Dear Amy: You often refer people to seek counseling. I believe in counseling and as a teacher, I often suggested that path for families facing challenges.
Now, I find myself in need of counseling. My husband of almost 50 years passed away last year and the grief is crushing.
I tried a grief group, but the other people there made me even more sad. I stuck with it, but the group was canceled due to COVID-19.
I found a counselor who could see me, but she spent a lot of time talking about her divorce and offered very little in the way of advice for me.
I have been trying to find someone who will accept my insurance, but many counselors have lessened their load due to COVID (even though I can see my dentist and doctor, therapists don’t want to meet in person).
Even though I have read every book on the subject, I truly feel the need to confide in someone with whom I have no history.
With all that is in the news about people who need help, finding it should be easier and affordable.
I want you to know that suggesting counseling often presents hurdles that people in need just can’t face, and so they give up.
– Still Searching and Hoping
Dear Searching: I am so sorry that you are experiencing these challenges, especially because you are working so hard to find help.
First this: NO therapist should discuss her own personal life with you, even if it is to discuss a relatable experience. That is a red flag. Your time in therapy should be completely devoted to you. Your therapist can gas on about her divorce to HER therapist.
I can also imagine the challenge of meeting with a grief group when all of the other participants are also grieving. The most effective groups are guided on a path through raw emotion and toward mutual support and comfort.
If you are willing to speak with a counselor through video conferencing, it would expand your options.
Video therapy has exploded during the pandemic, and there are many commercial therapy services that run on a subscription model. For a weekly fee, you have daily access to a therapist through text and video conferencing. Thoroughly research the terms before trying this.
There are also many online forums devoted to grief and grieving. After reviewing several, I would recommend griefhealingdiscussiongroups.com. This is a free site where online discussions on its many message boards are monitored by grief counselors. Discussions are both supportive and helpful. This option is available to you any time throughout the day and night. This might be your lifeline while you continue to look for a therapist.
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Dear Amy: I have a sister. Our relationship has been strained since childhood.
I have attempted to be closer in the past, but it never was successful.
We are polite when we see each other, but that’s it.
Over the years our mother has tried to manipulate me into situations where she thinks my sister and I could bond. The latest attempt was absolutely ludicrous. She said my sister had offered to help me clean out my father’s house, which I was preparing to sell. My sister has been completely estranged from him for decades and we have not spent a night under the same roof for over 30 years.
My mother is 79 and in excellent health.
Is there any point in kindly telling her that trying to broker a friendship is useless? Mind you, there is no animosity, but I resent Mom’s attempts to make us closer but wonder if at her age I should just continue to politely decline the opportunities she proposes?
– Once Bitten
Dear Bitten: Cordial is great. No animosity might be the best you can do. I wish more people learned how to retreat to politeness, rather than revert to drama or total estrangement.
When your mother tries to broker more closeness, you could respond: “Mom, we’re good. If my sister wants to spend more time with me, she can get in touch, OK?”
Dear Amy: “Tested, not Texted” was bothered because her husband was texting their female friend. Why on Earth would you suggest that she look to make “changes”? Why should SHE change? HE needs to change.
I’m disappointed in you.
– Upset Reader
Dear Upset: Tested’s husband had declared that he would not do anything differently.
The “change” I mentioned was an implied suggestion that she might choose to change her marital status.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)