Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is retiring soon, and a group of her co-workers are hosting a retirement party for her. As we were thinking about what to do to celebrate this woman, we realized that we do not know the protocol regarding retirement parties. Is it customary for people to bring gifts? Should there be a basket or bag that she has where people can give monetary gifts, like at a wedding? Should she register for gifts? We just don't know. Can you help? -- Seeking Guidance, Detroit

DEAR SEEKING GUIDANCE: Great question. It is definitely not customary for the retiree to have a bag for checks or a basket for monetary gifts. It is also not customary for the retiree to register for gifts. Past that, the rules are not so clear.

When the boss is hosting a retirement party, it is customary for the company to give a gift. Employees may chip in and buy a gift for the retiree as well. In your case, it would be good for the hosts to find out if the retiree would feel comfortable receiving gifts. If so, you can buy a collective gift. Or you can let guests know that if they would like to give her something as a token of their appreciation of her that is fine. This should not be written on an invitation.

The best gifts in a situation like this are based on specific things that you know that the retiree appreciates. If she likes to read, a gift certificate to a bookstore or for e-books would be great. If she always wanted to take a little trip but didn't, perhaps a group of you can pitch in and collect funds to help defray the cost of that dream vacation. Get creative as you think of how to honor your friend. Make sure she approves before you proceed. Now is not the time for surprises.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I read your column in my local paper today and felt concerned about the person who wrote in as "Afraid" from Racine, Mich. To me, it sounded like the person's issues -- discouragement, fatigue and feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks -- could be symptoms of depression, and I wish you had advised her to seek counseling in this area. I speak from personal experience. -- An Idea, Seattle

DEAR AN IDEA: Fair point. I chose to give concrete suggestions for how to deal with the tangible issues at hand, which clearly could be helpful. But the overarching issue could be that this person is depressed. I do recommend, as you state, that if you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, exhausted, etc., it is good to get a physical. Go first to your internist to get a checkup. Ask about mental health support. If you have insurance, it will be easy for you to schedule an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist. If you do not, do not give up. Many community clinics offer mental health support at little or no cost. If you believe you need help, reach out for it. You are worth it!