Gambling husband leaves woman struggling

Dear Annie: I’m a woman in my 90s. My husband and I were married in 1949 when I was 21. He died in 2001. We have one son.

When it came time to pay for my husband’s funeral, there wasn’t any spare money at all. He’d had three $50,000 accident policies from his work, but I found out that all three policies had been cashed.

I didn’t know, in our 52 years of marriage, that he gambled. Once the unpaid bills came in, my son helped as much as he could with the expenses, but it still wasn’t enough.

Our home was paid in full in 1984, and now it is reverse-mortgaged to my bank. I’ve been on a seesaw with maintenance, and I got a huge loan out for repairs that I’m paying back monthly. I’m only OK financially each year after the end of June, when income, property and school taxes are all paid.

I attend church every Sunday and am a volunteer there. But when I am asked to go to a function — a movie, an event — I rarely have the money and often have to say I can’t go.

I only have one credit card and that loan at the bank. I am frustrated and don’t want to be bitter anymore. Could you tell me how to get over this? — Stretched Thin

Dear Stretched Thin: I’m so sorry. You have been too stressed for too long. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (800-388-2227) can refer you to free or low-cost financial advice, if you’d like to see what you can do to relieve some of that pressure. But I get the impression your question is more about how to cope emotionally and socially, not financially.

Be open with friends about what you’re going through. You might find more people can relate than you’d expect. Commiserating is liberating.

You don’t need to spend money to get the priceless benefits of enjoying others’ company. Try participating in more community events, such as neighborhood picnics and church socials. Check to see whether your local library offers any free courses. Find volunteer opportunities. The more you throw yourself into bigger causes the smaller your own problems will seem.

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