Dear Annie: Last May, my children’s father committed suicide. He and I had split up two years before because of his violent ways. Despite my marrying another man, I still cared for my ex and worried about his welfare. I would even sneak him food and pay his electric bill behind my husband’s back. My husband occasionally would forbid my kids and me from having contact with my ex. He had a point.
My ex and I had attempted to reconcile in April, but I couldn’t do it. During the drive back to my husband, my ex phoned and begged me to return. I told him I was afraid of him. He yelled, “Nobody will ever have to worry about me anymore.” Twenty minutes later, I received a call from his brother, who found him dead.
I blame myself. His family does, too. I didn’t even go to his funeral, because some of his family members had threatened to kill me if I showed up. I feel terrible for my kids and don’t know how to cope. What should I do? Will my kids be OK?
— Distraught Ex
Dear Distraught: We are so sorry that you are experiencing this tragedy, but please know that you are not responsible for your ex’s decision to end his life. He sounds like a troubled soul who didn’t believe he had any other way out. Please contact Survivors of Suicide (survivorsofsuicide.com) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) to find a support group for you and your children. They will be OK, but they could use some help, and they will need you to guide them.
Dear Annie: I am a 56-year-old professional man in nonprofit work. I am outgoing and reasonably intelligent, have a great sense of humor and generally like people. My observation and experience is that most men, especially over 40, have a difficult time making new friends. The married ones tend to rely on their wives. Others rely on family or long-term friendships. But men like me who don’t have wives, whose parents have died, who have no siblings or children, and whose old friends have moved away find it awkward and difficult to reach out.
My trainer is 45, outgoing, happily married with two great children, has both sets of parents still alive, is active in church, etc., and even he says he doesn’t know how to make new friends. I realize there is no one-answer-fits-all, but I’d sure like to know what you and your readers suggest for those of us who are trying to get out of the house, but don’t know where to go.
— Not Anti-Social or Addicted to the Internet
Dear Not: Find an activity that you enjoy and that involves other people. Look for community theater or choral groups. Volunteer at hospitals, schools, animal shelters, soup kitchens or for a political candidate. Park districts and local colleges may offer night classes for those who want to improve their education. See whether your health club has a regular spin class or an adult basketball team. If you can afford to travel, sign up for a group tour. We also recommend meetup.com, which facilitates finding people with similar interests of any kind. If our readers have more to add, we’re happy to print additional suggestions.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Frustrated in the Midwest,” who is conflicted about his fiancée’s four kids and their lack of responsibility around the house. I’d tell him not to consider marrying that woman until her children are grown.
I married a man who had custody of two spoiled brats. He and I got along wonderfully, but with his two teenage kids in the mix, it was pure torture. The best day of my life was when the oldest left and the youngest moved to her mother’s.
— Midwest Evil Stepmom
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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