Ask Amy: Grandmother wants to help granddaughter’s recovery

Dear Amy: I have a beautiful, smart and wonderful 16-year-old granddaughter who is anorexic.

She has been at a special care facility for the past two months and will be returning home within a couple of weeks.

Of course, this is a very emotional and difficult time for her parents, and the whole family.

My question to you is: What do I say to this child? How should I behave with her? Should I talk to her about her sickness?

People tell me to just be myself, but this myself wants to hug her for a long time.

At this point in time, she doesn’t allow hugging or touching.

Is there a support group for grandparents I could access?

My whole being hurts so much when I think of the suffering my daughter, son-in-law and her 14-year-old sister are going through!

I truly want to be the grandma who has always supported and loved her.

— Hurting Grandma

Dear Grandma: The fact that you are asking this question reveals how important a role you could play in your granddaughter’s recovery — just by being yourself. But “being yourself” in this context may feel somewhat surreal.

Keep in mind that returning from an in-patient program marks a stage in recovery, but is not the end of recovery. Your granddaughter’s recovery is a process that could take a very long time.

It is common for people returning from treatment to feel awkward, “on stage,” and the unwanted focus of the entire family’s attention. I think this is especially challenging for teenagers.

The recovering person does not want to be visually scrutinized, touched, hugged, or put at the center of the family’s conversation.

You should not discuss her illness, her eating, or even “how healthy she looks.”

You should simply tell her that it is great to see her.

Let her fade to the fringes of family gatherings (if she wants) until she feels more comfortable being home. Interact with her parents and sister, recount a favorite funny story about your daughter (her mom) from childhood, talk about what you’re reading, watching, or who you ran into at the farmer’s market. Confess your secret crush on Sam Elliott.

And — if you find yourself babbling, laugh about it and then settle down.

All of you just have to get through this initial phase.

Eating disorders are family diseases. I heartily support your instinct to seek support. The facility where your granddaughter has received treatment should offer support groups for family members.

The National Alliance for Eating Disorders ( also offers a well-regarded virtual support group for family members and caregivers.

Dear Amy: My wife of 57 years had a lover in her youth.

I have asked her for some details about that affair, but she refuses to disclose anything.

Should I accept that stance on her part or should she comply with my request?

— Just the Facts!

Dear Just the Facts!: You don’t say why you are so curious about this very long-ago love affair — at this stage in your own life.

My reaction is that your wife is her own person. She has the right to disclose — or withhold — anything from her own past that precedes your relationship, unless this has a direct bearing on your own family (for instance, if she had a child by that relationship). This also applies to your own past, by the way.

In my opinion, your curiosity doesn’t qualify as a “need-to-know.”

If this has become a sticking point in your own relationship, then you will both have to reckon with it, thoughtfully talk it through, and make a conscious choice to move forward.

Dear Amy: I’m responding to “Stuck,” whose boyfriend’s daughter did not want him to pursue a new relationship after his wife had died.

I was widowed in 2012. I started dating again about four years later.

My daughter started making disparaging remarks about my dating.

We talked about it. I helped her realize that while I recognized her grief at losing her dad was still raw, he was gone and I was still here.

I explained that my goal was not to replace him.

I asked her if she expected me to be alone for the rest of my life. She begrudgingly agreed.

Now, at age 73, I happily remarried six months ago, and she loves my new husband.

Dad needs to have the hard conversation with his daughter about being alone.

— Been There!

Dear Been There!: You handled this thoughtfully. Well done.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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