DEAR ABBY: While vacationing at a resort last month, I ran into the brother of a girl I went to school with. I hadn't seen "Sean" or his sister "Meghan" for several years, so I asked how he was doing, and then proceeded to ask about Meghan. His face turned pale and he said, "She's dead."
I had never heard that Meghan has passed away. I was mortified. I had no idea what to do next. I mumbled a clumsy "I'm sorry," and he continued to give me a withering stare. I have since learned that his sister died of a drug overdose, and that's why it wasn't mentioned in the newspaper.
How should I handle this when I see Sean again? It is inevitable that we'll cross paths again, and I feel guilty for bringing up his sister as it caused him such obvious pain. I don't want to ignore him, but I really don't know what to say. Have you any advice for me? -- MORTIFIED IN MAINE
DEAR MORTIFIED: Don't wait until you see the man. Write him a short note telling him again how shocked and sorry you were to hear of his sister's death. Mention that it was obvious your question blindsided him and caused him pain. Let him know that wasn't your intention when you asked it. Then, when you see him again, the subject will have already been dealt with. Please don't feel guilty, because you did nothing wrong.