DEAR ABBY: After having been laid off from work and talking to other people in the same boat, I have discovered that many of us share similar experiences. With our economy what it is, I would like to offer some suggestions on how to help the unemployed through a difficult time:

(1) Because the individual seems OK doesn’t mean he or she really is. Being laid off is traumatic. There are bound to be major adjustments and self-doubt. The tendency is to keep emotions bottled up. Be there for them. Your support can make all the difference.

(2) Call or visit regularly. Someone who’s unemployed can feel isolated. Unless you’ve been through it yourself, you have no idea how lost and useless a person feels. Someone taking time out of his or her busy schedule to call, e-mail or visit can mean the world.

(3) Just because money may be tight, don’t be afraid to extend an invitation to go out together. If money is an issue, offer to treat – or do something that doesn’t cost anything.

(4) Don’t be afraid to ask how things are going. Job hunting can be discouraging and frustrating. It’s a relief to be able to vent!

(5) If you promised to look out for job opportunities, please keep your word. He or she can use all the help you can give. Also, a personal referral might be just the ticket to get a foot in the door. (Especially now, when employers receive hundreds of resumes for every opening.) On the flip side, do not refer the person for just any job. Be sure it suits the individual’s background and is what he or she is seeking.

(6) Don’t think that because the person hasn’t found something right away, he or she is lazy. It takes some people a year – or more – to find another job. Do not be judgmental.

(7) Appreciate your own job, even on the bad days, because it could be worse – YOU could be the one laid off! If it could happen to me, it could happen to you. – SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN THERE

Thank you for a terrific letter filled with practical and sensitive advice. Many individuals have found themselves out of work through no fault of their own, and often they become isolated because their friends feel awkward or don’t realize they need emotional support.

DEAR ABBY: My niece, “Jennifer,” is being married next month. She and her mother (my sister) have a strained relationship due to her mother’s substance abuse and addictions. For this reason, I have acted as my niece’s surrogate mother for the last 20 years.

Jenny invited her mother to the wedding, but asked her to come sober or not to show up. If my sister attends her daughter’s wedding, how should she be treated as the mother of the bride in regards to seating, photos, etc.? – FULLERTON, CALIF., AUNT

Your sister should be seated with family, not necessarily at the head table. She should be included in at least one family photo and one with the bride and groom. It’s the respectful and compassionate thing to do.

In case the bride’s mother shows up “under the influence,” arrangements should be made beforehand for her to be escorted out and safely transported back to her dwelling.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby – Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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