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Gather papers before spouse dies; also, hubby should meet old beau

Dear Abby: I just lost my husband. He was 61 years old and suffered a massive coronary at home. Taking care of all the things a "new" widow must do has been very hard.

My husband had been married before, briefly, in the 1960s. When I contacted the Social Security office, they told me I would have to provide a copy of his divorce papers — among other documents — before I could receive his widow benefits. (Thank God his mother is still living and could tell me which city to contact and the approximate year of the divorce.)

I am writing this for the benefit of other women who are second and third wives. NOW is the time to get the divorce papers from their husbands' previous marriages. Doing it while you are grief-stricken is very stressful. — Hanging by a Thread, Tulsa, Okla.

Dear Hanging by a Thread: Please accept my condolences for the sudden loss of your beloved husband. I am sure many couples will be grateful that you made it a point at this difficult time to warn them.

You now need all of the support you can get, and I do not mean just financial. I hope you will find a grief-support group to help you through. Many readers have written to tell me how helpful they are. Please let me know how you are in six months. I care.

Dear Abby: My wife and I have been married for 23 years. Last week she got a letter from an old boyfriend, and she called him. I can understand why this guy is curious, and I don't mind that she called him, but they've been meeting for coffee.

I am not a jealous person, but I don't understand what he wants. I feel she should have just said "thanks for calling," and let that be the end of it.

We have never had any problems in our marriage, but I feel we are now definitely headed for one. Got any suggestions? — Worried in Wichita

Dear Worried: It's time for you to meet this old beau. The next time they have a coffee date, you should be included. It may put your fears to rest — or alert you that trouble is brewing.

Dear Abby: I recently discovered that a mentally disabled woman who attends our church has become suicidal. She's a warm, friendly, bright individual whose company I thoroughly enjoyed. I have even been a visitor in her home.

The realization that she has considered taking her own life has me so upset that I find myself wanting to avoid her. This doesn't make me feel very good about myself, because she has few friends and waits for my greeting each Sunday. My sensitivity is defeating my good intentions of trying to welcome her in a spirit of love and acceptance.

How do I keep from being just another Judas to complicate her already difficult life? I believe in the power of love to heal, but have I overestimated my own spiritual strength to deal with this? I feel trapped by my own good intentions.

How do I handle this? Please help me. — Well-meaning Churchgoer, Denver

Dear Well-meaning: Why are you running away? Unless the woman confided her suicidal thoughts to you, it may not be true. Even if it is true, her depression is not contagious. There is no reason to stop being friendly with her at church. It may be one of the few positive things she has going in her life.

"Healing her" is not your responsibility. While I, too, believe in the power of love to create positive change, your love cannot possibly cure her chronic depression. Medical intervention is required for that.

The most supportive thing you can do for that dear woman would be to greet her lovingly when you see her, tell your clergyperson what you have discovered, and see to it that she seeks medical and psychological attention if she is, indeed, suicidal.


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