Dear Carolyn: I recently was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw photos of my niece celebrating at her baby shower with friends and family. I was hurt to see this post because she never invited me. I thought I had a good relationship with her.

I said something to that effect on her post, and then unfriended her.

Backstory is that her dad, my younger brother, passed away 11 months ago and I am his only sister. I feel like my niece is telling me I no longer am family to her. She’s an adult and of course can decide who she wants in her life. It just feels like another death to me. What do you suggest?

— Hurting Auntie

Hurting Auntie: Thicker skin.

I offer this with my apologies, since this is understandably a terrible time for you. Being left out hurts acutely. Losing a loved one hurts acutely then aches chronically, and at 11 months you're probably feeling some overlap of both.

Nevertheless — acting on your impulse to lash out then unfriend your niece does not serve anyone well.

There may be something to her shower's backstory that would explain your exclusion. Maybe her host asked for a small guest list. Maybe covid risk management factored in. Maybe your relationship with her is good but not close. Choosing not to react to your feelings right away, and taking time to think through these possibilities, would have given you room to consider a more productive (and less regrettable) course of action. You were under no pressure to respond to her post on the spot. Or ever.

Even if there was no good explanation — even if her excluding you was just petty or rude — then you still have lifelong justification to say nothing and just walk it off on the high road: the next event, the next holiday, the next member of the family your niece will give birth to soon, and every event after that. Your late brother's child. If you're a good sport and maintain a welcoming presence, then you can take your recent exclusion as the starting line for your gentle, respectful cultivation of stronger family ties.

As it stands now, your outburst pushed the starting line even farther back.

It’s still a starting line, though. Apologize to your niece for commenting on her post as you did. Send a gift. Admit you’re still raw over losing your brother, and make it clear this is an explanation, not an excuse. If anyone can understand that, it’s going to be the woman who’s having the child who’s arriving too late to know Grandpa — so make sure you give her an “I know I’m preaching to the choir about feeling raw”-type acknowledgment.

You're the auntie with access to a part of Grandpa's history even his own daughter can't know. That is a sacred role. The shower was one event. Dust yourself off and get cultivating.

Dear Carolyn: My husband has been visiting his mother in another country for over a month. He calls once a week and hardly sends messages.

For me, this is unacceptable. The fact that he has no desire to be in contact is so hurtful. He says he misses me but has no interest in communication except a 10-minute weekly call once. I feel like an obligation.

I also don't want to be with someone so self-absorbed.

Please advise. Stay or go?

— A Sad Wife

A Sad Wife: I won’t decide that based on one 10-minute call per week, and I hope you won’t, either.

Fact: He's barely in touch.

Speculation: He has “no desire to be in contact,” “no interest in communication,” and is “self-absorbed,” and sees you as an “obligation.”

I completely understand why you’re upset; you feel forgotten! It’s hard. Make sure you’ve expressed yourself clearly, just facts, no accusations: “More contact would mean a lot to me.”

Otherwise, if it's possible he does miss you and just has obstacles to calling more, then take him at his word. Speculating the worst and then acting on it is an excellent way to make a mistake.

Whenever you're upset, over anything, it's a kindness to yourself to stop assuming (what he wants, feels, and why), toss out goals that offer nothing but frustration, and work with what you have.

You do control how you interpret his choices, for example. You can change how you feel between calls. Navigating with logic is a skill; it keeps emotions from taking over.

When you trust that he misses you, you give yourself permission to feel better immediately. When you accept one call is all you’ll get, you free yourself to live the days between without wishing, what-iffing or why-notting.

There's opportunity even in loneliness. There must be interests you don't share, hobbies you've let lapse, things you've wanted to try.

Short of joining him overseas, you can’t do much else. So you find your healthiest way to wait.

The important work of understanding each other starts when he gets back. Till then: Less pining, more living, and no more projecting on him.