My father passed away five years ago from ALS. His illness was a shock and progressed at a rapid pace. Every year on the anniversary of his passing my sister and aunt post pictures of him on Facebook and reference his cause of death. Mutual friends then contact me about his passing. I realize that everyone handles the grieving process differently, but this is a very private matter for me and I find it inappropriate that something so personal is being shared and displayed. I also believe that it is disrespectful to his memory to continue to refer to his disease rather than his positive legacy of his life, especially since he was private about his illness. I have discussed my frustration with my sister but she insists that it is perfectly acceptable to share this information with her social circle online. (My mother has always declined to get involved in disputes between me, her son, and my sister.) Am I wrong to find this practice inappropriate? Do you have any advice for whether or how I should address the issue with her or my aunt before the next anniversary arrives?
You acknowledge that everyone grieves differently, and unfortunately for you, your sister’s way has become a kind of norm and is an unstoppable force. Yes, that she memorializes the cause of your father’s death every year means caring mutual acquaintances will feel obligated to reach out to you. So you need to have a brief response ready: “Thanks. He was a wonderful man who accomplished so much. I miss him every day, but it gets easier with time.” I assume your sister and aunt see their postings as a way to get people to think about contributing to research for ALS, a devastating disease for which there’s no cure and only limited treatment. If you start thinking about it that way, too, perhaps it will feel like less of a privacy violation to you. Surely your mother also misses your father acutely, but I think she’s wise to play Switzerland in this dispute and stay neutral. Not letting your sister’s postings get to you and getting along better with her is surely something your father would have appreciated.
One of my dearest friends has become a staunch anti-vaxxer. I've done my research from reputable sources and I firmly stand on the other side of the debate. Every conversation with her turns to the subject of the dangers of vaccines, genetically modified organisms, and processed foods. She is obsessed and brings it up at every opportunity. I read the articles she posts on Facebook and they make me ill. There is no research, it is all fear mongering, and this otherwise intelligent person eats it up! I want my friend back but I also feel like a jerk for thinking less of her for believing this stuff. How do I get past this?
—The Shot is Safe
I agree that the people who refuse to vaccinate their children and work to undermine public support for crucial disease prevention are doing grave damage and endangering us all. But it’s possible to accept a friend has a serious lapse in judgment in one part of her life, ignore it, and cherish the rest of her. But you can’t do that if your friend is under the thrall of a monomania about how evil forces are conspiring to kill us all. You are describing a disturbing personality change. She apparently has recently taken up these causes and now her conversation consists of perseverating about them. That’s not normal. If she has a spouse, or you know another close relative you can speak to, check in with that person about your concerns. Either way you need to address this with her. Say you’d love to agree to disagree about all this, but you can’t because she always comes back to these linked subjects. You can say she just doesn’t sound like herself and gently suggest that she see her doctor. There might be a medical cure for your friend’s dangerous medical beliefs. Likely, she will consider her doctor part of the conspiracy, in which case, sad as it is, you’ve done what you can.
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