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DEAR ABBY: I am a 37-year-old married woman with a problem. My mother committed suicide when I was 18, and I have never dealt with my loss. The day after she died, my father bagged up all of her possessions and gave them to charity. I tried talking to him about her, but he told me she was "gone" and I had to move on. I guess I have just put my pain on the back burner all these years.

For the last five years or so, I have been sleepwalking and having horrible nightmares about my mother's death. My husband tells me I carry on conversations with him, but that I am not really "there." I also take baths when I'm technically asleep. On one occasion, I woke up behind the wheel of my truck in my garage. I don't know if I went out driving or not, but the thought terrifies me.

I am afraid I will hurt myself, or possibly others, in my zombie-like state. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. -- OUT OF IT IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR OUT OF IT: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your mother. The first thing you must do is ensure that your husband has the keys to your truck at bedtime.

Then, contact your physician and ask for a referral to a sleep disorder specialist for an evaluation. Some people experience the symptoms you have described as a side effect from certain sleep-aid medications. However, if you are not taking anything, you may have a treatable sleep disorder.

After that, ask your doctor to refer you to a licensed psychotherapist who can help you deal with the emotions you have kept buried all these years since your mother's death. Once your feelings are out in the open, you will be able to deal with them -- and discussing them with a professional will help you more quickly through the process.

DEAR ABBY: I have a good friend, "Cathy," whose 11-year-old son, "Evan," is a friend of my son, "Noah." Evan has always been a name-caller. He constantly uses words like "stupid," "idiot" and "butthead" when talking to my son, but Noah has always laughed it off or told him to cut it out.

Today Noah told me he no longer wants to play with Evan because Evan is such a name-caller. Evan's habit apparently doesn't bother Cathy, since Evan constantly calls his baby sister the same names, and Cathy doesn't seem to notice. She is, however, worried about Evan's socializing at school because no one seems to like him.

How do I approach her about this problem, and mention that her son's name-calling is the reason Noah doesn't want to be with him anymore -- and probably part of the reason Evan is not very popular at school -- without causing discord between us? -- PUZZLED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR PUZZLED: Arrange a private chat with your friend and tell her exactly what you have told me. Love may be blind, but she must be besotted to have allowed her son to verbally abuse his little sister and the other children around him for so long. This is as much her fault as it is her son's. Evan would be a much happier boy if she had curbed his behavior when it began. (I wonder if he watches too much television or is emulating his father ...)

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