Ask Aunt Steph is a bi-monthly advice column by Stephanie Baffone, LPCMH, NCC, a licensed, board-certified mental health therapist, freelance writer and beloved aunt to 41 nieces and nephews.


Following in the footsteps of her paternal grandmother, the former neighborhood consigliera (advisor) she is often found holding court with family, friends and clients seeking advice on life, love and loss. “Aunt Steph” lends her talents to answer reader’s questions, too.


Ask Aunt Steph is a bi-monthly advice column by Stephanie Baffone, LPCMH, NCC, a licensed, board-certified mental health therapist, freelance writer and beloved aunt to 41 nieces and nephews.

Following in the footsteps of her paternal grandmother, the former neighborhood consigliera (advisor) she is often found holding court with family, friends and clients seeking advice on life, love and loss. “Aunt Steph” lends her talents to answer reader’s questions, too.

Q Dear Aunt Steph: Last summer, within only six months of being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, my mother passed away. I’m doing my best to find a way to live in a world without her after all these years, but it’s very hard.  I know someday I’ll start to feel more like myself again, but in the meantime, something that really irritates me is when people ask how old my mom was. A question like that feels like some sort of a fishing expedition to find out exactly how sorry people should feel for me or gauge how long I deserve to mourn her loss.  How can respond without sounding cranky? –Irritated and Cranky

A Dear Irritated: In the wake of a parent’s death, questions about a parent’s age can make surviving adult children feel their grief is marginalized. The adult children I see in my practice who have buried parents wrestle with how to answer that same query too. Personally, I wanted to respond, “What darn difference does it make?” or even, “Why do you ask?” after I lost my own mom when people inquired about her age. It does feel like people are trying to gauge just how tragic the loss is. Following the death of a loved one, only survivors themselves can determine how long an appropriate period of mourning is. Next time you are asked how old your mom was, simply say, “Not old enough. I miss her every single day.” If pressed on, reiterate what a huge loss her passing is. Hopefully inquiring minds will get the hint when you continue to skirt the question. I’m really sorry about your mom.

Q Dear Aunt Steph:  Each summer, my brothers and sisters pitch in to rent a beach house and generally we have a blast. The problem is one of our sisters never contributes beyond her share of the rent. We are tired of footing her bill for all the extras year after year. She’s just cheap and mooches off of us. Should we stop asking her to come? —Shore Sister

A Dear Shore: First find out why your sister isn’t contributing beyond the rent. Perhaps she ran into some financial struggles she is embarrassed to discuss. If that’s not the case, let her know if she can’t swing the “extra” expenses on her own, she’ll have to pass on the next family summer vacation.

Got a question for Aunt Steph? Email her at Stephanie@StephanieBaffone.com, write to: Ask Aunt Steph, PO Box 9972, Newark, DE 19714 or join the conversations on Facebook, Twitteror StephanieBaffone.com