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Lack of tears makes man question grief

DEAR AMY: Sometimes people write to you because they can't cope with their grief. I have the opposite problem. My wife of 43 years died of cancer three years ago, and I still don't feel that I have had the appropriate reaction. I went to a shrink last year because I thought I should have been crying or something. I was given homework to get rid of her clothes. I did get teary-eyed when I saw the dress she wore when we eloped, but I never broke down and cried or got inconsolable. I started meeting women for coffee from online dating sites about a year after my wife died. I even had sex with a few. I still think I should have been sadder after my wife's death -- we were married for 43 years and had two children together. The doctor also prescribed some medication for me because I told him I slept too much (like any time I wasn't working). Have you ever heard of this type of problem? Am I just cold?

-- Cold

DEAR COLD: I don't know if I would call you "cold," although you do seem emotionally muted. Your oversleeping is a common sign of depression. Your physician and therapist should offer remedies that lead you toward insight, not just medication.

If you were with your wife as she endured a lingering illness, I assume you grieved before her death.

But the thing about loss is that there is no "right" way to express it. All we have to guide us is what we think of as the norm. I assume that your reaction is more common than you know and that there are a lot of people like you who are baffled by the lack of tears.

My hope for you would be to focus less on trying to force some tears (and thinking there is something wrong with you when you don't cry), and more on appreciating your very long marriage -- and moving forward with an optimistic attitude about the future.

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