No Need To Lie

by admin on July 22, 2013

I have submitted several horror stories over the years but now it’s my turn to ask for etiquette advice in an area I don’t think I’ll find covered elsewhere. I would really appreciate some input concerning this situation.

A year ago my marriage ended under highly distressing circumstances when I discovered a file of photographs of my husband having sex with other women. The photos stretched back eight years, almost the entirety of our marriage. When I confronted my husband he took off overseas to be with the latest woman as he said he was in love with her. When he left we had two children aged two years and three months old. Their father has come to see them once in the past year. As I thought we were happily married, this was a huge shock and to be honest I am still struggling with coming to terms with it all-the loss of my future as well as the fact that my past was all lies and betrayal, let alone my grief for my children’s sake.

Anyway, my question pertains to a friend of mine who has recently become engaged. I have expressed my congratulations to her and genuinely feel joy for her as she has wanted this for years. I am truly happy for her. However, I do not feel that emotionally I can cope with a wedding right now. It sounds selfish and self-pitying, but I still tear up often over it all and I do not think the year has been enough time for me. I know everyone else’s lives go on, and in time I will be ok with these things again, but right now, with my divorce looming, I feel heartbroken and overwhelmed at the thought of attending a wedding and thinking about my own happy naive day. I am aware of how exceptionally self-involved this sounds and beg everyone’s indulgence in the circumstances. Unless you have been through it I am not sure you can understand, so please believe this is not a jealousy issue and I dread my friend being aware of my unhappiness. But it is still raw enough for me that I can’t see brides etc without becoming upset. If you think I should make more effort, believe me I have made a huge effort in going through the engagement thing, helping her with bits and pieces and hiding my upset at the loss of my own marriage and life to which I was committed. So what would your recommendation be – be honest about why I am not going, or make up a white lie? I love this girl and wish her every joy. I just can’t face it yet and apart from my own emotional health do not wish to upset anyone or detract from the events of the day.

Any advice would be so helpful. 0719-13

I am sorry to hear of your sad demise of your marriage.  :-(

There is no need to lie in order to decline a wedding invitation.   Simply write on the rsvp card, “I’m so sorry but I will not be able to attend.   I wish you much joy and happiness on your special day!”   If you are pressed as to why you are not coming, simply say you have a prior commitment and then pack up the kids to go see Grandmom or head to the zoo or beach for the day.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Marozia July 22, 2013 at 4:18 am

I agree with Admin on this. “Unable to attend due to prior commitment” sounds perfectly acceptable to me.

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Hanna July 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

It sounds like OP is a lot closer to the bride to be than just being to write something on a RSVP card?

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Ariel July 22, 2013 at 4:36 am

You should never have to put yourself in a setting that makes you uncomfortable. A true friend will understand :D

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AMC July 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I agree with this. I don’t know how close a friend she is, but a good friend would understand and not want to put OP in a situation that makes her sad and uncomfortable.

OP, I’m so sorry for all the heartache you’ve had to endure. Best wishes to you and your kids.

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Jess July 22, 2013 at 6:28 am

I am going through what you went through at the moment and god do I understand :( I am so so sorry, all the best.

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Melanie July 27, 2013 at 2:30 am

So sorry to hear that. Hang in there.

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jen a. July 22, 2013 at 7:25 am

Nothing to add except that I feel for you, OP. You don’t sound jealous or selfish or any other negative emotion. You’ve received an awful shock, and it’s going to take time. I know it doesn’t count for much over the internet, but you have my support!

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Lo July 22, 2013 at 7:48 am

I agree, no need to lie, and the less said the better.

But a true friend would understand, even if you gave the real reason, and if you didn’t she might even be so perceptive as to realize and not push for an explanation. Which I hope is the case. After all, it’s a terrible and stressful time you’re going through and no one could fault you for not going to a wedding. You have nothing to apologize for.

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Mae July 22, 2013 at 9:24 am

I am so sorry to hear about your marriage.

