DEAR NATALIE: I recently gave birth to a stillborn baby. It was our first child and this has been a truly horrific experience. My family has been very understanding of all of this, but my sister-in-law does not seem to get the weight of it all. She has said to me on more than one occasion that I can “have another” or “try again in a few months.” I was literally sitting there, breaking down into tears while putting away all the gifts from the shower, and she’s acting like this is no big deal. She’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy person, but how do I tell her how she’s hurting me and making this all worse? My husband says that her sister has always been like this and to “just ignore her” but I can’t. It’s really traumatizing. Any ideas on how to make her understand? –HEARTBROKEN
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: I am so sorry for your terrible loss and for the insensitive, hurtful behavior of your sister-in-law. This is a time where you need family the most and for her to diminish and disregard how you’re feeling over one of the most traumatic experiences that could happen to a person is absolutely terrible. You need space from anyone who is bringing negativity into your heart right now. If she can’t meet you where you are and sit with you in the silence of your pain, then she doesn’t need to be near your right now. You are allowed to share space with only those who understand you, love you and are able to offer you compassion. This doesn’t mean you are cutting her out of your life, but you are taking time to heal. If she asks you why you haven’t reached out or connected with her, you are allowed to tell her what you just told me. If she was that unaware of her actions and words, perhaps this will be a wake-up call. If she becomes defensive or angry for any reason, recognize that this is a sign for you to take a big step back. Now, I don’t know her relationship to her family, but I wonder if this behavior was something that she learned from watching her parents. Regardless, she is an adult and needs to learn to read the room. Put her on ice until you are feeling less vulnerable. Give yourself all the space and grace you need right now. This nonsense from her is unnecessary and unwelcome.
DEAR NATALIE: A few months ago I moved into a new house and while most of my neighbors are lovely, a neighbor down the street has two dogs that she leaves outside most of the time. Some days they bark constantly – all day and all night. They’ve gotten off their leashes a couple of times, too. They’re usually friendly, but it feels unsafe. I don’t know how they are with children or other dogs, and I worry that they’ll get lost or hit by a car. The only time I’ve seen my neighbor is when she’s been drinking or trying to find the dogs. I want to talk to her about getting the barking to stop, but I don’t know how to do this. I know building a relationship with her is the right thing to do, but that takes time and I don’t even know how to open up the conversation about the dogs. It’s driving me and everyone else on the block crazy, though! I don’t want to call the cops if I can avoid it. How should I handle this without getting on her bad side or creating more of a problem? –DOGGONE IT
DEAR DOGGONE IT: Safety in numbers. I would connect with a few of your neighbors first and then see if everyone is on the same page. If so, then invite her over to your yard for an iced tea when everyone is there. They don’t need to be in the conversation with you, but it’s a good idea to have a few others around in case you need support or to clarify the situation. Get to know her a bit first and learn about her relationship with her dogs. Is there a reason she always leaves them outside? Is she aware that they are barking at all hours of the day? Does she know that the community is concerned for the safety of the animals and for the kids? She may be blissfully unaware of the stress she is causing everyone. I would bring it up gently and see how she reacts. It may just take one honest and open conversation to see change. But if the dogs continue to bark at all hours of the night and continue to get loose in the community, you may want to reach out to a local rescue shelter for their opinion on things that can be done. I agree with you that there are other ways to deal with this than involving law enforcement and I hope she is receptive to hearing you out. In any case, maybe she is struggling to take care of the dogs or can’t walk them so she leaves them outside. Perhaps there is an opportunity to help find her support so that she, the dogs, you and your neighbors can be in better harmony.
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