DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex has been going around saying horrible things about me. I know because several of my friends have come back to report what he has said. Some of the things are true, which makes it worse. We did have a rocky relationship, and I was not nice to him in the end. Other things he is saying are completely made up. Either way, it is just embarrassing that he is talking about me. We are not a couple anymore. It has been several months since we dated. I have been trying to move on. How can I get him to stop his hateful chatter? -- Humiliated, Denver
DEAR HUMILIATED: Your best bet is to contact your ex directly. Call him and tell him that you know that he is still upset about the things that happened in your relationship. Apologize to him for anything that you did to hurt him. Tell him that you know you didn't handle things in the best way and that you are sorry. Ask him to stop talking about you and your relationship.
I do not recommend meeting with him. A kind, heartfelt phone call is the safest way to get your message to him. Ultimately, you cannot control what he does, but there is a chance that he may slow down or stop his comments if he believes that you two are in a respectful place.
If you believe that he is a volatile person, however, you may want to do nothing. Steer clear of him if you are afraid of him. Report his activity to the police if you feel in danger at all.
DEAR HARRIETTE: This summer I went back home to visit my folks, and I saw a family I hadn't seen in a year. It was really nice to see them. As I started to ask for different family members, I learned that both of the husband's parents died. They had been married for nearly 50 years, and they died within months of each other. I was so sorry to learn this and did not know what to say. What do you say when you learn something like that? -- Sad, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SAD: Of course you express your sorrow for the loss of your friend's parents. You can ask how he and his family are doing. If you knew his parents, you can share memories of them that will make your friend smile. Ask him to tell you stories of his parents. Often those stories can be comforting for others to recall during a time of loss.
You can follow up with the family and send a note of condolence saying something with sincerity about your memories of the deceased.