DEAR MARY ANN: I'm writing about something that really irritates me. After making a point to pay my respects at a funeral home and then spending a lot of money on flowers or a donation to their pet project to then get a printed generic thank-you note that starts, "Perhaps you sent a lovely card or sat quietly in a chair" is like they don't even know I was there! What is so hard to write a handwritten note to express thanks?
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: People who suffer the loss of a loved often are too overwhelmed with sadness and grief to write notes or send acknowledgements. They ask a friend or another family member to do that task for them. The poem you received is a common verse that is often sent by the deceased's family and the person addressing the acknowledgement may not be aware of your relationship with the deceased or the family member you wanted to console. Often a short note is written on the blank side of the acknowledgement you received. This makes thanking friends a little more personal. The flowers and donations however may not have been recorded and the entire memory of the funeral may be a blurred vision of someone's darkest hour. When you paid your respects, sent flowers or made a donation you did so with love and compassion. Let the form of acknowledgement this family chose to send be acceptable.
DEAR MARY ANN: My son was home from college and acting in an edgy, unfamiliar way. The night before he left to go back to school, he left a journal out on top of his suitcase and said "Don't read this." Of course the red flag went up and I had to read it. Reference to drugs and alcohol consumption to the excess appeared on many pages. He is back at school and I cannot get this out of my head. I feel as if I should go to his college and have a face-to-face conversation (intervention).
-- CONCERNED PARENT
DEAR CONCERNED PARENT: Your son's admonishment to not read his journal was a silent cry for help. He was pleading with you to open the discussion on his alcohol and drug use because it is spinning out of his control. This is not the time to put your head in the sand. He is struggling as he explores drugs and alcohol.
Start an honest conversation with your son. Reiterate your love, concern and support. If the distance to his school is not prohibitive, a face-to-face meeting is ideal. Be realistic; alcohol and drugs are readily available on any college campus. Your son must be held accountable for his actions because he ultimately is the only one responsible for them. He is putting himself and his future in jeopardy. Listen and give guidance to your son, but deny him permission to make you his enabler.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.