Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Must Try to Put Self First

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm feeling the burden of the recent passing of my grandmother. My family is pulling me in every direction to help them, and I need to take a minute to gather my thoughts. How do I find the time to take care of myself during this time of grieving? -- Family First, Chicago

DEAR FAMILY FIRST: You must take care of yourself in order to support your family. Just as people are instructed on airplanes to put the oxygen mask over their own face before that of a child, you must tend to you.

The good news is that self-care can come in small doses. Take 15 minutes in the morning and in the evening to meditate. Sit quietly, close your eyes and breathe fully. Let any thoughts that fill your mind go away. Concentrate on your breath. Trust that you have inner wisdom that can guide you.

Spend time thinking about your grandmother. Remember things about her that you believe will honor her memory.

Suggest that you make time each day for a family meeting to discuss how you will handle your grandmother's service. Write down what everyone's responsibilities will be, including yours. Do not take on more than you can handle. If at all possible, delegate duties so that they are all shared. Be sure to eat in a healthy manner and get as much sleep as you can. This will help you to be able to manage all of the energy that is coming your way.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a family member whose birthday falls on Dec. 26, and I was wondering, do I give him a Christmas gift and a birthday gift, or can I get away with giving only one gift this year? He is turning 35, so we're not talking about a child here, but I know that he sometimes feels shortchanged because most people give him only one gift. -- The Day After, New York City

DEAR THE DAY AFTER: Acknowledgment is what your family member seeks, and what's wonderful is that you can absolutely celebrate both Christmas and his birthday without having to spend extra money.

What you can do is buy one gift and give him two cards, one for each celebration. If it is typical in your family for everyone to give Christmas presents, have a gift for him under the tree. Because this is a big birthday, do some research and find him a card that reflects his personality and the tenor of his special day. You can also write him a heartfelt note expressing your love for him at this time of year.

If your family is going to be together on his birthday as well, consider having a cake for him so that you fete him separately on his big day. Again, the idea is that you acknowledge him for each occasion separately. In this way, he will feel fully honored.