DEAR ABBY: I'm an only child by default. My parents have been married 30 years and had two children. When I was 9 and my sister was 6, we were in a car accident with my mother that resulted in my sister's death. Her death changed my life in ways I can never explain.
My father began abusing drugs and beating me. My mother started stealing and was always unemployed. She became severely depressed and also abused prescription drugs. I was left to raise myself, and now, as an adult, I don't want a relationship with either of them.
How can I get my mother to accept that despite her wishes, I do not want to live my life watching her waste hers? It leaves me feeling depressed, angry and hopeless. I have been diagnosed as bipolar. Almost all my life I have known only death, drugs, abuse and pain. I just want peace from these people. Please help. -- FRUSTRATED SON IN GEORGIA
DEAR FRUSTRATED SON: You have my deepest sympathy for the tragedy that destroyed your family. Had your parents received the professional help they needed at the time of the accident, much of it might have been prevented. Tell your parents that unless they seek help now for their problems, they will have lost not one, but two, children.
However, if they choose to continue as they have been -- which is likely -- then you must go on with your life. The answer to a toxic situation such as what you have experienced is to divorce yourself. Because you can't fix them, you must save yourself. You have been damaged enough.
DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Kate," is 27 and has a 3-year-old son. She and the father are not married. He is self-centered, controlling and keeps her stranded. She has no car and no money. They currently live with his family -- a far from ideal situation.
I am struggling because I'm unable to help her financially, and she feels lost and alone. My husband (her stepfather) won't allow them to live with us, which I understand. We're scrimping to get by. I have located several online sites for single moms regarding assistance, but I feel it is up to Kate to pursue them.
What else can I offer her regarding steering her in the right direction? If she could contact others in her situation, perhaps they might point her in directions I cannot. Your advice would be welcomed. -- GRANDMA IN PRESCOTT, ARIZ.
DEAR GRANDMA: Because of your financial situation there is a limit to what you can do. Give your daughter the websites and explain that she may find support and suggestions there from other single mothers -- the rest is up to her. But please, realize that until your daughter is willing to take charge of her life, nothing will change. Continue to be caring and supportive, and let your daughter know you love her.
DEAR ABBY: When someone elopes, is a bridal shower after the fact appropriate? There will be a reception later this summer where a wedding gift seems expected. I think having a bridal shower is not proper etiquette. What do you say? -- ASKANCE IN VERMONT
DEAR ASKANCE: The intent of a wedding shower is to extend good wishes to the bride -- and with increasing frequency, the groom. Having one after a hastily planned wedding or an elopement is not a breach of etiquette. However, if you disapprove, no law says you must attend.
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)