tell this lady he isn’t in love with her, doesn’t plan to marry her and he wants her to move. When he gives her the un­happy news, he should also give her a date by which he ex­pects her and her “chil­dren” to be out of there. Ad­vise him that if he’s smart, he should first dis­cuss this with his at­tor­ney and, pos­si­bly, of­fer her enough money for a de­posit on a place of her (or their) own. He’ll be glad he did. To re­ceive a col­lec­tion of Abby’s most mem­o­rable — and most fre­quently re­quested — po­ems and es­says, send your name and mail­ing ad­dress, plus check or money or­der for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Keep­ers Book­let, P.O. Box 447, Mount Mor­ris, IL 61054-0447. Ship­ping and han­dling are in­cluded in the price. 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 dear­ or P.O. Box 69440, Los An­ge­les, CA 90069.

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