Still in Pain

Dear Marie:

I'm 26 years old and my husband of 2 years died of a massive stroke six months ago. We dated for 5 years before we got married and both of us were so happy. There were no warning signs or any reason for it. He was perfectly healthy at 29 years old. Nobody in his family ever had a stroke, either.


I've been going through a really hard time with this. We were together 5 years before we got married. When it first happened, my friends and neighbors called to check on me. Now those calls have stopped. I still need their support but I don’t know what to do about it. Don’t they know I'm still in pain? I don’t know if it is acceptable to call them and ask for more support. I think I might be bothering them. What should I do?

--No Support in Roanoke, Virginia


Dear No Support:

I offer you my deepest sympathy for your loss. You're not alone concerning this issue. Reaching out to others for help is a problem for most people. Calling on your friends, family and neighbors when you're in need is something you should do, no matter how uncomfortable. It's a good idea to have more than one person to reach out to. In most cases, everyone really wants to help you move forward.


Grief is an uncomfortable emotion for people who are not experienced with it. Having a group of friends or neighbors to reach out to avoid putting pressure on one person.


Our friends don’t know we need help unless we tell them. They can't read our minds. In some cases, friends and neighbors aren’t focusing on you or what is happening to you after your initial loss. That doesn’t mean they don’t care. It isn’t an acute situation in their minds any more.


For you, however, it is still acute because you're still in tremendous pain. Not only are you dealing with pain but you're also feeling abandoned by your friends. I'm here to tell you, your friends haven't abandoned you. They're there for you, but you have to reach out.


Let them know that you're still hurting and be specific about your needs. If you just want someone to listen, say so. If you need to get out of the house and go do something, say so. Reach out to them for help. If the person you call first isn’t free, call someone else. Don’t give up.