DEAR HARRIETTE: A woman I knew professionally and have been peripherally connected to over the years died suddenly. She leaves behind several children and plenty of friends. I feel horrible about it. Though we were not close, I am sad. Part of this may be the shock of a woman under 50 dying of unknown causes. It definitely makes me question my own life expectancy. But also, I realize how I “know” more people through social media than through actually being in touch. I don’t know that this woman would have ever been my actual friend, but I do think that I rely on the internet and texting more than I should. I have plenty of true friends whose voices I haven’t heard for years. We stay connected electronically. -- Something's Wrong With This Picture, Atlanta
DEAR SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE: Death, even that of someone you don’t know well (or at all), can trigger all kinds of emotions. The permanence of loss can hit hard. Death has a way of inspiring people to think about their own lives and to assess if they are making the wisest choices.
In the case of this woman’s untimely passing, clearly it has affected you deeply. I recommend sitting with the thoughts that have come up for you and considering how you might adjust your ways of communicating with others moving forward to make for more meaningful engagement. Schedule appointments to be face-to-face with people you care about. Go on social media fasts, where you avoid all virtual engagement. Choose to see someone you care about in person at least once a month. These measures and more can help you to become more immediately connected to people themselves, not their avatars or social media handles.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My father died a few years ago on Christmas Day. We had just enjoyed a lovely family breakfast, and he passed away in his easy chair. I loved my father so much, and I miss him every day. It is hard for me to enjoy the holidays as much these days because they always remind me of my loss. How can I cultivate a better attitude? My dad lived to be 90 years old. He had a great life, but my grief remains. -- Grief During Christmas, Larchmont, New York
DEAR GRIEF DURING CHRISTMAS: Grief can take many years to pass through survivors. It is natural for you to remember your father at Christmas and to have mixed feelings about the season. One way to boost your spirits could be to do something my mother taught me: Count your blessings. In this case, you can focus your recollection of blessings on your relationship with your father and on his full life. Recount out loud and write down the type of man he was, what he meant to you, what dreams he fulfilled, how he found joy, all of the good things you can remember, etc. This will sweeten your memories of him and help to ease the pain. Feel free to talk about your father with loved ones. Yes, he is physically gone, but you should ensure that his memory lives on in your family.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)