Below are some of the exchanges from the relationships advice column, Baggage Check, published weekly in The Washington Post’s Express.
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Q: My cat died about six months ago and I still am not over it. I had her for 16 years and I just feel really broken up about it. I know everyone takes their own time and pets are meaningful but is this a bad sign that something is not right with me, emotionally? When I even think of eventually getting a new cat I just can’t stand it, and I still cry about her sometimes.
A: I’m sorry to hear this. I think six months is not an unreasonable length of time to still be hurting over a beloved companion of 16 years, pet or not. And if it’s just a matter of occasional tears and upset, not a cloud so dark that you’re having trouble moving through daily life, then it sounds to me that there is nothing to be alarmed about. Even if it’s slow, do you feel like you are progressing in a healing direction? That’s what’s important.
Don’t force yourself to consider getting another cat, but instead embrace other meaningful aspects of your life: friends, hobbies, work or whatever gets you going in the morning. If progress is happening, I think this is a story about the bond of love, not emotional problems.
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Q: How do I break into the clique at work? I am three months in and still feel like the new kid. People go get each other lunch and they only seem to ask me as an afterthought. They speak in inside jokes and text each other in meetings and all seem to know each other’s families and significant others. I am on the shy side so I know that might be part of it, but it is making me lonely and making me miss my last job, which was horrible but at least the people were good.
A: Depending on how much history they have, it could indeed take a while for you to get up to speed on the secret slang, or to know the story about whose husbands got trapped in that ski lift. You are the new kid, and there’s no fast-forward button to rid yourself of that. But the fact that they are including you in lunch – even seemingly as an afterthought – means they are making an effort and are open to, at the very least, viewing you as part of the team. The rest is up to you.
Start initiating things yourself: questions about people’s weekend plans, stories about your own interests, offers to get people coffee or snacks on your next run. It’s not fair for you to compare yourself to the group members who’ve worked together for (presumably) years. Instead, challenge yourself to put forth a bit of effort each day, and see if you’re making progress week to week and month to month. You had good relationships at your old job – that’s a great sign that the potential is there.
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Andrea Bonior, a Washington-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly relationships advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.” For more information, see www.drandreabonior.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @drandreabonior.