Dear Amy: I am a woman in my early 40s. I have not had children for a number of reasons related to fertility, medical, personal and financial circumstances.
Now, as I approach the end of my childbearing years, I grieve that I do not have children and probably never will. But I am trying to move on and find other meaning in my life.
A friend from college who lives in another state often sends me pictures of her child. This is a child I only met once, very briefly, years ago. This friend is not that close, and she doesn’t ask how I’m doing when she texts.
Her text messages are an unwelcome reminder that I don’t have children.
How do I tell her to stop sending me pictures, without going into details about the medical/fertility/personal issues I’m dealing with?
Honestly, the reasons are none of her business and I don’t feel like getting that detailed with her over text messages.
Do you have a suggestion?
Dear Childfree: I’m not sure you can achieve what you want without offering an explanation of some kind. Keep in mind that a brief explanation (“I’ve dealt with fertility challenges and it upsets me right now to see photos of your child…”) would probably be effective.
Otherwise, you might try: “I’m wondering if you could do me a favor and not continue to text me photos of your child. It’s just awkward for me since I don’t know her.”
This might bring on a response reflecting hurt feelings. Your college friend might feel offended.
There is some likelihood that she would stop texting you altogether, which might actually be your goal. She doesn’t sound at all interested in you.
You also might want to “mute” text messages from this person, to avoid the trigger.
Dear Amy: I have recently experienced much tragedy in my life. Our family is reeling.
I had some very close family move away and have been mourning that; I very suddenly lost my uncle; my sister lost her baby at six weeks. I am walking an intense line between mourning and living my life.
I am young and tempted to just stay home and take care of my parents in their heartache, yet I am going crazy not going out and living my life, even if it’s just sitting in a coffee shop for a few hours.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply hurting, too. Do you have any advice for elegantly walking the line between grieving and living one’s life?
Dear Tightropes: Little about grieving is “elegant.” In my experience, grieving involves ugly-crying in the supermarket, rages that come out of nowhere, and always losing my keys.
No two people should be expected to grieve alike.
If you accept your role in the family as being younger and perhaps a little more resilient right now than other family members, then, yes, if you also allow yourself some healing (or even simply normal) experiences, you might actually be of greater service to them, while also renewing your own strength.
Furthermore, I think it might be good for your sister, especially (if she is local) if you bring her a cup of coffee from the coffee shop, ask her to take a walk with you, and simply let her be however she needs to be in that moment.
Sometimes people who are grieving need to express their grief. Sometimes they need a few moments of “normal.”
Understand also that ultimately your duty is to take good care of yourself.
Dear Amy: I’m responding to the question from “Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe,” who was wrestling with telling her adult daughter that the man who raised her wasn’t her biological father.
I am a 40-year-old man who recently found out through ancestry services that I was conceived with the help of a sperm donor. I found this a completely shocking and disorienting experience.
After a few months of soul searching, I came to love and appreciate my real dad — the man who bought me Christmas presents and taught me how to ride a bike — even more!
I am very grateful that my parents were still alive to process this with me.
I hope “Mama’s Baby” understands that the shock of this discovery will be much harder if their child finds this out when Mom is no longer around to provide any perspective or backstory.
Dear Ishmael: Being confronted with this knowledge can be quite destabilizing. Thank you for offering your wise perspective.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.