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Carolyn Hax: How not to be the friend who sobs at a bridal shower

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: A close family friend has her bridal shower this weekend. I’m so happy for her, and I will be seeing her and other friends and family.

The problem is that I’ve been dealing with the dissolution of my 10-year relationship. It isn’t new, but the process of detangling our lives is still ongoing. I’ve really been good about being cheery and genuinely happy for friends and family on their happy news (engagements, pregnancies), but I haven’t had to be in person. Now I have the fear of questions and comments such as: “How are you doing? How’s the glassbowl ex?” To which an honest answer would be: “Oh, I’ve been packing and throwing things away while sobbing. He’s in Europe with his new girlfriend.”

I think I just need a recommendation on how to center myself and put on the happy face I want to for my friend.

— Packing and Sobbing

Packing and Sobbing: Oh, I’m sorry. It’s so hard not just to go through a breakup, but also to feel as if your mess is teetering and ready at any given time to spill onto everyone else. (I cried once in the middle of lunch with colleagues. Yay me.) Emotional regulation can take more time than we have.

So: Go, smile and have a plan. Prepare a few answers to, “How are you?”: great, getting better, upright, a mess, I got here! Scout out the exits and bathrooms for emergency duckings-out, so you can collect yourself. Have a distracting place for your thoughts to go — a mental image, a photo on your phone — for quick diversions from crying moments.

And if you lose it, try to minimize the attention you draw to yourself, and apologize to the bride later. Sometimes we just leak. It’s okay.

Re: Bridal shower fears: Buy the great pair of shoes.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Always. (Said like Alan Rickman’s Snape.)

More wisdom from readers:

· If someone asks, “How are you?” say, “Looking forward to better days.” It covers so much.

· Do you know anyone else really well who will be attending the shower? Could you clue them into how you’re feeling ahead of time, so you’ll have a buddy? A safe person you can count on to say, “GREAT shoes, Carol!” to divert a well-intentioned but stressful line of small talk, or to text you dog photos, or just to come over and steal you away if you give the, “Leak incoming!” sign, without making it a big thing? Sometimes knowing there’s a person in the room looking out for you can help make everything manageable.

· It will be tough talking to people about your relationship dissolving, but you can always turn the discussion back to the bride when you want to stop talking about it. Also, my friend Sally has this great advice that works in a ton of situations: It will be fine, or it will be over.

· Your answer: “He’s in Europe with his new girlfriend, and I’m throwing all his stuff away. What did you get Marcia as a shower gift?”

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