Q. Moving On After Terrorist Attacks: A few years ago, my husband and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Kenya. We lived in a rural area and did not have electricity or running water, so when we needed some Western comforts we went into the city and spent leisurely afternoons shopping and eating at the Westgate Mall, the recent site of some very violent terrorist attacks. There has never been a terrorist attack on a place that I am so familiar with and have spent so much time, so this attack was especially shocking to me. Then I found out that a friend and her 2-year-old daughter were in the mall during the attacks and had a very close call, but thankfully made it out safely. Ever since I heard this, I have been obsessed. I spent a lot of time in the cafe where they were sitting when the shooting began, and I also have a 2-year-old daughter. I keep picturing myself and my daughter in her situation and I can't get it out of my head. I am working myself into a very dark place thinking about how unsafe the world is and feeling terrified to send my daughter out into it. I know this is exactly the sort of reaction that terrorists want people to have and I don't want to let my fear keep me or my daughter from experiencing life. How do I get this out of my head and not let it paralyze me?
A: Of course you're imagining that had you stayed in Kenya you might have been there on the day these evil people went on a rampage and turned the lovely place you knew into a mausoleum. If you grant yourself the fact your imaginary act of fearful sympathy is completely normal, it might allow you to let go of the obsessive nature of your thoughts. It has only been a short time since this terrorist attack, so give yourself some time to settle back to normal. It sounds as if you're back in the States. Some simple searches as to the utterly minuscule chance of any of you being the victims of a terrorist attack should help you, too. Force yourself to go on outings with your little girl and your friends. Just resuming your normal life will be salutary. You're a mother and becoming one means that you have someone whose safety is more important to you than anything. Dealing with that and keeping it in perspective is one of the important tasks of motherhood. If after a reasonable amount of time you can't let it go, then talk this out with a professional. I'm sure even a few sessions will help give you some tools to reassure yourself.
Q. Re: Chatterbox mom: Please talk to your mother about this. Especially if she is being judgmental about you or other people. I have an aunt who fits this exact scenario who told many extended family members and her own friends about a crisis I was in. When I ran into her friends later at her retirement party, they asked me very personal questions about a period in my life that I do not wish to relive. It was awkward for everybody. I eventually had a conversation with my aunt very similar to what Prudie suggested—and everybody is likely better off because of it.
A: Thanks for the confirmation that sometimes such a conversation actually has the intended effect!
Q. Re: The uncle at the playground: Prudie, thank you for your words in support of the uncle using the playground swing. I am the parent of a developmentally disabled young adult, a young man who craves the motion of the playground swings and seeks out playgrounds throughout our major city. Most people are understanding and supportive, but some aren't, and children are often confused and don't understand that this young man should be able to have a turn, too. Your answer helps to educate people. And to the original LW: It's wonderful that you're taking your uncle out in the community. I'm sorry your grandmother was so distressed that she flailed out at you when you were only the messenger. Please keep doing what you've been doing, it's so valuable.
A: It's so important for kids to know that not everyone is the same. Seeing developmentally disabled people out and about enjoying themselves is a good opportunity for parents to explain that it's great that this man can come to the playground and be welcome.
Q. First wife?: I'm friends with a man who lost his wife to cancer a year ago. He's starting to date again and struggling with how to refer to the wife who died. First wife sounds weird. Ex-wife sounds weirder. Any suggestions?
A: "My late wife."
Q. Greedy Brother: Nine years ago my now-late father married a much younger woman. It was a marriage of convenience—she needed citizenship and he wanted some company. Although it wasn't a love match, they got along well and treated each other respectfully. After his passing, however, we discovered my father never updated his will from 13 years ago! The will stipulates my brother gets most of the inheritance and I get some possessions worth $2,000–4,000 (my brother was a struggling solo father at the time the will was made, but is now doing well). I know from conversations with my father he intended to leave a significant portion to his second wife and evidently never got around to writing a new will. I brought this up with my brother who knew this but doesn't care. He knows the second wife speaks limited English and doesn't have the resources to challenge the will. He says it's enough she got a decent roof over her head and free citizenship. I feel like she deserves more as the wife of our late father who cared for him for three years of illness until his passing. I am so outraged at my brother's greed I am thinking of helping her see a lawyer and fight this. I'm worried if I do, I'll risk my relationship with my brother. What should I do?
A: What a lesson this is in the necessity of estate planning, and also about the fallout from dividing estates unequally because of the current circumstances of your heirs. Unless one of your offspring is financially loaded, or the other is disabled in some way, I believe estates should be divided equally. A parent can't foresee what good or bad fortune will come to their descendants after they are gone. Sure, you will damage your relationship with your brother if you help his second wife get what is really her fair share. But your relationship will already be damaged by seeing him take advantage of your father's failure to update his will. I think you should help this woman if it's not too great a financial burden for you. A lawyer may be able to get her a fair share. You don't have to announce to your brother you're footing the bill, but don't lie if asked. If you have to explain, say you feel you both have a moral obligation to make sure she is comfortable, and it would be better if that came from your father's assets.
Update, Sept. 30: As many commenters have pointed out, though statutes vary by state, almost certainly the law protects a wife even if the husband failed to update his will. The husband's remarriage in essence revokes the previous will, so the new spouse is provided for. This means the widow really does need a lawyer to get her interests looked after. And while she's doing that, I think the letter writer should get her own lawyer. If the father's previous will is invalidated, what goes to the children should be divided more equitably.
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