Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

It's Not Too Late to Reach Out to Grieving Friend

DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine recently lost her boyfriend in a car accident. She has handled the situation as well as one can, but her smiles and pleasant demeanor do not hide the fact that she is hurting. I am unsure of how to interact with her. I am trying to make her feel loved and let her know that I am there for her when she needs me, but I am nervous about making my intentions overtly clear and accidentally causing her to further dwell on her situation. Though we are friends, before the accident we rarely talked or hung out one-on-one. We had been growing apart for a few years, but I really want to be there for her. I do not want her to think that I am coming back into her life only because of the tragedy. I really care about her, and I want her to know that she can turn to me for help. What is the proper etiquette for dealing with grief? -- Troubled in Tribeca, New York City

DEAR TROUBLED IN TRIBECA: Sometimes tragedy brings people closer together, and there is nothing wrong with that. Since you are feeling drawn to your friend, do not resist the pull. Reach out to her and let her know that you are thinking of her. Ask her if she would like to get together. If you know what she likes to do for fun, invite her to do that. If you have not already directly told her how sorry you are for her loss, it is not too late to say that. Yet you do not need to dwell on it.

If she does not reach back right away, that is fine. Give her space, but remember to follow up. You may call her on a particular day when she could use a friend. What will help her the most is for you to be a good listener. For more ideas on dealing with a grieving friend, go to helpguide.org/mental/helping_grieving.htm.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a sort of "stalker." There's a woman I met years ago who is on my email list, and she comes to every single event that I participate in (she finds out through my posts). It is tough to delete her because I use so much social media that it is easy to see what I am doing. The thing is, when she comes she just sits or follows me around, and I feel bad if I don't talk with her. What can I say to get her to back off? I don't want to be mean. -- Stalked, Jackson, Miss.

DEAR STALKED: Go up to her at the next event and thank her for coming. Then tell her that you notice that she comes to every event. Suggest to her that she be more selective and come to the things that appeal to her, not just because you are there.

After that, stop catering to her. Do take her email off of your direct mailing lists. If she continues to come, be cordial but do not engage her.