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Dear Carolyn: My older brother died a year ago, and now it seems my sister-in-law, "Sue," wants nothing to do with us. My husband, son and I always stayed with them for Christmas, in our old hometown, and we would rent a beach house together for a summer visit. Also included in the Christmas Day celebration was a family who are Sue's longtime friends. This tradition lasted over 20 years.

Last Christmas, Sue very understandably did not host anyone. She also didn't come to the shore with us this summer, making excuses about work.

When I called her last week about firming up Christmas plans, she said she just doesn't feel like doing the big Christmas "thing" anymore. I suggested we visit anyway but take her out to dinner — she declined. I was disappointed but accepting.

I guess Sue wasn't counting on social media letting us in on the truth. From posts her friends made this week it's clear that Sue will be hosting the usual dinner on Christmas Day and the only "tradition" she is letting go of is including us! If there had ever been animosity between us, I could understand her cutting us out, but we've never had anything but good friendship.

Should I confront her about her attitude? Losing Sue is like losing even more of my late brother than I already have.

— Can't Understand Why

Can’t Understand Why: I am so sorry. I think you’re right to equate it to a kind of grief, because you essentially have lost another beloved family member.

I don’t think confronting her is the way to go, though, nor is it . . . practical, let’s say, to look at this as an “attitude.”

What you just learned is that Sue does not share your idea of these Christmas and beach traditions. That’s it. Even her untruth wasn’t entirely a lie; hosting close, local friends is arguably not a “big Christmas ‘thing.’ ”

I can think of two or three possible explanations for your ouster, none of them good news but all — to my uninvolved eye — understandable in their way.

1. Your brother loved you dearly, while she was a good sport for 20 years. Not that she didn’t like you, just that your brother drove the togetherness. That is so common.

2. She and your brother had a decently happy marriage but there was a typical level of strain built into it, too, and now a year later, she is working hard to rebuild herself.

3. Your brother was the love of her life, and seeing you is too painful a reminder for her still.

Here’s the thing: You don’t need to know which of these is accurate or whether it’s something else entirely. Your joy with these past traditions is just as real as it always was and it will always be yours, held close among memories of your brother. That it isn’t carrying forward is best treated as a byproduct of change. It’s not just a choice between togetherness or animosity.

Again, I am sorry for your losses. Maybe in time write Sue a note to say you’re glad she has found new traditions, but you also miss her and hope to stay in occasional touch. Prop that door open and see.

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