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An uncomfortable woman struggles for memorial service

AMY: There does not seem to be any protocol for what could be expected from the presence of an ex-spouse at a memorial service.

Columnist Amy Dickinson (Bill Hogan / Chicago Tribune)

My ex-husband, "Bert", and I were married for 40 years before divorcing because of her relationships with other women, and then for a long-term relationship with the woman who 39, he married later. We have three grown children.

After Bert's recent death, I feel a lot of ambivalent emotions (mostly anger) about his selfish and hurtful behavior towards me, as well as other lies he told that had a huge impact on me and our children.

Our children want me to participate in the service. But what should I do when people offer me their condolences or tell me how wonderful Bert was and how wonderful his wife "Brandy" is? I certainly do not want to accept them and thank them.

How can I behave with dignity without betraying my integrity and my feelings?

Upset Ex

CHER UPSET EX: If you behave with dignity, you will not have to worry about your integrity anymore, because dignity is the outward manifestation of integrity.

Your presence at this service is not a primary honor, but the guest of your children. Any attention or center of attention that is directed to you should be diverted to them. Leave your ambivalent feelings and anger behind you, and if you can not, stay home.

If you attend, you must maintain a discreet presence. If you do not feel comfortable sitting with your children and your ex's family members towards the front of the room (or if you think it would be uncomfortable for your ex's wife), you should let your children sit with other family members. you should sit in another area.

People will probably not tell you how wonderful your ex-husband was (the spurt usually does not involve ex-spouses). But if they do, just say, "Well, I've known him for a long time and I know he'll be missed" (not necessarily from you).

This event embodies the saying: "If you can not say anything good, do not say anything at all."

AMY: I have a friend whom I see several times a year. Quite often, in addition to bringing me a bottle of wine (so nice, although it is not necessary), she gives me gifts related to health, to "prevent" colds and diseases, or to shorten the duration of diseases. (I have a complicated health history.)

These are all medical quacks, nothing that a doctor recommends. These are usually "health" type powders to put in water for drinking, and often contain strange ingredients or unusually high levels of certain vitamins.

I've tried in vain to dissuade her from bringing these miracle cure gifts, even telling her that my wife and I are not interested, but she still brings the gifts.

I must add that she and her husband are not well at all, financially, and I think my friend should not spend her money this way.

I did not have the heart to tell her to bring home those unwanted gifts, when she presented them to me with a smile, letting me know how their healing and anti-disease properties would help me. I graciously accepted the gifts and thanked her, but I do not feel well doing it.

How can I better manage this?

Ungrateful hostess

DEAR UNGRATEFUL: If you do not have the heart to send these things home with your girlfriend, then accept her gifts with gratitude – and just do not use them.

However, if you had the heart (and the courage) to send these things home with her, you would probably end this cycle and save her the expense and effort. You could say, "It's so nice of you. It's very generous. I know you care about me, but since I will not use these things, I will send them home with you. To see you is the only tonic I need.

AMY: You missed an important point in your response to "Worried Mother," whose daughter's medical student was tempted by another student.

The young woman will be a doctor. she will see things that she will be required by law to report. She should consider this as part of her education and she should report it herself to the school.


DEAR MARY: Absolutely. "Worried Mother" should offer her the support and encouragement to denounce this crime.

You can send an email to Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. Yu can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or on Facebook.

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