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Posted on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 5 a.m.

How much time is appropriate to mourn the end of a serious relationship?

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

How much time is appropriate to mourn the end of a serious relationship? I had been with my live-in boyfriend for six years when we broke up this summer. Friends were there for me at first, but they have quickly started encouraging me to move on and seem impatient when I say I'm still adjusting.

This is the person I thought I was going to marry! Doesn't that warrant a pretty substantial goodbye period?

-- Expiration Period?

Yes, it does, and it's important for you to take your time in making whatever adjustments you need. It's a big loss; I'm sorry.

There's no universal "goodbye period" that's right for everyone, and that does mean you can recover at your own pace. But that's not all of it: It also means your friends can nurse your wounds at their pace, too. With a lot of (most?) friends, there's a statute of limitations on talking about it as if it just happened.

For those in the midst of a long recovery, that usually means reaching a point when you have to process most of your (stuff) on your time, and bring friends in only when you really need their help.

This isn't to say your friends are letting you down or failing to acknowledge the complexity of your grief; whether they're shirking or you're wallowing (or both, or neither) is impossible to say from your letter. All I can suggest is that you accept their limitations, and try framing your grief as a kind of emotional homework, where you ask for help only when you're stuck.

It may be, too, that you're asking your friends for help they're not trained to give. If you find you're not progressing, then please consider getting professional help, be it therapy, a grief support group, a depression screening -- whatever your circumstances suggest.

--0-- --0-- --0--

Hi, Carolyn:

I'm not sure how to ask this without invoking the wrath of some of the more judgmental readers. How do I "fire" a mean-spirited, seemingly miserable bridesmaid without (a) seeming like a bridezilla, (b) alienating any other bridesmaids (all friends of hers), or (c) inviting any other negative consequences?

-- Anonymous

Don't fire her, talk to her. "You seem to be really unhappy -- maybe with me, maybe with something else, I don't want to make assumptions. But am I reading this right?"

If you get a yes, then it's likely she'll supply you with the whats and the why ... unless she's "nice" and withholds the truth, but that'll render moot any honesty and courtesy you show her, won't it ...

Where was I? Oh, right -- if she gives you a reason for her misery, then you can decide from there whether you want to offer her an out (note the phrasing).

Even if you get a denial, you can still offer to release her from her obligation. "OK, I'm glad to hear you're fine -- but if there ever is something bothering you, I hope you'll tell me. I want being in my wedding to be something you enjoy, and if for whatever reason it starts to feel like a chore, you can tell me, no hard feelings." Your honesty here will be just as crucial as hers.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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