Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tell Me About It: Ask friend if it's OK for you to share your grief

iStock.
iStock.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: A childhood friend of mine passed away unexpectedly last fall. She was in her 30s, married, with a small child. I had not been close to her in many years, but enjoyed crossing paths with her on occasion where we always promised to get together soon. I went to the funeral services, hugged her husband, cried quite a bit. I still tear up just thinking about the tragedy of it all. She was a wonderful person.

My friend's widower recently invited my husband and me over for dinner, and we're thrilled to accept. But just thinking about it also makes me cry! I could easily see us all ending up having a good cry, but I don't want to put my own emotions on display if there's any chance I'll drag the husband into sadness with me. It feels terribly selfish! And I don't know the husband well enough to know if it would make things better or worse for him.

I guess I'm wondering how I can be a good friend to the husband. I just want to do right by him.

Answer: I'm so sorry about your friend. If it helps: Even many years after the death of one of my friends, I can't predict when I'll hold together and when I'll cry.

By e-mail or voice mail (however you've communicated with him about this dinner), if you feel at all comfortable doing so, explain that you're still weepy about Friend's loss, and if he's not ready for that you'll understand. If he assures you it's OK, then just say you're grateful for the invitation and apologize in advance for any mid-dinner blubbering.

If it helps Part 2: A common theme over the years has been that people who are grieving can't be "reminded" of grief by your tears - it's there all the time. Showing you care is often a comfort, even if you're both a weepy mess.

 

Question: I was recently contacted by a prospective wedding guest ("prospective" because we haven't even finalized the guest list yet), who disclosed that her husband, whom I have never met, is a recovering alcoholic who is triggered by situations where alcohol is present. She requests (in fact, she "begs" us, to use her words) that we not serve alcohol at our wedding so that her husband can be there without discomfort.

At the risk of sounding like a couple of lushes, we did not envision a dry wedding and we're not prepared to make such a sacrifice for a peripheral guest (were this a parent or sibling, we'd do it gladly). Any suggestions about how best to word my reply?

Answer: That was so presumptuous of her to ask, I'm sorry.

Just say you're sorry about her circumstances but you do plan to serve alcohol, and will understand if they choose not to come.

Comment: If they live in the area, you can also make sure to say, "Well, there won't be any alcohol at the church, and while we understand you may need to skip the reception, we'd love for you to attend the most important part, the ceremony."

Response: Yes, good, thanks.

 


tellme@washpost.com.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

 

Carolyn Hax
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