Ask Amy: Grieving friend wants practical help
Dear Amy: During the height of the pandemic last year, each of my (divorced) parents died suddenly, two months apart.
As a result, I was left with two difficult estates to wade through on my own.
My childhood girlfriend has only seen me once in seven-and-a-half months, even though she is well aware that I have no help from siblings or immediate family.
I feel very hurt that she believes that "praying for me" is enough.
In my time of need, shouldn't she be expected to do something practical?
Dear Wondering: This is such a tough situation, and I’m so sorry you are experiencing it.
Yes, good friends should have a reasonable expectation of assistance when times are tough. And yes, good friends sometimes let each other down.
However, you don’t mention actually asking for help. If there is a job you believe your friend might be well-suited for – for instance, driving boxes to the donation center — ask her.
I have come to understand that unless people have personally faced this sort of challenge themselves, they don’t have any idea of how physically exhausting and upsetting it is to clear out parents’ homes.
Years ago, after dealing with this myself, I ran into an old friend from high school; her truck was piled high with her late-father’s belongings. We both stood in a snowy parking lot and traded teary stories about how hard this aspect of loss had been. And we agreed that until we had actually had the experience of clearing out households after a death in the family, we’d had no idea how lonely and overwhelming it would be.
If you are simply overwhelmed by the enormity of the entire task, you could ask your friend: “Can you come over to my mom’s house for a few hours on Saturday and keep me company while I sort through some of her things? I’m really struggling and could use a hand. I’ll bring the donuts.”
Dear Amy: I have always had a tumultuous relationship with my mom.
This past May, we had a disagreement that led me to realize that she will never love me the way that I need her to, and I'm tired of chasing after it.
As a result, I cut off contact and haven't heard from her in five months ... until this week.
She left a voicemail asking me to contact her to let her know how I am.
I'm not sure how to respond, or if I even should respond.
Our family has a history of not talking about elephants in the room, not apologizing, and not acknowledging hurt and pain.
I know I need to be OK with that.
I may never get an explanation or apology for our misunderstanding (or for the lack of emotional support throughout my life).
If I want to let her back into my life, I need to stop expecting a normal, loving parent-child relationship.
I'm just not sure if I'm ready to do that, and I can't trust myself not to get sucked into the emotional black hole that is our relationship.
How do I move forward? Do I let her back into my life? Do I cut contact forever?
I don't know what to do.
Dear Confused: First off, I’d love to learn what a “normal, loving, parent-child relationship” is. My own parents were not like the ones I saw on television, or those of some of my friends’, who I now realize were very far from perfect.
Still, you have the right to pursue the relationships you want to have.
Your silence has worked, and now your mother is reaching out. You should call her back and tell her how you’re doing. Ask how she’s doing.
You could nudge her toward a more open relationship by speaking your own truth: “Mom, I’d really like to have a better relationship with you, but I’m not sure how to do that.”
You can avoid the emotional black hole by always checking in with yourself and being honest in your statements: “That makes me uncomfortable.” “This isn’t going well for me.” “I’d like to address some issues from our past.” “I need to take a break.”
Dear Amy: “Wondering” commented on her sister-in-law’s weight loss during the pandemic by asking if she was “ill.”
Thank you for reminding people not to comment on another person’s weight loss (or gain), unless the person brings it up.
– Been There
Dear Been There: “Are you ill?” seems especially dense.
©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.