Ask Amy: Sisters differ in their response to grief

January 3, 2012

DEAR AMY: My sister and I have been relatively close throughout our lives. She is 63 and I am 58. Both of us lost our spouses in the past year.

She continues to grieve and I have moved on (with therapeutic help). She calls me at least two times a week. We are both retired. She was left well off and I am struggling but I make it.

She has few hobbies, interests or friends and starts her day reading the obituaries. She is bitter and wallows in her grief.

Now she wants me to move in with her. I don’t want to but don’t know how to tell her without creating a lasting rift. I love her but I don’t like her very much. Can you help me to find the words? -- Sister

DEAR SISTER: No two people grieve the same way. You cannot assume your sister will recover from her loss the way you have, but you could help her by simply reflecting her actions back toward her and offering to be helpful and emotionally supportive, without becoming a crutch.

Speak your own truth, with respect and compassion.

You say, “I know you are going through a very rough patch and I’m so sorry. I think there are things you could try which might help you to feel better. Would you be open to some suggestions?”

Your sister might be afraid to change, or she might simply be unable to pull out of her sadness and grief. I hope you can offer her a positive example, including suggesting therapy. You can respond to the idea of living together by saying, “I don’t want to move in together but we’ll always be close.” You don’t need to explain why. You need only say, “I have to do what I think will be best for me.”

DEAR AMY: My husband and I are in our mid-50s. We have a group of wonderful friends. We get together frequently and play cards and enjoy home-cooked meals together as a group.

One of these couples worries me. I’ll call them “Jack and Jill.”

Jack can be a great guy and very good company, but lately we have been forced to witness him making very crude, rude and sexually degrading comments mostly directed toward his wife. She will ask him to stop, and he usually does stop after a while.

This seems to be happening more frequently and his comments are getting cruder. Alcohol is not an issue because none of us drinks much.

We are so appalled that we don’t know what to say, especially because other people are present. Honestly, we are hoping that Jack will read about himself in your column and that this will be a wake-up call for him.

Do you have any other suggestions? -- Worried Friends

DEAR WORRIED: Your friend’s behavior is surprising, disturbing and baffling. He is holding you (and everyone else present) hostage to his choices.

And yet you don’t report that anyone other than his wife is asking him to stop.

When someone is being publicly offensive, you can say, “Hey — whoa. I’d appreciate it if you would stop speaking that way. Thank you.”

After this, the person in your group who is closest to this man should speak to him privately to say, “What in the Sam Hill is going on with you?”

The person closest to his wife should also speak with her to make sure she is okay. This man might have a medical or emotional issue causing him to act out. He should be encouraged to get a thorough checkup as soon as possible.

DEAR AMY: “Downer” wrote saying that the fact that he/she received Christmas gifts from parents made him depressed for an entire month.

Wow. First of all, this person really needs to get over himself. However, we had a son who reported the same discomfort to us. He suggested that we should donate to a foundation instead of giving a material gift to him, and we were happy to comply.

We enjoy this new tradition and feel it’s really a win-win for everyone. -- Not So Down

DEAR NOT: Many readers responded to this letter with a similar reaction and suggestion. Thank you!

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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