The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

The Angry Widow: How Can Her Friend Deal With Her?

It's important to differentiate between personality and the effects of grief.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I have a friend who lost her husband about a year ago. She has also lost most of her friends through her hostile behavior toward them and doesn’t have a good relationship with her family. She is and has been strong-minded and opinionated.

However, I feel that I would like to help her even though she rebuffs any offers of help that we try to give her. (I am one of several friends that are trying to stick with her.)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Signed, Victoria

ANSWER

Hi Victoria,

It’s understandable that a woman who is widowed may be angry or hostile after such a trauma. Sometimes, anger can be an outward manifestation of depression. But it sounds like you are describing someone who has a long pattern of behavior that is alienating and irritating to others.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

It’s nice that you and several other friends want to offer her support even though it may be unpleasant to be around her. Just doing this is probably a very big help although she may not admit that, or be able to express appreciation for your support.

You might make the suggestion (gingerly) that she speak to a counselor to work through her feelings of unresolved grief—if you feel her hostility has been exacerbated by her husband’s passing. If you think she may be depressed, you can ask her if she is still feeling very sad and suggest that talking to someone might help. Unfortunately, since she is so strong-minded, it’s likely she’ll vote down any such suggestions.

It’s extremely difficult to change someone’s personality or the ways they perceive the world around them. To continue to provide support, you may want to see your friend in “small doses,” making it a point not to spend long periods of time with her. Also, she may be easier to handle in a small group rather than one-on-one.

I hope this is somewhat helpful to you.

Best, Irene

   

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

more...

Subscribe to The Friendship Doctor

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?