At a recent dinner party, one of my newly-widowed friends complained that another guest wasn’t being nice to her. “He isn’t talking to me. He isn’t asking how I feel now that I lost my husband,” she said. “It makes me mad that he acts as though nothing happened.”

Similarly, another newly-widowed friend complained that one group of women she had been close to  stopped calling after her husband’s funeral.  “It’s been six months and not one of them picked up the phone to call me lately. I’m so angry at them,” she said.  “Obviously they don’t even care about how I feel now.”

I told both women not to take any of those actions personally and that they probably  were imagining the neglect and rudeness. “Not everyone is tuned into your sadness,” I reminded them. “For others, life goes on. You have to cut them a little slack.””

By now, most of us have memorized the stages of grief set forth by death authority Elizabeth Kubler Ross. But it’s worth noting again that anger is on the list. It comes right after shock and disbelief.  Unless we recognize and deal with it, we’re never going to get past it to acceptance and, finally, to closure and  proper grieving .

It’s also worth noting that we never get angry unless we are hurt, and right now, both these women are very vulnerable and easily wounded. Any slight becomes a huge affront. It’s like bumping into someone who has a painfully bruised arm.

Acknowledgment is key. You can’t move on unless you recognize what’s happening to you, and why you’re reacting this way. Once that’s accomplished, you CAN travel on to a good life.

Here are some suggestions:

Look around. Do you still have relatively good health? Are you still able to pay for your shelter, food and warm clothes? Do you have a few people that DO care about you, stay in contact to make sure you are all right and, if you’re really lucky, LOVE you? Any of those things count.

Also, make an effort to brighten your own life. Join a seniors, widows  or volunteer group. Sign up for a Book Review club at the library. Rent an uplifting movie. Find a reason to get up and get dressed each day — even if it’s only to go out for the newspaper.

Keep trying to fill that cup half way—and eventually it may overflow.

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Sandra Pesmen

Sandra Pesmen

Sandra Pesmen, host of, also writes the weekly DR.JOB column syndicated by Career News Service. A member of The Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and The University of Illinois Media Alumni Hall of Fame, Ms. Pesmen is author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide,“ and “Writing for the Media: Public Relations and the Press.” A reporter, features writer and editor, this business journalist was features editor of Crain’s Chicago Business from its inception in 1978 to 1990, when she became corporate features editor for its parent, Crain Communications Inc. She also wrote the monthly Executive Woman column in North Shore magazine in suburban Chicago for many years. Previously, she was a reporter and features writer for the Chicago Daily News.

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