Dear Dr. Yael,
I have admired your work and your column for many years and now more than ever, need your sensible, heartfelt advice. I must discuss one specific, highly compelling issue, affecting us as widows in our sixties and older. I will start with my own particular circumstances. I am in my late sixties and my beloved husband, who was 4 years older, passed away over a month ago in a nursing home, apparently due to the Covid-19 virus. He has been a patient in different nursing facilities for over 10 years before the last three years, due to a massive stroke. He was neither able to communicate nor recognized even his closest relatives all that time. It was a very difficult time period to say the least and today his family, my cousins-in-law and my oldest adult nieces and nephews offer us virtually no moral support and companionship despite my polite sincere request that they do so. My late parents and my late husband are the only family I had. I have one older sister who is unmarried and childless. She is of no help to me or to my older son who lives at home. My husband’s family are well connected and can be of great assistance to myself and my son. However, they choose to go on with their lucrative and productive lives and ignore us. They can help us through our emotional hardships, but appear to show no interest in us.
There are people who are fortunate to have an extraordinary amount of assistance; however, we have no assistance. I am writing this letter to let people who have family members such as myself and my son know that charity begins at home. People who are strong, emotionally healthy, and well connected should not allow extended family, who crave their attention, to be alone. Instead, they should reach out to us to help improve the quality of our emotional lives. My husband, who passed away, has a functional family that could reach out and involve us more in their lives. Instead, they ignore us.
Please Dr. Respler, help heighten the awareness of these people to reach out and help us deal with our broken lives. I am sure there are many people like myself whose extended families ignore them. This hurts so much. Please encourage your readers and people in general to care about people like myself and my son who are isolated from this world. Please print this letter.
A Widow In Pain
Dear Widow In Pain,
Thank you for raising such an important issue. Your plight is one that others experience as well. I do not know your relatives, so I can not comment on your particular situation, but often people do chessed (good deeds) for strangers and forget their siblings or siblings-in-law, who may desperately crave and need their attention. Most of the time this is not done to hurt their family; rather, they often do not realize that their family needs their help as they do not view this as chessed. I truly believe that chessed begins at home. We must care for our own immediate families and extended families before running out to save the world. While there is a lot more glamour and fame when helping in various charitable organizations, the merits you receive from quietly helping at home are immeasurable. Clearly your husband’s relatives should show more sensitivity and caring to you and to your child. I hope they read this letter and become more aware of how much you want their involvement in your life and your child’s life. While you may see their behavior as intentional, it is possible that they do not realize how much you want their help and love.
I welcome other readers with this plight to respond to this letter with any ideas and advice. I also hope people in general will respond to this important issue with their ideas as to how to help you in this trying situation. Hatzlacha!