If you are close enough to the bride to be involved even just a little with planning, I am making a huge assumption that she knows the circumstances surrounding the ending of your marriage. From your post, it seems that you have appropriately expressed your happiness for her and truly mean it, so I would just be honest. Tell her again how happy you are for her but you do not feel up to attending the wedding. If you don’t want to get that specific, use admin’s suggestion. I think most of your friends would understand your hesitancy to attend this type of an event right now.

You are right- you will come through this but it will be hard. Please remember how many people love and support you. Sending thoughts and prayers your way.

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Wild Irish Rose July 22, 2013 at 9:37 am

OP, I cannot tell you how sorry I am that you’re going through this! (((HUGS)))

Admin is right. All you have to say is that you are unable to attend. You do not owe an explanation. And a trip to the zoo or something with your kidlets would be a fantastic idea!

I do hope you have a good lawyer.

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Rae July 22, 2013 at 10:38 am

OP, I am so sorry for your current circumstance, and I don’t blame you for feeling the way you do about your friend’s wedding. A wound like the one that you were given was deep and it takes a long time for those to heal. If this friend understands this, she is certainly worth keeping. I think you can back out on attending the wedding, though you might want to consider sending along a nice and meaningful gift, not just as a “wedding gift,” but a “thank you for being there for me gift.”

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Cat July 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

You are grieving and it takes time to work through the emotions. Your husband’s betrayal and sudden departure is much akin to a sudden death of a loved one. One minute he’s there and you are happy. The next minute he’s gone and you feel like you’ve been hit with a ton of bricks. You can’t stop and grieve with two small children so you keep going, but your heart is aching.
Our society doesn’t give people time to grieve. It needs to be felt and to be worked through. Try to stiffle it, pretend everything is fine, and it’ll just come back later. It’s best to deal with it now.
You are not ready to attend a wedding. Accept that as a fact of life for right now. You might want to start keeping a journal of how each day is going for you. Sometimes it helps to write out your anger and sense of loss. Each day will be a bit better until this becomes nothing more than a memory and the sun is out for you again.
I wear a small medal that reads, “Courage”. I hold onto it when I need courage that I don’t naturally possess. A friend has a sign over her mirror, “You can do it; you know you can!” You can do this too.

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Melanie July 27, 2013 at 2:31 am

I love the idea of your “Courage” medal!

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Angela July 22, 2013 at 11:04 am

If you have regular contact with your friend, just declining may not be enough. I have been through a version of this myself. Consider asking the friend to meet you for coffee or something along those lines and saying honestly that you love her and you’re happy for her, but you are just not able to attend a wedding, anyone’s wedding, right now. Make it clear it’s not something she has done or not done, but you’re still grieving and you’re not ready. If she’s reasonable mature and a good friend, she will not want to put you through a distressing experience.

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KJ August 7, 2013 at 11:57 am

I like this idea a lot.

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Heather July 22, 2013 at 11:27 am

Admin is of course right that it’s not impolite not to state your reason for not coming. Depending on how close you and the bride are, it may be the best thing–part of the reason any given person gets a wedding invitation is often that it would be rude not to invite them. At my own wedding, outside of my closest friends and immediate family, anyone who said “Sorry, I can’t make it” would have gotten from me only a mental reaction of “OK, good of them to let us know in a timely fashion, we’ll cross them off the list.”

I just wanted to add that, should you choose to tell more of the truth than simply “I won’t be able to attend,” I think you have good options. You’ve expressed pretty well in your letter what the real issue is–being too vividly reminded of your own wedding and the awful gap between what you thought would follow and what did. I don’t think that is an issue that need upset a reasonable bride, especially if you word it with lots of congratulations and good wishes for her, expressing joy that she’s marrying her true love and emphasizing that for her sake you don’t want to risk taking away from her wedding with an unpredictable emotional response. I think these things, all put together, make a truth that a reasonable bride can accept.

I really understand your concern about its being seen as a jealousy issue. Maybe I should just be honest… Having been on the other end of both real and imagined jealousy, when that does happen (not always something you can control) it is definitely not something you want the person to know about. The problem with someone knowing you’re jealous is that it sends the message “you have done/received a good thing and I am hurting because of it.” It breeds resentment because the natural thought on the part of the other is “So I wasn’t supposed to work hard on my schooling/career/get married/try to get pregnant? I’m supposed to feel guilty about that?”

