DEAR AMY: My brother and his wife announced right after Christmas that they were getting a divorce. The split was ... not the greatest (he cheated).
They are able to communicate occasionally now, but they are far from friends. My sister-in-law has become a good friend of mine and was supposed to be a bridesmaid in my wedding. Now she is no longer going to be a bridesmaid.
I have spoken to my brother about my intention to still have her come to the wedding as a guest if she's willing, and he has said he is totally fine with this.
Now my brother has told the family that he has someone new in his life who he thinks is going to be around for a long time.
My fiance and I haven't sent the wedding invitations out yet, but I'm not inclined to invite the new girlfriend. However, if they are going to be serious, I don't want to start off another possible family relationship on the wrong foot.
If I do invite her, I know my sister-in-law would not come, and that would make me sad. I haven't talked about this to any of the family yet, but I wanted to see what you think.
DEAR ANXIOUS: I'm assuming your brother's prospective wedding date is also the woman with whom he cheated on his wife. Your sister-in-law knows that he is your brother and that to some extent you are stuck with some of the choices he makes in his life.
Your brother should create an opportunity for you to meet his date well before your wedding. The basic protocol is to invite people in serious and/or long-term relationships to attend your wedding along with the primary guest.
You should be honest with your sister-in-law and tell her your brother is bringing a date. Encourage her to also bring a date. She may choose not to attend, due to her own discomfort, but make sure she knows that you hope to maintain a friendship with her, regardless of what your brother does.
DEAR AMY: My husband has been diagnosed with cancer. We have children and grandchildren to worry about. We are a family made up of individuals who need to stay strong and fighting for my husband's health, but the added stress of trying to make others feel better is draining.
Please let people know that we need their strength and help instead of depression, pity and anxiety. My advice to others is that when you know people who are not religious are facing something like this, please don't try to pull them into your life in that way.
Pray for us as you must, but please, don't make us feel bad because we don't believe in that. Give your love and support without strings — because we need it.
DEAR STRUGGLING: I am so sorry your family is going through this. I know exactly what you are talking about in terms of comforting others; this is a familiar experience for any family going through trauma. Sometimes declarations from other people that they will pray for you are confusing; if you are not religious, it can seem intrusive or like an affront.
But you are going to have to learn to let go of this (and many other things). Let it go.
If it's possible, assign a family member (or very close friend) to be the family's ambassador. Let one of your savvy grandkids set up and maintain a web page, email chain or (phone tree) where you can easily update people — if you want to.
I highly recommend caringbridge.org as a great resource; you can point people toward this website and they will find concrete ways to help.
DEAR AMY: The letter from "Enabling" really hit home with me. This kindly woman was wondering how to help her sister, who was locked into a troubled marriage with an alcoholic.
Amy, I wish you had recommended Al-anon. Both sisters could benefit from meeting other people who feel their pain.
— Been There
DEAR BEEN THERE: I frequently recommend Al-anon (al-anon.org) and am happy to do so again.