Life Advice



Ask Amy: Family reacts with anger after sudden death

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My wife's sister, "Sarah," lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago when he passed away after just a couple of days of not feeling well.

He was only 47, and a clear cause of death has not been determined.

Last week, while helping to prepare for the funeral, we learned that Sarah and her now-deceased husband had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

This was news to us; they assured us they had been vaccinated before we agreed to visit them over the holidays.

Vaccination has been a major point of contention in our relationship with Sarah over the years. Over the past two years, she had repeatedly spread misinformation about COVID and the vaccine, and her young children have not received even the most routine childhood inoculations. It's also not the first time we've caught her in a lie.

I'm absolutely furious. I’m furious that vaccine hesitancy could have played a role in killing her husband and altered their children's lives forever, and furious that her lies about her vaccination status put our family at risk, including my own parents and grandparents.


Under normal circumstances, this would be the final straw in our relationship with Sarah, but how do we address this situation with her and express the gravity of our anger and hurt while she mourns the devastating loss of her husband?

– Furious Brother-in-law

Dear Furious: Right after a sudden death is NOT the time to express your anger or fury regarding the deceased’s behavior or choices.

You don’t do it when someone dies by suicide, you don’t do it when someone isn’t wearing a helmet on a motorcycle, you don’t do it when someone overdoses. You just don’t. You express your shock and sorrow, and that’s it.


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