Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend just told me that she and her husband are getting divorced. By the sound of it, the divorce is very messy. Her husband has a lot of money and seems to be wielding his influence in big ways. She says that he has turned most of her friends against her, and she is so sad and fragile. As I listen to her, I can tell that she doesn't know what to do. Neither do I. I want to help her, but I have no idea what happened in their marriage. I am not a lawyer; I am just a friend. What can I do to help her? -- Helpless Friend, Washington, D.C.

DEAR HELPLESS FRIEND: The way to be a good friend is to be a good listener. Make yourself available to talk to her when she is in need. Do not try to give her advice; just hear her. Do not get lured into believing that you are any kind of expert. When she asks you questions you do not know how to answer, acknowledge that you do not know. Remind her that you are there for her as a friend. Suggest that she get an attorney and a therapist -- professionals who can support her in different ways.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My godparents are getting up in age, and I feel bad because I haven't kept in touch with them enough. I got busy with my life, I guess, and time just passed. I learned recently that they both are in not-so-good health. I want to reach out to them, but I am embarrassed because I haven't talked to them much over the years. Do you think it's a good idea to call them anyway? My mom thinks so. I feel weird about it. -- Hesitant, Silver Spring, Md.

DEAR HESITANT: Hesitate no longer. The blessing is that your godparents are still alive. The notion of a godparent is that the person commits to providing you with spiritual support in your life, especially if your parents are ever unable to be there for you. As with parents, that role often flips as godparents grow older. Now it is your turn to be there for these people who committed to you when you were born.

Absolutely do reach out to them right away. No need to feel guilty for the past. Be in the present. Tell them you love them. Inquire about them. Let them reveal whatever they choose about themselves. You do not need to pry about their health or anything else. Just be there.

If you can visit them in person, by all means do that. And make the decision to stay in touch with them regularly now. You cannot change the past, but you can become actively involved in their lives now, for as long as they live.