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There’s a right way to express sympathy

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Dear Abby: My father passed away a couple of years ago, and my mother passed on recently. I have noticed something that I would like to share with your readers. When I came back to work after the funeral, many well-meaning friends and co-workers approached me to express their sympathy.
Instead of a short message a’or a hug, the majority shared stories about the deaths of their loved ones. Many of them were fairly long. I believe they shared with me to emphasize that they understood what I was going through. What they didn’t understand was that I didn’t have the energy to listen to their stories after what I had just been through.

After Mom died, seven people came to me and did this. I was so drained afterward that I had to go home. The next day, one of my dear friends came into my office, handed me a thermos of homemade soup, told me she loved me and was here for me, hugged me and left. It was the most uplifting moment I had experienced since my mother’s passing.

Please tell your readers that while they have been through trials, and these trials enable them to empathize with grieving survivors, so soon after that death is not the time to share these stories. — Tired in Topeka

Dear Tired: Many people don’t know what to say when someone dies. While the individuals who offered their “extended” condolences meant well, I’m sure they would have been shocked had they been told it left you unable to function. Not everyone grieves in the same way.

Readers, it is important to take your cues from the person who is grieving. I am sharing this letter with you because the writer has a point. Sometimes the most effective message is a short one.

Dear Abby: My sister doesn’t want children. I fully support her decision, and I’m happy she knows herself well enough to make it. She does, however, have what she refers to as her “fur babies.” She has a wonderful, generous heart and is very charitable. My children have been blessed by their aunt’s generosity.

My issue is: Lately, she has made a few comments about how I don’t bring holiday gifts for her dogs. It’s remarks like, “Well, my fur babies don’t get gifts from their aunt.” Am I missing something here? Should I feel guilty for not adding her pets to my gift list because she considers them equal in value to human children? I can’t think of her dogs like I do my nieces and nephews. Am I wrong? — Aunt of Fur Babies

Dear Aunt: You may not consider your sister’s dogs as equal to human children, but she does. Gift-giving is supposed to be reciprocal. Your sister has been generous with your children, and you now know it bothers her that her “fur babies” have been overlooked. When the next gift-giving cycle rolls around (I hear there are great sales going on now) drop by a pet store. It is the kind thing to do, and it shouldn’t break the bank.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com

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