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by Abigail Van Buren

Dad's Behavior Undercuts Family's Attempt to Heal

DEAR ABBY: My mother committed suicide a year ago. Last year was difficult for our entire family. I was extremely angry with her for the first couple of months, especially since it was my 15-year-old son who found her. My son and I are both in counseling. He is healing faster than I am.

The problem I am facing now is with my father. I love my father and have tried to help him through this awful ordeal. However, he has never been emotionally available to me or my siblings. The truth is, my mother and father had a terrible relationship throughout their 35-year marriage. My father was especially hurtful toward my mother.

Four months after Mother died, my father asked a woman to move into the house. She has taken down all the family pictures and replaced them with her own. It's as if my mother never existed.

Father is now talking about marrying her. It's breaking my heart to see him act like nothing has happened. He hasn't even found the time to put a stone on Mother's grave. The last straw was when Father bought a motorcycle. He's never ridden or owned one before. He bought it because this new woman in his life likes to ride.

Abby, I feel like I've lost my mother AND father. At first he kept telling us, "We've got to stick together," but he's never around, and his grandchildren are heartbroken.

I haven't visited my father since she moved in. Tell me, Abby, what should I do? -- FEEL LIKE AN ORPHAN

DEAR FEEL LIKE AN ORPHAN: Investigate the price range of several lovely markers for your mother's grave. Meet with your father and ask him which one he will pay for, then arrange for the installation. It will give you and your son some closure.

Next, ask for the family pictures that were removed. It's important that they remain with you and your son. Perhaps, in time, you, your father and his girlfriend will enjoy a more positive relationship. Continue your counseling until you are better able to come to terms with your mother's death and your father's behavior.