DEAR MISS MANNERS: My oldest son passed away within the past month. I am very fearful of sharing this with friends and close acquaintances, as one person took this as an opening to share all her family health issues and the death, within the past year, of her brother.
What happens to my friends matters greatly to me. It always has. Right now, I’m trying to deal with this unbelievable loss.
Other than either saying nothing or not acknowledging their loss, how do I keep people from sharing their pain with me? I’m not strong enough to deal with their pain and try to deal with mine as well.
GENTLE READER: Nor should it be expected of you. There is a callous cruelty in expecting people to jump back immediately into the day-to-day tumble after a loss such as yours. And in relating their own troubles.
Miss Manners offers her condolences and suggests you absent yourself for a time from normal social life while you grieve — a process that used to be called mourning.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I host my wife’s family fairly often, and enjoy our visits. I’m struggling with one dynamic that occurs every time we have her brother’s family at our table.
We’ll pass dishes, family style, and the parents will pile the food on their plates and the plates of their two young children. But then each of them will only eat a few forkfuls.
When I do the dishes afterwards, I’m throwing away huge helpings of delicious food.
I don’t know what to say about this behavior. I’m saddened that there aren’t many leftovers for me and my wife and kids to enjoy.
My wife just shrugs and explains that her family has eating disorders, but as I somberly carry a compost bin overflowing with six complete meals to the curb, I’m starting to see them as sociopathic.
GENTLE READER: Family service, by which the host — not the guests — fills individual plates from serving dishes, was not invented to keep the piggies from burying their heads in the trough, but Miss Manners notices that it does have that benefit.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a wife, mother and grandmother, and I take care of my parents. I try to help out wherever I can. Lately, it seems everyone is irritated with me because I haven’t come to the rescue when needed.
I only found out about it because someone close to me mentioned a conversation they had with a family member. The issue, it seems, is that some people mention to other people that they are having difficulties or would like something accomplished but haven’t asked me for help.
I am more than happy to help, but being asked would be nice, since I try not to butt into people’s lives when I’m not wanted. This is really bothering me since it seems everyone is doing it now. Help!
GENTLE READER: You are right that direct communication is more polite. It is also more effective. Might Miss Manners gently suggest that you repeat your willingness to help — if only you are informed when help is needed — to those who might be doing the needing and the gossiping?
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.