The reason I’m saying this about jealousy is this: if you *are* close to the bride, if you judge the risk to be high that the bride might *imagine* a jealousy issue, the whole truth might be better. This type of thing can happen–it’s happened to me (as in, I was the “bride.”) It wasn’t actually over a wedding, but a situation with some similar dynamics, in which I knew “I’m sorry, I’m just not emotionally ready yet” was a real possibility I was prepared for, and would not have been offended by. (I had debated asking this person’s involvement at all, but had decided that given the circumstances there was an equal chance that it would be hurtful not to ask.) What I got instead was silence, and that gave me room to imagine all sorts of things. It’s hard sometimes, when you know someone likely has a big reason for something but it has not been stated, to prevent your brain from trying to fill it in from any “clues” it might have. My brain apparently filled it in all wrong, and I based some faulty decisions on what I perceived the situation to be, which created unnecessary drama… although they seemed sound based on the information I had. I still don’t know if I was really at fault or not… but I wish she had just *talked* to me.

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Pam July 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I would also do as admin says and if she asks, you can be honest and just say it would be very emotionally hard to attend and you don’t want to dampen the spirit of her day. However is she’s a good friend, she probably already has an inkling that this wedding might be especially hard on you and she’ll leave it without question.

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Wendy B. July 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Your friend is aware you are going through a divorce. Even if you’ve kept the details to yourself, if she’s really your friend, she knows you are a wreck. I would go with the admin’s advice and if she does press for a reason why, just say “At the moment it’s too much for me, but when I’ve got a better handle on things, I’d love to see your pictures and hear all about it.”

My mom has been going through something similar. No divorce but…believe me, I understand. (hug)

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Allie July 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I am very sorry to hear about your situation. Stay strong and do what you need to do to heal and care for your two children. From a etiquette perspective, I do not believe you are required to provide a reason why you cannot attend. Simply RSVP your regrets. However, if you are pressed or if you feel you need to say something about why you can’t attend, I should think being mom to a 3-year old and a 13-month old would suffice beautifully. I have a 7-month old and rarely attend such events any longer. The logistics are just too difficult. I agree with Admin’s suggestion that you schedule something fun to do with your kiddies and enjoy the day. And do not feel bad about not attending. A year isn’t very long to heal, especially when you have such young children to care for.

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Cora July 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Three things occur to me: first, please stop calling yourself “selfish” for feeling raw and betrayed. You feel the way you feel; it will take the time it needs to take; you’re not on a schedule. You don’t have to be healed by a certain time.

Second, I don’t think etiquette ever demands a reason. You decline an invitation, as is your right; end of story. Sure, there may be people who think you SHOULD give a reason, but you’re not obligated by etiquette. You might feel obligated, because she’s your friend and you want to be supportive.

Which brings me to three: does she know you’re separated and about to divorce? If she’s already aware that your husband hasn’t been around for a year, I don’t think a decline on the invite would be much of a surprise. If I were a bride and knew my friend was going through this, I’d send an invitation, because I’d love for her to be included and to let her know she’s special to me — but if she declined and didn’t say why, I could probably figure it out. I don’t think I would be hurt. If anything, I think I could see it from your point of view: you know it would make you miserable and would just drag the day down. you love your friend, you don’t want to do this to her (*ding ding ding* — is that selfish behavior? Noooooo), so instead you’ll stay away and revel in your kids. Best possible solution.

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SJ July 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

What an amazing and considerate person you are. You are actually doing everyone a favor by being honest with yourself about your current emotional capacities. No need to go into personal details unless you want to.

