Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Not Even Death Can Heal Family's Seven Year Feud

DEAR ABBY: After a bitter seven-year estrangement from his family, my husband received his grandfather's eulogy in the mail. His father sent it with a note that read, "Here's a copy of the eulogy I read at his funeral." Abby, this was how his family notified him of his grandfather's death -- two weeks after the fact. We had attempted several reconciliations with no success.

A month later, my husband died at the age of 36 -- depressed and suffering from black lung disease. His family blames me for his depression. Not a single relative of my husband's attended his memorial service despite being given three weeks' notice and my having mailed them formal invitations.

My husband left a declaration in his will that his family should never know our child, whom they abandoned at 2 months old via a letter to us and my family. I feel I have been choking on their toxic behavior and venom. Do you have any advice as we move forward with our crosses after being abused by these narcissists for more than seven years? -- SAD AND BITTER WIDOW IN TENNESSEE

DEAR SAD AND BITTER WIDOW: Yes. Put down those crosses and recognize that the anger and bitterness you feel will only poison yourself and your child. Obey your husband's wishes and raise your child in a healthy emotional environment -- as far from your husband's family as possible. Unless you do, the mistreatment to which you have been subjected will affect both your lives and you will waste what could be a happy future.

DEAR ABBY: I know some children who seem to be mature and are able to make logical decisions on a fairly regular basis. Still, making a decision under stress when one has not had a lot of experience can be difficult.

Having said that, at what age do you think it is appropriate to leave a child alone at home? Sometimes it's difficult to arrange for child care when kids are out of school. Do you have any guidelines as to what to look for that can help make this decision? -- BUSY WORKING PARENT IN KANSAS

DEAR BUSY WORKING PARENT: I don't think children should be left alone if there is any other alternative available -- after-school programs, YMCA, activities where they will have adult supervision. Too many things can go wrong, and you would never forgive yourself if one of them happened to your child.

DEAR ABBY: How does one respond to a former co-worker/acquaintance who wants you to be a reference at your current workplace? My experience with him was not ideal. He was a good worker, but he became irritable when he was under stress and drowned everyone around him in negative energy. I don't want to work with this individual again, but I prefer to be nonconfrontational. -- FORMER COLLEAGUE IN SUNNYVALE, CALIF.

DEAR FORMER COLLEAGUE: If you are asked again, tell your former co-worker you are not comfortable assuming that responsibility. Don't be defensive and don't allow the person to pressure you. And you do not have to explain why you have chosen not to give the reference.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)