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Miss Manners: What’s the best way to be there for a friend grieving the loss of a child?

Dear Miss Manners: My childhood friend’s young daughter just tragically died. I am heartbroken for her.

I feel like I just don’t have the words to express my sympathy, and I surely don’t want my expressions to be about me. I don’t have children of my own, but I have nephews and nieces at the same age, and I can’t imagine what life would be like if I lost them.

I want to throw a blanket around my friend and make it all better, but I know that’s a silly concept. How do I express my sympathy and love without making it about me? I feel so sad for my friend and her family.

You are quite right to be aware of not making this about you. How you would feel if you lost a niece or nephew may help you empathize with your friend, but it is not likely to comfort her for having lost a child.

Sadly, the only thing you can offer your friend is friendship: listening, responding to her needs, helping in practical ways. Miss Manners has noticed that those who think they can do more — who insert themselves, or presume to counsel the bereaved on how to handle their grief — often inflict damage.

Dear Miss Manners: A certain friend of mine, instead of just greeting me with “Hello, how are you?," demands to know what local events are going on. I have tried to explain to him that this is rude, and that he is treating me as an employee — perhaps a concierge at a hotel.

Besides being rude, I just don’t get it. If he just wants to crash all events that have an open bar, that isn’t something I keep track of. If I am volunteering as an usher at a theater, that wouldn’t help him. If I am going to a book talk, that might not be of interest; otherwise, he would have registered for it already.

Is this a common problem? What is a tactful way of saying that you aren’t the information bureau?

How about “Oh, dear, I don’t know. If you hear of anything interesting, please tell me.”

Miss Manners realizes that this would turn you into the subject of your complaint, but assures you that you won’t have to do it for long.

Dear Miss Manners: My daughter got married in her backyard with only five guests because of covid. It was her first marriage, even though she is 50.

Not one person in our family sent her a wedding gift. These are people whose children’s weddings, showers, etc. I attended and gave generous gifts to. I am very offended. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Can you try not to dwell on it?

Sadly, you are thinking of the principle of giving presents to mark the special occasions of people whom you appreciate. Meanwhile, to Miss Manners’ horror, the world has come to think of presents as the price of admission to social events.

Try sending out formal announcements of the marriage. These are sufficiently rare in the time of social posting that it might occur to the recipients that some response is necessary.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022 by Judith Martin.