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B July 22, 2013 at 5:37 pm

On a similar note, I was asked to be a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding, very shortly after my father passed (I was 15 at the time). I am sure the bride-to-be and the rest of my family thought that the “job” of being a bridesmaid might be a nice distraction (they were right!). However, it wasn’t until the reception was in full swing and the DJ announced the father-daughter dance that I had a miniature “moment”. The song started to play and I felt those tears coming… So I quickly exited the room and had a little blubber in the ladies restroom. The bride’s sister-in-law came to check on me (she, too had lost her father years before), and we had our little cry-fest in the ladies room until the song was over. Dabbed our eyes, fixed our smudged mascara, and then went back to rejoin the party before anyone could notice we were missing. Cousin-bride gave me a wink once we returned, and I realized she understood and we then proceeded to party for the rest of the night. My rather long-winded point is, a family member or friend may be more understanding than you think. If you feel that your emotions may get the best of you to where you will not enjoy yourself or might make others uncomfortable, then by all means, skip the event with a gracious decline and an offer to take her to lunch once she gets done with all the wedding/honeymoon hoopla. Sending good vibes your way!

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Sarah Jane July 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm

OP, I have been there. Right now, your priorities MUST be yourself and your kids. Your friend will understand.

The best part is, you are absolutely right. It will certainly not last forever.

Tell her you have a prior commitment…and make sure you have one. Do not sit at home. Go out and do something awesome.

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FerrisW July 22, 2013 at 7:51 pm

As others have said, decline due to a prior commitment. If she presses you for more details/expresses sadness that you can’t attend, I personally think honesty is the best policy and explain your feelings, how it doesn’t reflect on her or her marriage. A real friend will understand your feelings and reasons. If you want to show support and celebrate her marriage, without attending the ceremony, why not invite her and her husband out for a meal or to your home for a meal, so that you can express congratulations in person, without all of the trappings that come with a wedding itself?

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NostalgicGal July 22, 2013 at 11:39 pm

OP, first and above all, a big HUG.

Hope you have a good lawyer. Don’t be afraid to use a restraining order. Hope the judge can see through the bull and sort things the way you and the children NEED things to be.

Hope you can find some counseling, it really sounds like you could use some.

As for the wedding invite, no need to lie. I agree with the others about just be honest, you have a prior commitment; and make sure you have one. Be happy for her, send her a nice gift.

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AS July 22, 2013 at 11:48 pm

OP, I am so sorry to for your loss. I hope you find the strength to overcome the loss soon.

I like admin’s suggestion. You don’t have to explain yourself. Neither do you have to endure something your heart is not into.

When I got married, a friend of mine had gotten totally incommunicado. I didn’t know what happened, and I did wonder. I just reached the conclusion that she was working crazy hours and didn’t have either the time nor energy to keep in touch (she had once worked overtime with a 2-3 hour travel each way). Turns out that she was going through a messy time with her (now ex-)husband, and was in no mood to contact people. Sad, but totally understandable.

A good friend will understand your position, OP.

Best wishes.

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AS July 22, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Also, there are times in life when you have to look out for yourself. You are not at all selfish, OP. Au contrarie, you are very thoughtful, OP. I wish you years of happiness to come your way soon.

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Joy July 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Try to stay strong, but don’t go if you will have to fake a celebratory attitude. It won’t do either you or the bride a bit of good. I did go, and what a mistake it was.

My marriage was broken, but not yet dissolved, and I had promised my bridesmaid that I would loan her my wedding dress and veil. Her sister stood up as her only bridesmaid, wearing the original bridesmaid dress from my wedding.

Needless to say, I had a difficult time seeing these girls in these dresses, I told the bride she could ‘back out’ if she didn’t feel it was right, moments before the ceremony began. Skip to the ceremony and I sobbed, not cried, but sobbed through it in the back pew with my mom and another friend. Of course, through the years I have apologized numerous times, at which the bride has always said it didn’t matter and no one knew. Maybe if they were either deaf or 100 yards aways they didn’t know, but other than that…!!

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Lex July 24, 2013 at 5:11 am

I know a guy like your Ex – he recently contacted a mutual friend (although he and I no longer speak) as he had found out she was divorced and was basically attempting to ‘booty call’ her. She was wise to his behaviour though and didn’t respond to the invite (he then blocked her again on Facebook). She got in touch last week to say that she’d discovered (via another mutual friend) that he had just got married! So he contacted her barely month before his lavish wedding attempting to get sex from her! Both my friend and I expressed our incredulousness (privately over a private chat) and our pity for his poor naive new bride. All the more heartbreaking is that she is so happy – posting pictures and stories of the event on her facebook wall and my friend and I (via the other mutual friend) can only look on and pity this poor girl whilst biting our tongues.

