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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My adult son passed away nine months ago. I am mostly numb. My home has always been welcoming, and I have had friends and family here constantly -- but now they won't leave! They don't seem to "get" the fact that I need some time to be alone.

I love these people, but my heart is broken. The only person I want to see and spend time with is my surviving son. I have lost my enthusiasm for almost everything. I work full time and no longer want to be the "hostess." I am tired. My sons and I were close, and I raised them by myself.

How do I tell my friends and family members that I need to be alone without offending them? I want to do the right thing. -- HEARTBROKEN IN CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss. I'm sure your friends and family care deeply about you and are only trying to be there for you.

However, you need to heal as best as you can in your own way from the death of your son. Thank them for their constant support, and explain that you need some time to be alone and cope with this without a crowd around. They will understand.

Working your way through the grieving process can be exhausting. But if your "tiredness" persists, I'm advising you to discuss it with your doctor because it can be a symptom of chronic depression, which is a medical condition.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a friendly, outgoing cashier at a grocery store. I enjoy chatting with customers. I particularly like some of them and look forward to them coming in. The problem is what I should do when they ask me for personal information, like my phone number or Facebook information.

In the last month, two customers asked to be my friends on Facebook and one asked for my phone number. I don't feel comfortable sharing this information with them. It's important for me to have a private life kept separate from my work life.

What is a polite way to let them know I don't want to give out that information? -- FACEBOOK-UNFRIENDLY IN LOVELAND, COLO.

DEAR FACEBOOK-UNFRIENDLY: Smile at the customer and, in your usual upbeat, friendly way, say: "You know, I think you are very nice -- but I keep my work life and personal life separate. I never mix the two. But thanks for asking." Period.

DEAR ABBY: My 12-year-old daughter, "Sophia," repeatedly shirks her basic responsibilities. She routinely receives detention for not completing homework assignments and for failing to bring required materials to class. Despite my concern, Sophia continues with her usual shortcomings. This is causing a great deal of stress between us, and our relationship is now very poor. Should I keep pushing her or should I just allow her to fail? -- DISAPPOINTED MOM IN LOUISIANA

DEAR DISAPPOINTED MOM: Of course you shouldn't allow your daughter to fail. All mothers have to "push" sometimes. It goes with the territory. However, rather than letting it drive you and your daughter apart, talk with her teacher and see if she or he can give you some insight as to what's going on. If that doesn't help, then consult Sophia's pediatrician. The girl may have a neurological problem that's causing her behavior.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)