DEAR HARRIETTE: I was at a party recently with my friend Brad. At one point in the night, Brad burst into tears. It turns out he was crying about his father, who had passed away when he was a teenager. We are in our early 20s now, and I'm not sure if it was alcohol or lack of closure that caused this outburst. Brad left the party, and I have not spoken to him since. I simply do not know what to say because I have never dealt with the death of a parent. I feel as though suggesting counseling would be very forward, but so would implying that he has a problem with alcohol. Everyone is allowed to cry and grieve; I just don't know how to be of comfort to him because I am in uncharted territory. How should I break the ice? -- New Terrain, Detroit
DEAR NEW TERRAIN: You can reach out to Brad without getting into his business at all. Since you two are friends, just call him to say hello. If you often hang out, invite him to join you at a gathering of friends. Since you believe he has a drinking problem, try to pick an activity that does not include alcohol.
If Brad brings up his tears and grief about his father, express your sympathy that he lost his father and continues to grieve for him. Make it clear that you do not know how to support him because you have never experienced such a tragedy. Let him know that you want to be as helpful as you can. You can suggest that he see a therapist who may be able to help him sort through his feelings.