I suppose your response to this invitation will depend on your relationship with the bride. Less is definitely more although she may press you for a more detailed reason for declining. It would be wrong of you to burden her with your (admitted) self pity and self-indulgence (although in these circumstances I definitely think you are entitled to wallow in it for a while) so simply declining to attend due to a prior commitment is the most neutral way forward, although you haven’t said in your post whether or not you have discussed the available dates with her and whether she already knows you are free – in which case lying to her is unfair, although an abbreviated version may be required (depending on your relationship with the Bride).

Is there a compromise? Could you perhaps attend the evening reception thus avoiding all the speeches and the ceremony itself?

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Kimstu July 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Yup to all the above. OP, you have nothing to be ashamed of here: you are suffering from a seriously (though temporarily) debilitating emotional injury. That’s going to derange your social life and your capacity for enjoyment in the near future, just as if you were stuck in the house with a debilitating physical injury. Yes, you are right that you shouldn’t unduly burden your friend with your woes at this busy and stressful time for her, but don’t feel guilty that your woes require you to take it easy for a bit.

The only thing you need to watch out for is possibly giving the impression that you’re blowing off your friend’s wedding for a “prior commitment” that’s comparatively kind of trivial. Your friend might well think, “Taking the kids to Grandmom’s? Going to the zoo? Could she really not manage to do that any other time than on my wedding day?”

So you’ll need to make it very clear BOTH that you absolutely cannot attend (preferably without giving any particular excuse that might later be accidentally revealed as false), AND that you really really regret having to miss her wedding. If you reassure her that you’ll be thinking of her and wishing you could be there to share in her happiness, she will not feel slighted. And if she’s a nice person, she will not pry for detailed explanations or insist that you should prioritize her wedding over everything else in your life.

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Dear! July 24, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I’m sorry to hear your story OP and I completely understand. You cant help the way that you feel, and that is an extreme situation of hurt and betrayal.

I agree with the Admin (for a casual friend) but as it sounds like this is a very good friend, I do not think the RSVP card will suffice, and may make your friend feel snubbed. If a very good friend of mine, who had helped me plan the wedding, simply declined to come after knowing the date and details for so long I would feel kind of hurt and confused….. well, I’m single, so I’m assuming. And, saying you missed the wedding to go to the zoo or the mall etc. would make me feel like I did something wrong. I know it’s your right to do as you please, but this could be a difficult one.

This is a difficult one OP. Maybe, a legit job commitment will come up or something that you really cant get out of so that you are covered with no guilt.

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BethRD July 24, 2013 at 8:31 pm

I think making up a white lie is fine from a moral standpoint, but it has to be a believable white lie. If this person is truly an intimate of yours and you have known about the wedding for a long time, claiming a prior and unspecified commitment is going to be a little unbelievable and because of that somewhat hurtful. If it were me I’d go with honesty, especially if she truly is a good friend, but I understand that not everyone is comfortable discussing their emotions. If you’re going to decline and not be honest about why, make up something like a work conflict or a family conflict or something that sounds weighty enough to explain not attending a friend’s wedding. Then, whether or not you are honest about why you’re not attending, buy the friend a nice gift and send it with a card filled with heartfelt good wishes to further reassure her that the problem isn’t her.

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Twik July 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Beth, no, the LW does not have to go and make up some story that she was actually called out on a secret mission and that’s why she couldn’t attend. A good friend should know enough not to second-guess the “previous commitment” statement. Trying to come up with a “good enough” excuse is only going to lead to the stuff of sitcoms, and hard feelings when it’s eventually determined that you were not undergoing heart surgery, but were home rearranging the spices into alphabetical order,

Either say its a previous commitment, or tell the truth. Don’t get caught up in a web of lies regarding specifics that will only lead to much worse feelings when the lies are discovered.

