Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have not been in contact with a friend of my family for about three years until recently, when we bumped into each other at an off-Broadway play. When the play was over, we met in the lobby to talk and exchange our new phone numbers. Before we departed, she asked about my mother, and I did not know how to respond. It has been two years since my mother's passing, and I felt that it was not an appropriate place or time to talk about it. In addition, I have run into people who are not aware of my mother's death, and I am having a hard time telling them. How should I inform my family friend? -- At a Loss for Words, Queens, N.Y.

DEAR AT A LOSS FOR WORDS: First, please know that grief can last a long time. It may feel like opening a wound to relive your mother's last days. You were right not to reveal your mother's passing after the play, especially because you would have had to manage your friend's reaction as well as your own.

I recommend that you reach out to your friend. Call her and tell her that you have some news to share with her. Ask her if she has time to talk. If so, let her know about your mother. She may want to ask you questions. Decide in advance how much you want to talk about her death. If you are uncomfortable about going into detail, say that. Tell her you wanted her to know but it is still too painful for you to talk about.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I come from a very large family with seven kids. I am the baby, and I'm about to graduate from high school. During the year, when my siblings are away at school, I get used to being an only child. I am accustomed to having the house to myself and doing my own thing. Now that everyone is home, I am overwhelmed by how busy the house has become. It's not that I don't love my family, I just don't love being around all of them all the time. I tend to leave after breakfast and come back for bed. I tell my parents where I am going, and if they need me for something I am there, but I tend to stay away.

Now, though, everyone is upset that I'm MIA. I just don't understand why I need to be around if we're not even spending time together. I would be happy to be there if there was a family bonding session or something, but it's really just a million bodies on their own frequencies, and I prefer not to be there. Why are they upset with me? -- I Like to be Lonely, Armonk, N.Y.

DEAR I LIKE TO BE LONELY: Sometimes just knowing that your loved ones are close by warms your heart. That is likely what your siblings and parents experience when everybody comes home. Because you are at home and feel crowded, you do not share the sentimental experience that they have. Why not split the difference and spend half your time at home, even if you are in your room? Show your face on occasion and participate when there is a family activity.