Q. How young is too young to be a bad person? I never would have thought it could happen in my family, but my granddaughter, 12, is miserable, angry, morbid, and, as I’ve recently discovered, seemingly incapable of being a positive human being. Last month, my son died in a car accident. He had been drinking, but I believe the greater culprit was a slippery road after a heavy rain. I am devastated, but this girl has yet to even shed a tear! She was always an odd child: quiet, aloof, refusing to associate with family unless forced to. The girl’s father just died, and she doesn’t seem bothered.
To make matters worse, she seems bizarrely fixated on other people’s grief while not experiencing any of her own. She asks whether we’ve cried, how much we’ve cried, why we’ve cried. She even asked that I cry for her! My husband says I’m being unreasonable, but I really can’t stand seeing this girl anymore. How can I be around a girl who could be so callous about the death of her own father? At this point, I just want to cut her out of my family’s life. But I do wish to see my grandson, my son’s other child. I’ve wondered whether therapy or medication could fix my granddaughter’s problems.
GRANDMA GIVES UP
A. The death aside, this child sounds unhappy and perhaps disturbed. As for the loss of her father, her grieving behavior sounds unusual but not unfeeling. She sounds in no way oblivious and may have suppressed her grief by displacing it onto others. The fact that she’s discussing death makes me think the subject is on her radar screen. She may be in emotional, albeit not cognitive, denial. Instead of wishing not to deal with her, I would pay extra attention to her. You say nothing of the child’s mother, but a therapist would be helpful.
Q. One of my oldest friends is approaching dire financial straits. She has been “between jobs” for about a year and is the single parent of a teenage boy. She’s a professional who has held a series of jobs over the past five years, and I think she likes risk more than safety. With every job, there comes a point where she absolutely hates being there (the novelty has worn off), so she’ll quit or get laid off. And she has taken a rather laissez faire attitude about things. Until now.
Suddenly, it seems, she sees that no one wants to hire her (she’s in her 50s), and she’s starting to panic. I don’t know what, if anything, to do, except listen. She also has psychological issues that have been diagnosed, but she won’t follow through on medication. I feel there is nothing more to do to help her, but I don’t want to abandon her, either.
NOT SURE HOW TO HELP
A. Your friend is learning — perhaps a little late — that actions have consequences. There is nothing for you to do except encourage her, as a first step, to follow through with the medical advice she’s been given and get her to understand her own past actions. Should she be lucky enough to land a new job, you might remind her every now and then that it’s a job she needs.