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EllenS July 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm

While the formal “mourning period” of times past was often too rigid and restrictive, I think in removing it, we have also lost recognition as a society of the reality and validity of grief. The reason mourners were not expected or invited to attend celebrations, was precisely that it would be so jarring and painful to celebrate while the loss was still fresh.

A serious loss, such as you have experienced, OP, is akin to a death. Please take all the time you need to heal. It is perfectly OK not to go into specifics about why you cannot attend. I am sure your friend will understand, without needing it spelled out. Some things are better left unsaid.

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Lex July 29, 2013 at 4:21 am

I agree – the loss of the universally recognised mourning period certainly makes things socially awkward – both for the mourner and for the invitee. The Victorian ‘stages of mourning’ made things considerably easier, although in this case, you are mourning the loss of a relationship rather than a familial death which probably isn’t covered under the old fashioned rules (the character of Miss Haversham seems to me almost to be a social commentary on the unacceptable nature of mourning lost relationships but that is my own opinion)

I also feel that the loss of beloved pets isn’t given enough weight either – we invest a lot of time and emotion into our pets, be they dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, whatever. In many cases children have grown up with a pet such as a cat or dog and if the animal was young when the child was born, they will have to face its death in their early teens (or earlier). I had a very emotionally invested relationship with one of my cats – a much loved rescue kitten my sister named Truffle and she was in decline for a long time and we were faced with a difficult decision (I don’t agree with euthanasia as the Animal cannot possibly have a say in the matter) but fortunately she passed away naturally before our hand was forced. However she passed away not long after my grandmother and both deaths were really hard on me and fed my descent into Agitated Depression (which nearly caused me to lose my job) and so I really do feel that society does not properly recognise different sources of grief – be they people, pets or relationships and so does not properly take this into consideration.

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Angel July 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm

If the bride is a good friend she most likely already knows what went down. Or at least the abbreviated version of it. And if she is a good friend then surely she will understand.

My heart goes out to you, OP. I can’t imagine. If I were a friend of yours getting married at this time I certainly wouldn’t expect you to want to attend a wedding right now–maybe a year from now–but not right now. You definitely need time to heal.

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Louisa July 30, 2013 at 5:45 am

OP here. Firstly, I have to thank you all for your compassion and kind words. I came on looking for advice on a tricky situation, and got not only that but an amazing display of warmth and well wishes. I have read through all your comments in tears that people could take the time to write these things to a stranger. My heart is really touched and you have made such a difference. Just words and kindness, even online, has helped immensely because I do not feel able to talk about it to my friends-the stiff upper lip thing which is drilled into my family from an early age. So rest assured eHellions, you as an online community have done a very kind thing for me with your support.
As for the advice, I think it will be best to be honest with my friend, having read all the arguments for it. She is a close friend, so as some of you correctly guessed an RSVP card alone wouldn’t cut it. She does know the details of the split, but she was so open about her excitement with her engagement and including me in things, that I don’t think it has clicked with her that this would be hard for me. I think she thinks of them as two separate things when of course they are not. But I now have several ways to have this conversation thanks to you all. The other reason for this is the perspective of some of you who had been the bride who was not given a full explanation. I would not like my friend to get the wrong idea. I really like the idea of having them over for dinner and also the ‘special gift’. It’s not a conversation I am looking forward to but I hope she will understand. So thank you again, for the great ideas and the support. You have helped me out of a tricky one and given me a lot of solace with your solidarity. Big virtual hugs from Down Under xx

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Joy August 5, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Dear Louisa,

You have given us all a terrific lesson in manners. Your post to thank folks was so nice to hear.

Your bride does believe her wedding and your situation is two different things, but that is her outlook, not everyones, obviously. When the ‘click’ comes, she will be able to understand your feelings so much better. Of course, we wouldn’t want her to learn from experience, only by compassionately understanding your heart.

Many good thoughts being sent your way, keep busy, stay away from sad movies, be good to yourself, laugh with your kids every chance you have and it will help. Don’t forget- Scarlett O’Hara says- “Tomorrow IS another day!”

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