DEAR ABBY: Twenty years ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend. When we were in high school together, she used to love telling stories, not all of them true. Most were harmless and cast her as the center of an interesting adventure.
After graduation, I headed off to college, she started a job and we lost touch for almost 30 years. We now see each other once or twice a year, but text almost daily.
She recently sent me a photo of a now-closed department store and told me she had worked there right after high school, in its pet department. She went on to say she got the job because she had raised tropical fish and was comfortable caring for the animals. The problem with her story is that it was I who had that job. I worked there throughout my freshman year in college.
Thinking maybe she had taken the job after I left, I asked a few questions. But it quickly became obvious that she had snatched my work experience as her own. I couldn't think of a kind way to challenge her, so all I texted was "Interesting." Now I find myself not believing any of her stories. I don't think she has dementia, but I can't understand why anyone would co-opt someone else's history like this. Should I challenge her at this late date or chalk it up to more of her "storytelling"? — STOLEN LIFE IN INDIANA
DEAR STOLEN: For whatever reason, your old chum seems unable to separate fact from fantasy. She may do this because she has low self-esteem. I see nothing positive to be gained by confronting her, but it may be time to ask yourself how much you want to continue a relationship with a compulsive fabulist. She may do this hoping to impress others, or because she feels her life is so boring that others won't be interested in her if she tells the truth. It's sad, really.
DEAR ABBY: My husband of many years died. How do I graciously decline visits from people I care about but am not close to? I know they mean well, and I don't want to cause hurt feelings. I think we may all grieve differently. Even after several months, I'm still not ready to entertain a visitor. I appreciate their thoughts. — CONTINUING TO GRIEVE
DEAR CONTINUING: When you wrote that everyone grieves differently, you nailed it. For some, the process can take a short time. Many widows and widowers had time to grieve before they lost their spouses. For others, it takes longer. Several months is still a relatively short time, but please do not isolate yourself. You don't have to entertain, but being able to vent your feelings to caring friends or in a support group can be healthy and healing.
If you don't want anyone in your home, consider meeting a close friend or two out in public for a brief visit. Going out, exercising and getting some sunshine each day is healthy and can help to lessen depression. Your husband is irreplaceable, but isolating yourself won't bring him back. I urge you to discuss it with your physician or your religious adviser if you have one.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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