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DEAR ABBY: My father was murdered. I am dealing with it the best I can. I appreciate that people want to extend their condolences, but I have started letting my phone go directly to voice mail because I just can't handle hearing, "You're in my prayers," or, "This is all part of some plan." I want to be left alone!

I am angry, Abby, and I don't want to take it out on people who care about me. One of my in-laws has been telling me I need to "suck it up" and allow others the privilege of trying to make me feel better. I think I have the right to grieve in the manner I choose. Who is correct? -- GRIEF-STRICKEN IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR GRIEF-STRICKEN: YOU are! Your in-law's comment was incredibly insensitive. Under the circumstances, your feelings are normal, part of the grieving process, and nobody has the right to tell you how to work through it.

DEAR ABBY: Over the past two years my daughter and son-in-law have lost a lot of weight. They, as well as my grandsons, eat very little and don't like being put in the position of having to order food.

My problem is not knowing how to celebrate without food. When I think of holidays, I think of a family meal. I'm usually imaginative, but this stumps me. Any ideas? -- STUMPED IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR STUMPED: You're not alone in associating food with socializing. Eating is so ingrained in our culture it seems to have become our national pastime. However, it doesn't have to be that way.

Rather than plan a meal, invite your daughter and her family to a movie, sporting event -- even a short hike, if you're up to it. And if you feel you must serve something, offer to bring along a healthy snack, such as fruit or veggies, that they can enjoy if they get the munchies.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is a wonderful man with many interests and activities. We have an active social life and friends of all ages. My problem is he constantly tells everyone about his ailments, medications and medical issues no matter how big or small.

I am uncomfortable with this topic because I don't feel these are things you bring up with people other than your family or your doctor -- and certainly not in casual conversations with anyone who will listen. Am I wrong? -- MARY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR MARY: You are correct. For the most part, casual acquaintances are not interested in hearing an "organ recital" when they ask the casual, "How are you?" In fact, sooner or later they avoid people who constantly complain and talk only about themselves. The popular person is the one who shows an interest in others.

DEAR ABBY: I have always heard that if something seems to be too good to be true then it must be. Several of my relationships ended with very hurt feelings on both sides. In one case, I relocated to another state to escape the drama.

Now I finally seem to have found my dream girl. It has been more than a year now, and it still feels like it's the first time whenever we see each other. We have more in common than I ever thought possible. We rarely disagree -- except when we argue about who loves the other more.

Do you believe there is truth in that old adage, or could love this empowering and refreshing be for real? -- SMITTEN IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR SMITTEN: Most of the old adages have some truth to them, but people don't live their lives according to the old adages. And yes, love this empowering and refreshing could, indeed, be for real. So to quote another adage, "Only time will tell." Write me in another year and tell me how it's going.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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