DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend of 10 years, "Ethan," lost his mother to suicide 11 years ago on Dec. 31. The first couple of years after her death, he'd put on a happy face during the holiday season. But in recent years he has gotten more and more moody. I love the season, from Halloween all the way through my birthday in February. I enjoy making my loved ones happy during this time, but no matter what I do, it doesn't work for Ethan.
I understand there's no limit to how long you can mourn someone, especially your mother. I couldn't imagine losing mine, but how can I get him to not drag everyone down into the funk he puts himself in? I don't want to downplay Ethan's emotions, but even when we are opening presents together, he has an "I don't give a ----" face.
For the last few winters all we seem to do is argue about nothing or everything. I am at the point of walking on pins and needles around him to avoid being sad during a time I love so much. I'm at my wits' end.
He went to therapy for a little while, but stopped because he no longer had the time. (He works two jobs and is on call basically 24/7.) I work as well, and have asked him to quit one of the jobs because he is getting older (mid-40s) and it's not good for his health. What else can I do? -- NO COMFORT IN JOY
DEAR NO COMFORT: Sympathize with Ethan, tell him that it's clear he is still hurting, and suggest he talk with another therapist because depression may run in his family. You should also tell him that his "funk" is contagious and you would like to be able to enjoy the holidays. Or, consider socializing less with Ethan from October through February and spend the time with others like you who would like to celebrate.
DEAR ABBY: I'm concerned that my great-grandson may be autistic. He is 13 months old. He never laughs or giggles out loud, and his response when spoken to often is expressionless. However, he will occasionally smile slightly, is already walking and says a few words we can understand. He also is extremely hyperactive.
His parents appear oblivious to this behavior, and I wouldn't dare suggest that I may be seeing a problem. My question is: Do all pediatricians check for this at regular visits? My understanding is the earlier the detection, the better to start treatment. -- WORRIED GREAT-GRAMMY
DEAR GRAMMY: Pediatricians perform developmental screenings at each and every visit, and any delays out of the ordinary should be investigated further. Typical autistic features include social interaction difficulties and speech delay.
Autism is a difficult diagnosis to establish since many of the features aren't apparent at a young age. Most pediatricians will do an M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) at 18 months of age. If the M-CHAT reveals areas of concern, a full developmental assessment is recommended.
Because you are worried, you should bring your concerns up with the parents so they can discuss this with their pediatrician. That way the doctor can reassure the parents (and you) if your great-grandson is developing appropriately, or refer the child for a full developmental assessment if there is cause for concern because earlier detection is always better. You are wise for seeking advice for your concerns regarding the child, and I'm glad you wrote.
TO MY READERS: A very happy Easter to all of you. -- LOVE, ABBY
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)