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by Abigail Van Buren

Man Rusty on Rules of Dating After 30 Years Off the Market

DEAR ABBY: I recently experienced an awkward situation. I reconnected with an old friend I hadn't seen in about four years. The last time I saw her she was pregnant. I asked about her baby, and she informed me that he had died a few months after his birth.

She clearly found the memory sad, but at the same time had moved on. I didn't want to force her to re-experience the event by asking her what happened, but it seemed rude to abruptly change the subject to some minor matter after such sobering news.

What is the polite thing to say when someone tells you about a tragedy, but long after it happened? -- WORDS FAIL ME, PEKIN, ILL.

DEAR WORDS: The correct way to handle it would have been to say, "I'm so sorry for your loss," and let your friend decide whether to discuss it further or change the subject. In other words, let her take the lead.