While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On support at its most uncomplicated • When I was deciding to get a divorce I felt embarrassed, ashamed, like a failure. I will always remember how much the following words from my father meant to me. He said, "I don't know the whole story, and I don't need to know, just know that I am on your side no matter what." It was the support and love I needed. Simple and to the point. Sometimes that is all a parent needs to say.
My parents brought me to the funeral, my first, of the father of some kids on our swim team when was I was about 10 or 11. I didn't want to go, but they dressed me up smart and my dad said, "You have to go. It's not about us; it's about the surviving family. It's a duty we all share in life even though unpleasant." When he said "you" he meant all of us, not me in particular.
It is irrelevant whether the kids knew the deceased well or not. Funerals are for those of us who continue on, to show the survivors that they are important to us including our children, who may not understand and that we stand with them in their grief even though there's nothing we can do for them now other than show up. Showing up is important.
On being the lone single at a gathering of couples • A number of years ago, our boss and his wife invited seven of us to their summer home for a weekend. They hosted a party to introduce us to family and friends. The introductions went like this:
This is Wendy, and she is with with Rob, over there.
This is Jane, and she is married to Tom, on her right.
This is Harry, and he belongs to Betty, over here.
And next to her is "Jenny" (me) and ... and before he could say more, one of the wives spoke up and said, "She belongs to all of us."
It was a fabulous weekend with great friends.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.