DEAR AMY: My wife of 33 years recently died from breast cancer. Since then, I have not changed much in our household because I have been busy tending to my wife's affairs. I live alone, and I have memories at every turn. I am thinking about collecting my wife's belongings and allowing my two daughters and other family members to take what they want. The rest will be donated. I also am going to find homes for our cats, as I am mildly allergic to them. Tending to them (as well as two dogs) and keeping our home maintained is becoming too much for me. My problem is this: Whenever I mention my plans, my younger daughter (age 27) throws a fit. I'm trying to be sensitive to her, but I'm growing resentful. I find her behavior controlling. She visits frequently. I am determined to carry out my plans on my timetable. This is a key element to my healing (my wife and I were together since high school). How can I handle my daughter in a caring, sensitive way while still easing my own pain?
-- Grieving Husband in San Jose
DEAR GRIEVING HUSBAND: In your own grief, you may have noticed that a certain type of response is helpful to you -- that of the loving, compassionate listener. This is a person who is open to hearing about your experience, without judging or insisting that you behave differently.
Your daughter is grieving in a way that makes your life harder, but your response to her should be, "Honey, I'm sorry. I know this is hard for you, but this is what I need to do." You should continue with your plans, while calmly abiding with your daughter when she acts out. Call a family meeting so everyone can have a say. Listen compassionately. Going through your wife's belongings together as a family could be a healing experience for all of you.
After my own mother's death, I "inherited" one of her cats (my sister took the other). Having the cat curling around my ankles was such a comfort. Perhaps your daughters could adopt the family felines.