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.

In this case, the cause of death has not been announced, and you are making assumptions that you really shouldn’t make.

According to you, your sister-in-law has been a long-time anti-vaxxer, and has continued to spread falsehoods regarding the COVID vaccine.

It seems logical that you would have been skeptical regarding her claims to having been vaccinated, and yet you took her word for it.

For now, you should process this death with as much compassion as you can muster for “Sarah,” and especially her children.

You have the opportunity to be present, kind, and useful to these children, and I hope you will choose to step up for them, regardless of what you think of their mother.

Dear Amy: I have been a teacher in my current position for five years.

I teach at a “rough” school in a “rough” district.

I love my students and my job.

I am a very reserved person and I mostly keep to myself to avoid the negativity that lingers in the staff lounge.

In my time at the school, I have only two people whom I consider to be friends. These are people I trust to discuss matters both personal and professional.


Recently, I had a meeting with a supervisor in which she and I had a friendly interaction where she discussed many of her concerns with our staff.

I shared this information with my two friends, after-hours and in a private setting.

They then repeated the information which I had shared with them.

Although none of what I said to them was untrue, I feel both betrayed and embarrassed me.

I worry that this will negatively impact my relationship with my supervisor.

How can I make amends and apologize for my oversharing?

– Nervous Teacher

Dear Nervous: I assume your supervisor did not preface her remarks with: “Please keep this to yourself.” If she had, you would owe her an apology.

I’m also going to assume working on the staff of a school might be like working for a newspaper: fueled by gossip and intrigue.

Any supervisor should assume that information impacting the staff which has been passed along, would continue to be passed along.

Your friends should not have repeated what you told them. But you should have assumed that they might. You can tell them now, “I wish you hadn’t repeated that. It was not meant for others. I find this embarrassing.”

Dear Amy: Referring to a recent letter you ran from “High on Life,” I see that you are an elderly person who believes that “pot is bad.”

You need to get it together.

– Currently High

Dear High: I don’t actually believe that “pot is bad,” any more than I believe that alcohol is bad.

Abusing either creates problems for people.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2022 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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