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Grief is profound expression of love

I lost my wife of 32 years, and two months after, I lost my son. I will never be the same. How can I get through this? — Grieving

Dear Grieving: I am so sorry that you lost your wife. I am so sorry that you lost your son. Each loss is devastating on its own; that you should suffer them both in just two months seems unspeakably cruel. There are no words to lessen the pain, but the following is my attempt to help you endure it. Please take whatever is useful and leave the rest.

Reach out for support. Find therapists in your area who specialize in grief at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/grief. Look into grief support groups in your community. If you are religious, see if your place of worship hosts a grief support group or can refer you to one. If you don’t like one therapist or support group, try another.

Take “breaks.” The weight of grief is so crushing; it’s important for your mental and physical health to seek out moments of respite, however brief. So if there is something that brings you the slightest bit of joy or lightness (that is not self-destructive), gravitate toward that: It could be something as simple as watching a funny TV show or movie. The goal isn’t to suppress your sadness; it’s to give yourself a tiny bit of rest from the all-consuming work of grief.

Pay tribute to your wife and son in ways they’d appreciate. Look at old photos or videos. Reminisce about them with others. Participate in or support activities or causes that were dear to them in life. Talk to them aloud all you want.

Honor your grief. Don’t let anyone tell you how or when to grieve. You might find that well-meaning people bring up the “five stages of grieving.” Though that model can be helpful, it is not all-encompassing or prescriptive. (Even Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who introduced the concept, wrote later in her career that the stages are not meant to be linear and that she regrets their oversimplification.) Wherever you are, you are right on time.

Grief is love. The immense heartache you’re feeling is an extension of your love for your son and wife. They are with you, even in this. That same love that hurts so badly right now will also give you strength to endure ultimately.

Though you’ll never get over this, you will get through it. I am truly sorry for your loss.

Dear Annie: This is in response to “Suds to My Elbows,” who is tired of holiday dinner guests not pitching in during cleanup. When I used to cook a full holiday meal for more than 20 people, I had one simple rule: No dessert until the dishes were done. It never failed. After a couple of years, I wasn’t even allowed to help. All the cooking pots, silverware, stemware and plates would be done. Leftovers were boxed and put away. All that was left for me were the dessert plates. This tradition was even adopted by some of the guests at their holiday gatherings. Only one person ever grumbled — and he was eventually shamed into helping. — Hope This Helps

Dear Hope: I think I’ll employ this sweet tip myself. Pie is a powerful motivator.

Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book.

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