2008-05-16 / Columnists

HELP - Health Emotional Living Plan

Commentary by Rita Nussbaum, LCSW., a psychotherapist in private practice in Belle Harbor.

Dear Rita,

My closest friend, "Bob," recently lost his wife. They were married for 18 years and her death was sudden and unexpected. My family and I are still reeling from the loss. The reason I'm writing to you is because I'm very worried about Bob. It's been almost a year since the death of his wife and he isn't coping any better than he was at the time of her death.

We've been very close for many years and have always spent a great deal of time together. Though I believe he is taking care of himself. He has become somewhat of a social recluse and often doesn't even take my phone calls. When we get together it is strained conversation and nothing of consequence gets shared.

I just don't know what it is I should or should not be doing right now. My wife feels that I should just be patient and that when he decides it's the right time to reconnect with friends, it'll be the right time. Bob was always very meticulous about his grooming habits and now he looks sloppy and a bit shabby.

I think also, as a guy, I am at an extra disadvantage because men are more comfortable discussing topics such as business, politics and sports. I need some helpful navigation in these muddy waters.

FRUSTRATED Dear Frustrated,

The death of anyone who is close to us is always sad and sobering. It is difficult enough to lose someone after a lengthy illness, let alone a shocking sudden loss of a relatively young individual.

Bob's life changed dramatically because he had to assume the day-today

caretaking responsibilities as well as those related to his occupation. He has probably had very little time to do his own private "grief work," due to the enormous demands made upon him.

For some people, a few months would be adequate to at least begin coming to terms with a loss and eventually feeling more hopeful and positive. For others, it takes much longer.

Bob is very fortunate to have such a devoted and caring friend such as you. He will find his way eventually, but in the meantime, I suggest that you try to plan some "guy time" with Bob on a regular basis. "Events" are less threatening than having straight-forward discussions only. Attending baseball games, participating in sports, light movies, etc., will afford you enough time to talk, but will also provide Bob with enough distractions if he is not in a mood to articulate feelings.

Offer to help him with errands when you can. Sometimes it boils down to helping hands. If you think he needs medical or therapeutic interventions, work up the courage to suggest he seek out appropriate help.

Bob trusts you and knows you well. You are, after all, his best friend. Keep your eyes and heart open. With your support, in due time, there will be healing.

RITA

If you have questions and concerns, submit them to: editor@rockawave. com and specify they are for Rita Nussbaum, H.E.L.P.

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