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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Is Unsure When to Tell Daughter About Aunt's Suicide

DEAR ABBY: My little sister, "Cynda," committed suicide nine years ago. She was only 13. She did it because she was being severely bullied at school.

I am now a mother, and my 7-year-old daughter has been asking about Aunt Cynda and how she died. I have told her that Auntie Cynda had a bad hurt on her neck and passed away. Abby, my sister hung herself in her bedroom.

When is the right time or age to explain suicide to a child? This is a very sensitive subject in my family. I don't want my daughter talking to others about my sister's death, especially my mother. I would prefer to teach my little girl about the wonderful person Cynda was. Do you have any advice for me? -- HOLDING ONTO INNOCENCE

DEAR HOLDING: Yes. I sympathize with your desire to protect your daughter's innocence. But has it occurred to you that the reason she's asking about Cynda is because she has already heard something and didn't get the answers she needed?

Ask your daughter why she's asking about her aunt. Then give her bits of information in doses she can absorb. A suicide in the family can be a sensitive subject, but sooner or later the truth is going to come out. And it's important that your child know that if she has questions about ANYthing, she can come to her mother for honest answers.