Ask Amy

Grieving dad wrestles with his rage

Q. I lost my beloved wife to cancer four years ago. Her death was devastating for me and my three children.

We are all working through our shock and sorrow. My goal through all this upheaval has been to maintain a stable household. I want my kids to feel like the home they love and remember is still here for them whenever they return. Maintaining domestic rituals has helped me work through my own grief. But it also feels like this is having an unintended consequence with my youngest daughter.

While away at college, this daughter has expressed a normal kind of homesickness. She is also a young adult who is testing my boundaries and her independence, which can feel like self-centeredness on her part.


I have a history of anger-related issues. I’ve tried to grow, but my daughter’s displays of willfulness gradually bring out a level of rage in me that even I find surprising. My outbursts end up dishonoring the memory of my wife and ruining everything I’m trying to accomplish, which leaves me feeling very, very sad. I can see the emotional dynamic, but that doesn’t keep me from falling victim to it. Where do I turn for help?

Angry Father

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A. I sincerely hope that you have seen a therapist since your wife’s death. If you haven’t, you should see a professional to help you deal with your anger.

You should also consider joining a grief support group; these are typically informal meetings with people who have also walked this tough path. Many hospitals provide information on support groups in your area. You may be surprised at how much better you feel simply communing with others.

Remember that you cannot force everything to be “normal” just because that’s what you want. Your daughter, on the other hand, seems to be acting-out within the normal range of older teens. It seems unwise and perhaps unfair to gauge your own behavior based on your wife’s memory. She is gone; you are grieving and you need to learn to turn down the heat on your anger in order to be gentle with yourself — and not triggered by your daughter’s behavior.

Q. I am a single woman. I used to be a binge eater. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I have since become fit and active.


I have a friend who is at least 200 pounds overweight. We are both retired. Last year we decided to start taking trips together. I enjoy her company, but after two trips together I am very disappointed in her as a traveling companion. She can barely walk two blocks. We mostly drive around or sit on benches near where we parked the car and watch the world go by. I am so sad and frustrated at not being able to fully explore these dream destinations. I need exercise to maintain my health and I love taking long walks in new places. In addition, watching her overeat at every meal is depressing.

If I start traveling without her, I feel like I would need to hide this part of my life from her to protect her feelings.

Even worse, I have another friend, also obese, who also now wants to travel with me!

How can I handle this?

Active Traveler

A. Traveling with friends is often fraught with peril; and in this case, I feel like you are dangerously close to doubling down on the peril.


Given your condition and that of your friend’s, you must have realized that being incompatible travel companions was a possibility.

You shouldn’t blame another person for you not having enough fun or getting enough exercise on your vacation. I’ve been on enough vacations (and exercise regimes) to know that there is only one person responsible for your experience: you.

If you really want to end your travels with this person, then you’re going to have to be honest, adult, and respectful. Acknowledge that the trips aren’t quite what you envisioned and that, for now, you would like to become a solo traveler.

Q. My blood started to boil reading the letter from “Devoted and Caring Parents,” who wanted an exact 50-50 sharing of all holidays with their son and future daughter-in-law (whose parents are divorced).

The pressure these parents were exerting on the younger couple is neither “devoted” nor “caring.”

Been There

A. Horror stories of people running themselves ragged trying to please everyone on Christmas Day are flooding my inbox.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at