Anderson-Khleif: How to seek out old and new friends to help you cope with grief
After the death of a dear one, it takes a while to see that grief will be part of your future, perhaps forever. Your family and friends are your first helpmates.
I am lucky to have a very supportive family. If you are not, rely on friends. One or two will understand or may be dealing with grief themselves.
I first realized how important such support is when I was living in hospital rooms with my dear husband for seven weeks. If not for my iPad, iPhone, Wi-Fi, and emails with family and friends I may not have held it together. But I did. Daily contact with them was saving me.
And of course, in the first days and weeks after Baheej's death, friends and family were critical. Keeping in touch with those close and those far away is vital to managing. Friends came and emailed and wrote and called.
But eventually everyone has to return to his or her regular everyday life, no matter how grieved they are. You are often home alone.
It's important to think of making new friends and extending yourself to get to know your neighbors better.
In the old TV series, "Cheers," the theme song says, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came."
So my first suggestion is to go to your favorite local restaurant, even by yourself, for lunch or early supper. A place where the staff knows your name, or will get to know it. You will find friends there -- the owners, the servers, the chefs, the cooks. They want to know their customers. My favorite is Dominick's Italian Ristorante in West Dundee, where I went with my husband and now go alone.
These are very comforting places to go, and you will be OK by yourself. It will feel relaxed and familiar, and fun to get out with people.
You also will make new friends by joining a group that appeals to your interests or needs.
I joined an exercise group at the Dundee Township Park District Fitness Center. It turns out it's not only a class, led by great instructor Reada, but a social group of many positive and friendly people. The group meets three mornings a week and has become very important to me. Many of us go to lunch together once a month.
See what groups are of interest to you. And join!
Another new group of friends came by joining a chapter of Philanthropic Educational Organization, devoted to supporting higher education for women with grants/scholarships and low-cost loans. I joined on the recommendation of a childhood friend. I was on the road working for so many years, I didn't even know this group existed. I'm glad I found out, because it brought many new friends.
Neighbors are very important. Even if you only know them in passing, you will enjoy getting to know them better.
One of the things I did in the immediate months following Baheej's death was establish a gathering of friends and family for "First Sunday of the Month" dinners at my house. Our youngest son flew in from California for one of the dinners. Then our eldest son and daughter-in-law and her mother flew up from Florida to join in with local friends for a Sunday dinner. A friend came as Santa Claus to surprise everyone.
So, rely on old friends, share meals and events, and make new friends. It's important not to be isolated and to look outside yourself, even if it is difficult at first.
• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a Ph.D. in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at email@example.com or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com.