Last year, my brother and his wife suffered a tragic loss when their young son drowned in an accident in their home. Since then, my sister-in-law has been very reluctant to visit our family, and I don’t know why. My brother would love to visit her, but I think he’s giving in to her because she comes from a wealthy family that bought them several houses and pays expensive private school tuition for their oldest son. I also think my sister-in-law has a guilty conscience. They were at home when their son died, but let the boys swim unsupervised. We don’t blame her for what happened. I just want my daughter to see her cousins more often. How do I build a bridge?


I’m sure you mean well, but it seems like you desperately need lessons in empathy. Your sister-in-law is in mourning! A year is like a blink of an eye after the devastating loss of a child. She may not feel able to plan and execute trips for you.

And then there’s the pandemic. In the current situation, she is probably thinking even more about the safety and health of her family. The brother’s attitude towards his in-laws’ wealth – and even citing guilt for the child’s death – is insensitive. It was an accident. Isn’t it nicer if he and his wife are sweet to each other because of their common grief?

Try to put yourself in their shoes. The only question here should be: What can I do to ease his suffering? Start by listening to them (without judging them) when they want to talk. You can also offer to visit them when they are ready to receive visitors and when you can negotiate security protocols that make sense. Take the initiative. You’re going through something very difficult right now.


credit related Christoph Niemann

We have Jab. Excuse me?

My family has been friends with a wonderful older couple for many years. My husband, myself and our young adult children are all fully vaccinated. We looked at all the legitimate ways to get vaccinated early and found (e.g.) The older couple waited their turn in a very formal way. They haven’t been fully vaccinated yet. And I wasn’t honest with them about our marital status; I felt guilty. But during a recent (socially distant) visit, my son blurted out the truth. We haven’t heard from them since. What should I do? I wouldn’t want to lose their friendship.


You did nothing wrong by taking the vaccine as soon as the government allowed it. (And nothing in your question suggests you were dishonest about your original qualifications). The only mistake you made was lying to your friends. I can relate to that, given their patient stoicism.

So apologize! I felt guilty because we were vaccinated and you weren’t. We didn’t break any rules, but I was afraid you would despise us for leaving early. I’m sorry I was so unfair to you. Will you forgive me? I bet you do.

About these pictures…

Six years ago I sold my house and moved to a smaller house in another state. My neighbor has long admired the trio of large, gallery-worthy photos I own. Since my new home could not accommodate her, she offered to take care of her until I wanted to take her back. I have now bought a bigger house and would love to get the photos back. They are very personal and meaningful to me. How trite would it be to ask him?


I care less about what the photos mean to you and more about how clear you made it to your ex-roommate that you wanted them back. If the possibility of bringing back art is just a thought bubble quietly floating above your head, consider his photos. You gave a gift.

If you had made it clear that the photos were borrowed, it wouldn’t be so pathetic to ask for them back. (You have to pay to have them wrapped and sent to you.) Don’t be surprised if your friend is a little upset. Six years was a long time, and it probably wasn’t how she imagined the end of the story to be – although, to be fair, it was always a possibility.

The connection in me versus the current me.

A friend of mine told me that my LinkedIn profile is cold and boring because I don’t write anything about my hobbies or other interests. But I prefer to keep my private life to myself. Is this wrong? Do I owe potential employers anything for my period of unemployment? Should I tell them I used to draw trees and write pithy stories?


You don’t owe potential employers anything. It is up to you to decide if you want to include personal interests in your LinkedIn profile. But (and this may annoy you), as soon as you mentioned your tree photos and poignant stories, I became interested in you. I think it’s human to be attracted to the person behind the resume. Less is more here. So, if you can stand it, a little human interest can improve your job prospects.

If you need help with your embarrassment, send a question to [email protected], Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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