Sense & Sensitivity

DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor passed away recently. I used to see him every morning when he took his walk. We would speak, but I never went to their house. Now that he is gone, I feel like I should knock on my neighbor’s door and offer my support. I don’t even know his widow’s name. I realize how distant people can be, even when they live in the same building. Do you think I should visit her? I can’t imagine what my life would be like if my husband died. -- Neighbor in Mourning, Chicago

DEAR NEIGHBOR IN MOURNING: Trust your instincts. When people are in crisis, neighbors can be extremely helpful. Knock on her door and express your condolences for her loss. Introduce yourself. Tell her you realize you don’t know her name, but you know that you've been neighbors for quite some time.

The greeting you shared with this woman’s husband is something you can tell her about when you visit. You can tell her how kind you thought her husband was and that you know he will be terribly missed. Bring her a food item if you can. It is traditional for neighbors and friends to bring pre-cooked food for the bereaved so that they have food to eat without the need to prepare it. Ask her if she needs anything, and give her your number to call if she should need to reach out.


DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a restaurant near my job, and as I was waiting for my table, I noticed a couple sitting together. When I looked over at them, I realized that the man is my friend’s husband. This was absolutely not a professional dinner. The two of them were cozied up and holding hands. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My friend talks about her husband as if he is the best man alive. She adores him. She will be devastated to learn that her husband is stepping out on her. I don’t want to tell her, but at the same time, I would want to be told if the same thing happened to me. How do I break the news? Or do I? -- Can't Unsee This, Sarasota, Florida

DEAR CAN’T UNSEE THIS: This is tricky. On one hand, your friend may want to know what you saw, but oftentimes, people do not believe the messenger when this is the news.

If you know the husband, reach out to him to tell him what you saw and ask his intentions. Point out that his wife is your friend, and you know she will be devastated to learn that he is cheating on her. Acknowledge that you wanted to speak to him first to see if there is any way to make this bad situation better. Let him know you intend to tell your friend, but you wanted to give him a chance to address it first.

Then go to her and share the bad news. Tell her you love her and will support her no matter what she chooses to do, but that you thought you should tell her as you would want to be told if the tables were turned. Resist getting caught up in the drama any further, though. This is their issue to work out.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

More like Sense & Sensitivity