Friend is conflicted over loss and new love
Dear Amy: My family was friends with a couple from our church ("Alan and Jenny") for many years. I've never met a more loving, happier, or more fulfilled couple than those two. They had three amazing children together.
All of that came to a tragic end about four years ago when Jenny shockingly took her life. She had been dealing with a painful chronic illness that was only getting worse.
Of course, we were all devastated. Somehow, Alan managed to keep it together, for the sake of the kids, no doubt.
Now, a few years later, Alan has moved on to a new relationship and has invited us all to his wedding next spring.
On one hand, I'm thrilled that he was able to find happiness again. His fiance has a child of her own, and they both seem lovely.
On the other hand, I'm struggling with feelings of loss all over again. For some reason, this wedding has truly cemented the fact that Jenny isn't coming back.
She was my close friend for many years, and I know her family loved her dearly and couldn't imagine replacing her. I'm already struggling with not judging Alan's fiance by comparing her to Jenny.
I'm not going to punish someone else for moving on after tragedy. I know that isn't right or fair. I just need to know how to deal with my conflicting emotions.
It is strange because, compared to Jenny's actual family members, who are perfectly OK and happy, I shouldn't be taking it this hard.
Please tell me how I can manage these complicated emotions in order to be truly happy for my friend, even if it means leaving behind someone I love and miss every day. — Grieving
Dear Grieving: You miss your friend, and you likely always will. When someone dies by suicide, grieving loved ones are left with such complicated and painful emotions. I assure you, every person in "Jenny's" circle — her widower, her children, and other friends and family members — all of you are coping with these challenging feelings. They are not "perfectly OK and happy." They are doing their imperfect best, just as you are.
When you are engaged in a loving friendship with another person, your feelings mingle and flow — this fullness of feeling is what makes us aware of our own humanity. This is the bittersweetness of being in the world.
It is OK to love a person (Jenny) and also be angry that they are gone. It is acceptable to feel happy for someone (Alan), and also sad that their life is changing.
In short, you get to feel your feelings — all of them.
How you should behave is another matter. When it comes to this marriage, you should attend the wedding, shed a tear or two if you need to, and behave kindly toward all parties. You are NOT leaving your dear friend behind, but you must make room for change.
Dear Amy: I was recently diagnosed with a treatable, benign brain tumor. I got a slew of heartfelt emails from family from all over the country.
Call me old-fashioned, but I didn't receive even one get well card. Is it now proper etiquette to just spend 30 seconds or so and send an email? — Recovering
Dear Recovering: This is not about etiquette.
Your friends and family were thoughtfully reaching out to you in a way where they could express themselves and also (perhaps) initiate a written dialogue with you via your reply to their email.
In my view, when you're not feeling well, this can be an ideal way to communicate, because you can reply on your own time.
Many people still send cards, and yes — it is wonderful to receive them, but you should consider that this email outpouring is the equivalent of a phone call — quick, yes, but also personal and heartfelt.
There is nothing wrong with being old-fashioned, but I hope you are not blaming the people who reached out to you for caring enough to get in touch.
Dear Amy: Responding to "Confused about Kitty," It's a shame you hate cats so much that you would consign them to a boring life of staying inside all day. Cats were meant to roam. — Upset
Dear Upset: My own best feline friend, "Chester," died last month at the ripe old age of 20. Keeping cats indoors lengthens their lives, and saves the lives of the many birds and small mammals they kill when they "roam."
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.