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DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a cousin who is getting up in age and who seems to be incredibly lonely. She calls me several times a week, obsessing over one thing or another. She is retired, and I am still working. I do not have time to listen to her endless worries about this or that, but I know that she needs a lifeline.
Though she is in her late 60s, I’m pretty sure she would be offended if I suggested that she go to adult daycare, but I think she needs something like that to help occupy her time. I love my cousin and want to support her, but I do not have the bandwidth to talk — or listen to her drone on for hours on end about nothing. — Helping My Cousin
DEAR HELPING MY COUSIN: Talk to your cousin about her interests and hobbies. What has she enjoyed doing in the past? Encourage her to take a class, enroll in an exercise program or get involved in her local community organization. Look up some fun activities in her neighborhood and suggest one of them when she starts droning on about one of her concerns.
Gently introduce the idea of senior-discounted activities like the exercise program Silver Sneakers or the local senior center. Over time, she may gain interest.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My good friend lost his father about a year ago. I did my best to be there for him when he needed to talk, but now I realize that was not even close to enough. I just lost my father, and I am devastated. I know it was a blessing to have him for so long. Many people lose their parents when they are young. Still, my dad was everything for me, and now he’s gone. Every day my heart aches.
A couple of friends reach out regularly to check on me. I don’t even know if I was that attentive to this particular friend, who is very important to me. I feel like I want to say something now and apologize for not understanding how much he may have needed me last year. Do you think it would be OK to say something? I understand now. — Closing the Loop
DEAR CLOSING THE LOOP: You should reach out to your friend. Let him know that your father recently passed away and that his departure brought your thoughts back to him. Acknowledge that you had no idea how deeply the pain can reach with the loss of one’s parent. Tell your friend that while you hope you provided some solace for him during those early days of grief, you suspect that it wasn’t nearly enough. Apologize if you fell short for him.
Then ask him how he is doing now. Learn from him about his process. If he is open to talking, share about your experience as well. Just be mindful that even as you are grieving, you should not turn this moment into being all about you. Trust your gut and go slowly. If he is able to listen and participate in a conversation where you both share your experiences, thoughts and feelings, that is wonderful. If he can’t do that, make this moment one of acknowledgment, and move on to talk to others who have the emotional space to go through the grief process with you.