Ask Amy: On Husband's Death and Retirement

By Amy Dickinson | February 1st, 2021

Does nobody care about her husband's death, or do they simply not know what to say?

Woman reflects on husband's death

Dear Amy: My husband of 30 years died last January.

I retired from my job in February, something that had been planned for some time.

With the pandemic, I haven’t been able to travel or visit friends (or have them visit), just like the rest of the world.

What do I say to people who continue to say, “I hope you are enjoying retirement” or ask if I am “enjoying my retirement,” without mentioning my loss?

It feels like such a slight that I can hardly “enjoy” anything, much less continue with any of the plans I/we had for retirement.

After a number of holiday cards came in asking me about my retirement, it feels hurtful.

Am I being a little too sensitive? Do I just chalk it up to the discomfort people feel when a death has occurred?

— K

Dear K: I don’t think you are being too sensitive. Your entire world has crumpled, and without the benefit of traveling to see people and receive their personal condolences, you are quite naturally continuing to grieve.

Understand, however, that everyone else’s world has also shrunk down proportionally. People are overwhelmed and struggling. In the best of times, many people don’t seem to understand how to respond to loss; this awkwardness has been amplified by the daily heartbreaking reminders of the pandemic’s toll.

I suggest that you respond honestly, but with compassion: “After ‘John’s’ death last year, I’ve struggled to enjoy most things, including my retirement. However, I recognize that most of us are hurting right now. Enjoying anything seems like a long way off, but I’m trying my hardest to simply keep going. I hope you are, too.”

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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