Dear Carolyn • My relationship with a close family member has taken a turn for the worse. She suffered a tragic loss almost a year ago, and is clearly still grieving. The problem is that I feel that in her anger/grief at her situation, she is taking her feelings out on me she's blamed me for being unsupportive and uncaring. I'm also not the first person she's written off for these reasons. She's so upset with me that she's now declined to be my maid of honor, less than three months before my wedding. I understand she has been through a lot, but I'm also hurt deeply by her treatment. If this were a friend, I'd sadly assume the relationship was over, but this is family and I'm under a lot of pressure to make things right by my wedding. I'm at a loss as to how to prevent this relationship from deteriorating further and conflicted by my hurt feelings vs. her grief. Am I being unfair? Do I ignore her behavior because of the understandable cause of it?
Hurt in Richmond
Dear Hurt in Richmond • It's good she's not a friend, because I believe your friendship-ending assumption would be premature. "Tara" (I'm naming her, for simplicity's sake) suffered a "tragic loss," and she has written off at least one other person besides you and the fact that you noted these means you recognize, on some level, that this is more about her grief than it is about you. If anything, it sounds as if you want a push one way or the other in the form of permission to hold this against her, or encouragement to redouble your patience. I also suspect you want this push because the wedding looms, the family presses and your patience is ticking down like shopping days till Christmas. However: Like Christmas, the wedding is an artificial deadline a manufactured climax to the story of you, Tara and her grief, a story that's bigger than any one day. Ten years from now it won't matter whether she stood at the altar with you, it will matter how you handled yourself and your relationship in light of her grief. Accordingly, tell anyone who pressures you to "make things right by my wedding" that there's no deadline here; you love Tara and care about her and will give her all the time she needs.
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