Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: Yesterday at work, my male co-worker hugged me so hard that my breasts were sore afterward. I felt violated. Could this be sexual harassment? Should I say something to my boss? -- Violated, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR VIOLATED: Start with the co-worker, if you have the courage to do so. Tell him that you were caught off guard by the hug he gave you and that you did not appreciate it. Tell him that you feel like he crossed the line of appropriateness.

From there, do not hug him anymore. If he attempts to hug or touch you, back up and make it clear that you are uninterested. It could be that your co-worker didn't realize his strength. It's also possible that he has an interest in you or that his behavior could be headed toward harassment. If he does anything else untoward, that's when you take it to your boss.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mom is an extreme hoarder. She holds on to everything! Since my dad passed away three years ago, her house has turned into a hellhole. I've tried helping her clean it out, but she's so stubborn. She says everything reminds her of my dad so she can't come to terms with throwing it out. She even has my dad's old rusty razor. I want to help her move on from these material objects that are preventing her from enjoying life. How do I help her? -- Clean, Chicago

DEAR CLEAN: If you have ever watched the show "Hoarders," you know hoarding is considered a form of mental sickness. As you already know, simply telling your mother that you want to help her clean is going nowhere. In her case, she is also in mourning.

One way to help her that she may be open to is grief counseling. Instead of talking about the state of her home, suggest that you and she go to grief counseling together. Point out that you know it is still tough to be without your dad and that you think a professional may be able to help you both heal.

Identify a grief counselor in your area. If you can get your mother to take this first step, you may be able to broach the subject of her hoarding nature once she feels comfortable talking about her situation.

Some mental health professionals suggest that family members and loved ones can stage an intervention. This can be extremely challenging but can have positive effects. You will need to educate yourself about hoarding and how to help your mother consider changing her ways. Visit The Anxiety and Depression Association of America's website for suggestions:

Know, however, that you cannot control your mother's life. You may be able to get her to consider letting go of some of her possessions. If you fail at that, you can still love her and do your best to keep her safe.