Q: I recently realized I have a fair-weather family. My husband got in trouble with the law and is now in a drug treatment facility. This had been hard on me, but I love him.
His crime was being in possession of illegal drugs that were intended only for himself. His family has turned their backs on us. My family will invite me to family functions, but if I mention him, they walk away. I have been feeling very isolated throughout this entire process.
Today I went for a follow-up OB-GYN appointment and was referred to an oncologist for further testing and treatment. I don’t even want to tell my family. I spoke with one close friend who said my parents and siblings have a right to know what is going on, but I feel differently. I think families should support each other through everything. They don’t get to pick and choose. What do you think?—– Doing This Alone in Pennsylvania
A: I know you are angry with your relatives, but if you think you will be punishing them by keeping your diagnosis to yourself, you won’t. I agree with your friend that your family should be told what’s going on with you, not because they have a right to know, but because you may at some point need their help.
Q: In the past, you have printed letters about neighbors taking food to people who are grieving. I recently lost my wife of 57 years. Her death was unexpected. I ended up with a refrigerator and freezer overflowing with so much food I could not eat it all. Losing someone dear to you kills your appetite. Trust me, at a time like this, you aren’t hungry.
May I offer an alternative to cooking food and taking it over, especially if the recipient lives alone? Call the person and invite him or her to dinner at your home, or ask what night you could bring dinner over and have supper with the individual.
Speaking from firsthand experience, for me the worst time of day (besides bedtime) is being alone at dinner when daylight fades. What’s hard isn’t that I might have to prepare or warm up some of the food someone thoughtfully brought, but it’s the emptiness of the house, the sense of isolation.
About two weeks after the funeral, a couple of dear friends invited me over for dinner and games. They understood what a difference it would make in helping me cope with a great loss. And bless my daughter and “son-in-love” for their insistence that I have dinner with them every Sunday, at a minimum, with their family. — Grateful in Long Beach, Calif.
A: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your wife, and thank you for taking the time to point out how important companionship can be for people who are grieving.