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She planned a nonreligious funeral for her husband. His parents weren't pleased.

| Friday, June 8, 2018, 8:57 p.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband died suddenly three months ago. We had never discussed funeral plans, but he was not religious and disliked the religion he was raised in, so I insisted on a nonreligious funeral because I thought that would best reflect his wishes.

His very religious parents were upset with me and have been cold to me since then. I would like to have a relationship with them but am unsure what to do.

It actually just occurred to me today that I have no [holiday] plans because we always spent them at their house and they haven't invited me this year, I guess because they're still upset.

Was I wrong not to let my husband's parents bury their son the way they wanted? Should I apologize? Should I reach out but not apologize?

-- Anonymous

Maybe they're still upset about the funeral, yes.

I'm inclined to believe, though, they're mostly angry at the universe and you just happen to be much easier to punch.

I can't say whether you did the right thing. If it were my funeral, I'd be grateful to you -- beaming down from my little cloud or up from my handcart -- for your effort to honor the real me. That takes guts, especially when you're doing so for a hostile audience and dealing with your own grief throughout.

If you had instead bowed to the audience pressure and chosen the funeral they wanted, then I'd forgive you without a moment's hesitation. Either choice represents a heartfelt effort to do the right thing.

Please try to plan something restorative for your holiday, be it a day of couch and streaming or some close friends who won't make you pay if you're not at your best.

As for your in-laws, be as gentle and forgiving and patient as you wish they were being with you. At arm's length though it may be.

Dear Carolyn:

We share very thin walls with our neighbors and, this week, I found out the husband lost his job. This has caused all kinds of additional stress on top of an already scary, difficult situation. They've been fighting -- loudly -- since he's been home more. We barely know them, and I have no idea what to do. I've literally never spoken to the wife.

Do I acknowledge we've heard the news? Leave a bottle of wine for them? I would send them a week of meal kits, but I don't even have their email. I feel so awful and know how stressful this is, especially with a baby.

-- Neighbor

Be neighborly, but as you would if you didn't know way too much. Cook something and, whoopsie, realize a double batch was too big after all: “I made way more chili than we can use. Would you like some?” That will also crack the door figuratively to more regular neighborly exchanges with them, if they're receptive. (If not, you back off unless and until you hear an emergency through the walls.)

You can't solve their problems, but you can be, if they're receptive, a small source of comfort at an uncomfortable time.

Email Carolyn at, follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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