Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother lost his wife more than 10 years ago, and still he regularly talks about her as if they were together yesterday. It used to be sweet, but now it seems weird. He is still young. My family thinks it would be healthy for him to meet someone and date again, but he hasn't dated at all since his wife died.

He doesn't seem to be in mourning. He works and does his daily duties, but he lives a lot in the past. He visits her grave every other weekend, and he is attached to her in a way that seems odd. How can we get him to snap out of it? -- Concerned Sibling, Chicago

DEAR CONCERNED SIBLING: Sometimes true love begins and ends with one relationship. It could be that your brother has enough love only for his deceased wife. He would not be the first person to have such an experience. There are countless stories of widows and widowers who pine for their spouses long after they are gone.

I knew an elderly man who lost his wife. He went to the cemetery every weekend to play his horn in honor of her life. Over time, he started to have female companions, but he was clear about where his heart belonged.

Your brother could be like that. He could also potentially benefit from professional support. A grief specialist may be able to help him see how he can honor his wife and live in the present. Do the research to find a counselor in your area. Encourage your brother to meet with him or her.

Know that ultimately, this is your brother's life. He may choose to stay in the shadows of his past. All you can do is introduce him to the idea that he can love his wife and still move on.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got into an email argument with an official at my son's school, and I pushed back hard. While I was telling the truth, I know I reacted harshly.

I'm wondering if it's appropriate to apologize or if I should let it go. I have had other head-butting incidents with these people in the past, but usually I keep my cool. This time, I had had enough. I was so angry that I blew up. I know that is not the best way to communicate. -- Hot Head, Silver Spring, Md.

DEAR HOT HEAD: Trust your gut. If you think you were more intense than the moment required, say so. You can speak to the official in person or write a note that expresses your regret for coming on so strong.

Know that by apologizing for your tone, you are not necessarily apologizing for your message. It would be good to make that clear. Let the official know that you hope the core issue will be addressed in an expeditious manner AND that you are sorry you got so upset when delivering your message.