Q: My neighbor’s husband just passed after a short illness; they’d married young and had been together for more than forty years, so she is devastated, and, frankly, desperate for any kind of reassurance that he isn’t gone completely. I don’t like to judge people’s beliefs, but I also know just how vulnerable she is, and she herself has admitted to me that she feels easy prey for any doorstep preacher or neighborhood psychic – some of whom might be genuinely offering comfort, but most likely are out to get what they can from her wallet.

What can a friend do to protect someone from falling prey to the scammers, while respecting her autonomy to find her own spiritual solace?

A: I agree that it is not the time or place to tell her what to believe, and if she needs to believe that he is still around and she can access him and he can access her, then fine. You might mention that they were closer to each other than any other two people in their lives, so they are always going to be a part of each other and be able to be interwoven in each other’s existence. She will hear his voice in her head and if she believes it is so, he will hear her. Nobody can tell her what is true or not true in this situation, and she need not rely on anyone else as a conduit or pay anyone else to communicate with her husband. She never needed to pay anyone before or rely on anyone before; she does not have to start now. Their bond will always remain strong, and if she relies on someone to interpret his words and his thoughts, the chance of them getting it wrong is high and the chance of her getting it right on her own is 100 percent, because she is inextricably tied to him and knows him better than anyone else – and always will.

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