Dear Amy: My wife was recently hospitalized, and, as I have done previously, I sent messages to family and her friends to let them know her status. After each message, I received many in return, some asking questions that required a personal response.
When my wife was about to be discharged, I received multiple offers to help with shopping and other chores. I had to write a tactful response to each, explaining that her diet has to be carefully controlled, so I have to do the shopping.
I have such mixed feelings about the incoming messages. It is wonderful that family and friends care, but the volume of traffic requiring a response has been a burden on me at a difficult time.
What do you think is the proper protocol when receiving an update on CaringBridge, or through a mass e-mail like mine? Should people think good thoughts but maybe not respond directly? Or demonstrate interest and caring by asking for more information, thus creating a stressor for the caregiver?
I look forward to your thoughts on this puzzler.
Amy says: I think it is normal, rational and thoughtful to respond quickly and directly to a CaringBridge message or a group e-mail when the message contains an important update about someone you care about.
But I also completely understand the stress that these messages can create.
Even though you cannot control when or how people respond, you can control their expectations regarding a return response from you. At the end of each of your e-mail updates, you should include something like this: "Thank you all for your caring and concern. It means so much to both of us. I hope you understand that unfortunately I cannot respond promptly, if at all. I do read and appreciate each and every message, however. We are fortunate to have so many thoughtful friends."
Put this message in bold print, so people make sure to see it.
It also would be helpful if you could assign a savvy and sensitive friend or family member to coordinate any needs that your circle of friends can fulfill, whether it is helping out for a few hours by cooking, cleaning, driving or reading aloud to your wife while you rest.
Dear Amy: My daughter, "Shelley," is in her mid-30s. She was married three years ago and, sadly, the marriage ended one year later.
My brother's daughter is now planning her wedding in the same location as my daughter's wedding. Even though my niece has talked to Shelley about why she chose this location, Shelley is very upset, hurt and angry about the decision.
Shelley is requesting emotional support, alliance and a listening ear regarding her feelings. I have provided all of these things, but I will attend my niece's wedding.
Shelley will not attend, nor allow my granddaughter to participate in the wedding. I realize that she is disappointed, but I say it is time for her to accept her past and move on and to acknowledge that she is blessed to be out of the marriage.
Amy says: Your daughter does not have the right to try to control her cousin's choice of wedding venue. Should she keep her own daughter away or insist that you must not the wedding? No.
But anyone could imagine how hard it might be for your daughter to revisit the scene of her own nuptials, so soon after her own marriage ended.
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