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by Abigail Van Buren

Childhood Drownings Still Haunt Man 30 Years Later

DEAR ABBY: I'm married to a wonderful man. "Dave" and I are in our late 30s.

When Dave was about 5, he was with two of his cousins who were about the same age. The three were inseparable. While they were playing, the smaller cousin fell into a pond, and the older one jumped in after him and tried to save him. All my husband could do was stand and watch as both of his little cousins -- his best friends -- drowned before his eyes. He ran for help, but by then it was too late.

I know most of the story from my mother-in-law, as Dave is unwilling to talk about it.

Last night, I went upstairs and there was my darling, weeping uncontrollably. Dave told me that he lives with horrible depression every day because of what happened, and he can't get past it. I want my husband to see a grief counselor, but he refuses because he doesn't think he'd be able to talk about it.

Abby, I love my husband. He doesn't deserve to live with this horror for the rest of his life. How can I convince him to get professional help? -- HURTING FOR MY HUSBAND

DEAR HURTING: Remind Dave that when this happened, he was only 5, and under the circumstances, he did everything he could to save his cousins. Although this incident, which has haunted him all these years, will be difficult to talk about, it's the only way to rid himself of the feelings of helplessness and survivor guilt from which he is clearly suffering.

Talking to a counselor will help him to reclaim his life and rid himself of his depression. For a couple of sessions, he may indeed just sit there and cry. But tears can be healing. And eventually he WILL be able to talk about what happened.

Clip this column, give it to your husband, and tell him that I, too, am urging him to get the help he needs. He's in my thoughts and prayers, and the longest journey begins with a single step.