DEAR HARRIETTE: It has been two years since my mother passed away, and my family is still having a lot of difficulty dealing with her loss. At holiday time it gets worse because we remember all the things she used to do to care for us. Even though we were adults when she died, it doesn't take the sting away. This year, I decided I just couldn't deal with being around my siblings and their families for Christmas without her, so I have planned a getaway trip for Christmas. When I told my family, they got really mad at me and said I am being selfish. I'm not giving up on my family. I just need a change of pace. How can I get them to understand that I love them, but I need this? -- Time Out, Queens, N.Y.
DEAR TIME OUT: The truth is that you are being selfish, and sometimes that is exactly what the moment requires. Rather than making an excuse, tell your siblings the truth -- you feel that you need to get away this year and be by yourself. Apologize to them for being selfish, but admit that this is what you need for you. Be sure to leave cards or presents for them -- whatever is your family tradition -- so that it doesn't seem like you have abandoned them. You may also want to bring back mementos for them from your trip.
It may be wise for you and your family to get grief counseling. Even though your mother has been gone for a while, you may still need support in processing your loss.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I changed my hairstyle, and everybody at work has an opinion about it. It's not like I got a Mohawk or something. I simply cut my hair into a shorter, more contemporary style. I work in a relatively relaxed office where people wear jeans, and it's pretty no-fuss, which is why I was shocked at the reaction I got. It has been a couple of weeks now, and I still get comments. I'm not Michelle Obama. What's all the fuss? -- New 'Do, Memphis, Tenn.
DEAR NEW 'DO: I bet you had a consistent look for a very long time, which is why your co-workers continue to remark on your new look. One way to deflect their ongoing comments is to find something nice to say about them. Compliment someone on her new dress. Notice when someone buys a new car. Pay attention to your co-workers to learn what little or big things matter to them in their daily lives. Remark on those things when you notice them. In this way, you remain engaged with your co-workers without being the center of attention.
Chances are they will appreciate your noticing the subtleties and nuances of their lives. This may distract them from your hairdo as you bring the attention back to them.