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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Giving Your Child a Plus-One (or Two) to a Birthday Party

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a very close friend whose father has abused him, both physically and emotionally, for his entire life. Their relationship was strained at best, distant at worse, but the friend never cut off contact completely with his father.

I’ve been privy to a fairly detailed description of the abuse and, suffice to say, I am not remotely sorry my friend’s father has passed away, though I am sorry about the complicated feelings my friend must be having. Mostly, I wish he had been born to a man worthy of being his father.

I want to express my condolences to my friend, but the standard tropes seem insufficient, given the situation. How do you acknowledge loss when it’s the loss of a monster? I had planned on sending my friend a gift of some sort in lieu of sending flowers to the funeral, as I truly believe that his father’s departure from this world makes it a better place.

GENTLE READER: Etiquette does not demand that you lie about the merits of the deceased, but nor does it suggest that you celebrate it with presents. That seems a bit indecorous.

Instead, Miss Manners suggests that you express the sentiments to your friend that are simple and true: That you are sorry for his loss and hope to be available to him for any support he requires. You should, of course, omit the word “monster” or anything equally negative in your correspondence. Death has a way of ingratiating even the most monstrous toward their families ... once the offenders are safely passed on.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Abuse | Friends & Neighbors