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Dear Annie: Will my widowed sister move on?

Dear Annie: My sister didn’t have a happy marriage. She often talked about leaving him and feeling trapped, but since her husband died, she talks as though they had the perfect marriage. I’m worried she’s not seeing things clearly. Will she move on from this?

Annie says: I wonder what it is that concerns you about your sister recreating the memory of her marriage? If it serves her through her grief then what harm will it do?

Many of us will retreat into the ideal in order to get through something painful and in this way it is a wonderful gift. Of course there are times when it facilitates the avoidance of taking responsibility and taking action, and if your sister were doing this while her husband was still alive, then this might be something that would limit her.

But in this case it seems to be a useful tool for dealing with her loss. Does she need to move on from that?

Dear Annie: How long after someone dies can you ask someone for a favour? So many people said ‘if there’s anything I can do’. Now six months on, there are little things I’d really love a helping hand with, but I feel I just can’t ask.

Annie says: There are no rules to grief, although it often feels like there are. So the short answer is that you can ask for help for as long as you feel you need it. But I understand your concern that it might feel ‘past the deadline,’ especially if people around you have stopped offering.

It’s also one of the issues with such non-specific offers of help – it puts the onus on you to think of what you need doing, and particularly in the earlier stages of grief it is incredibly hard to identify what it is you actually need.

So I’m not surprised that it’s taken a few months to realise what help you need. I would really encourage you to talk to your friends and family about this and take them up on their offers. Trust that they want to help and will be pleased to have the opportunity to do something for you.

If you have a question for Annie to answer in this column, you can write to her at

About Annie

Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.

She is the author of bestselling self-help book We Need to Talk About Grief, inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.

Regretfully, Annie cannot enter into personal correspondence

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