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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were together 11 years -- since we were 12 -- and married for four. He was killed in a car accident, and I am now a 23-year-old widow. I was in the passenger seat when he died. I sustained multiple injuries, but none as great as the massive anxiety I can't seem to shake.

I have had a great deal of support from friends and family. However, two months after my husband died I began talking to "Brian," a family friend who is going through a divorce. We'd stay up for hours talking about the things we were going through. I have developed love for Brian that is beyond anything I have felt before, built on a great deal of strength and heartache.

We moved fast because of our mutual need to have someone there for us. I feel guilty, however, that I have this relationship so soon after my husband's death. On top of all this, I have huge anxiety, the result of guilt, PTSD and my fear of abandonment.

I feel isolated because I'm so much younger than most widows I meet. Also, because I have the complicating factor of Brian's divorce (with two kids) going on now, I'm afraid my anxiety will never decrease. I can't reject the love I have for him. We've been there for each other through a time of great hardship. I want to be able to relax and enjoy it, not stress out and destroy it. Can you give me any advice? -- YOUNG WIDOW IN PAIN

DEAR YOUNG WIDOW: Allow me to offer my deepest sympathy for the loss of your husband. After what you have been through, it's understandable that you would experience the feelings you have been having. But if you are going to move on in the right direction, I urge you to discuss your current situation with a mental health professional -- preferably one who specializes in post-traumatic stress and anxiety.

While it's wonderful that you have met someone so soon, I urge you to make no permanent decisions for at least a year. You and Brian can support each other, but each of you is needy right now, and that's not a basis for a healthy relationship. With time, the anxieties will ease and what's causing them will lessen. If you'll forgive the baseball vernacular, my advice is to bunt rather than try to swing for a home run now. It will improve your odds of not striking out.

DEAR ABBY: My wife likes to sunbathe in the nude in our side yard. Anyone walking by on the sidewalk, or riding by on a bike or in a car can easily see her over our 3-foot-tall picket fence.

She is a beautiful woman and has nothing to be ashamed of, but knowing strangers can see her in the buff makes me uncomfortable. She says I should get over it. Should I? -- EMBARRASSED ON ELM STREET

DEAR EMBARRASSED: Your wife assumes that your neighbors and passersby are as open-minded as she is. Please remind her that if a mother should walk by with a child, she could be deeply offended, call the police and your sun-worshipping wife could be charged with indecent exposure. A tall hedge in the front of your side yard would screen her from public view. Please consider it.

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