Sad Too

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What’s the right balance between letting someone grieve and letting
them isolate? This ties to showing appreciation for their lost parent.
Two of my friends had this happen within the same week. One is
Jewish; one is not. Even the Jewish one is not sitting shiva or doing
any of the traditional rituals. I think she feels guilty because she had a
tough relationship with her mother. I’ve offered to help out with
boxing up her mother’s apartment/things but was refused. I dropped
by some matzo ball soup and got a vmail thanks. The other is isolating
and his wife is worried about his mental health. We’ve organized a few
happy hour times but he has declined to join us. I explained how shiva
works, that it is a chance to share with all his friends what a wonderful
man and father he lost from his life, but he is just monosyllabic. What
can I do except wait and trust time?

Sad Too

Dear Sad Too:

No one can explain the grieving process. It’s hardest when someone
loses a child. We expect to lose parents but it’s never the right time,
even if it had been a difficult relationship. You are already doing the
best thing you can for both of these people: expressing your love and
caring offering to help, offering to give them some distraction, and
offering them each a chance to talk about their parent and why s/he
mattered and was a good soul.

For the Jewish one, consider gathering some other friends for a dinner
at a quiet restaurant. Once everyone’s caught up on the news of the
day, each of you should ask the surviving daughter a question about
her mother. Nothing huge or intrusive, but things like, What do you
realize you are missing? It might get her talking. For the non-Jew,
keep hanging out with his wife and offering her a respite from the
difficulty of living with someone who is grieving and in pain. Suggest
to her that in a while, as in several months from now, she consider
having a BBQ with the expressed purpose of having her husband talk
about his dad. One way to encourage this is to ask everyone who
attends to bring a picture of their own deceased 9or living) parent(s)
so h realizes how universal the pain is. Sharing helps.