DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that one of my cousins, who I always thought of as rich and settled, has to sell his house -- and fast. I thought the house was fully paid, since he has had it for many years. Instead, he had refinanced a few times when he had some financial bumps, and now he has a relatively low-paying job and can’t afford to pay the mortgage. I feel horrible for him. I know these things happen sometimes, but I think everybody thought of him as the one who was stable, if not wealthy. How can I be supportive of him when I still feel shocked by the news he shared with me? -- Incredulous, Seattle
DEAR INCREDULOUS: It must have taken a lot for your cousin to admit to you what’s going on in his life, especially given the image that you and others have had of him for years. But, as you noted, hard times can befall anyone. At least your cousin is trying to be practical and figure out what to do next to take care of himself.
Offer to be of support. Ask your cousin how you can help him. If he is selling his house, does he need help packing? Does he have items that might be of value for resale? Would it help for you to do research on that end? Volunteer to help your cousin make this transition as smooth as possible. Stay close to him so that he remembers that he is not alone.