DEAR ABBY: I'm 52. My mom died when I was 11. It wasn't until I reached my mid-20s that I realized I have no memories of her, and few memories of my childhood before I was 11. Dad and I lived a few hours away from family, and after Mom passed, no one spoke about her much. I imagine that was because it was painful. She was only 29.
I never cried over her death, and I don't remember missing her as a child or teenager. There are only a handful of photos of her and a couple of passed-down stories. I understand that people block memories of traumatic events and things they don't want to remember. I remember the night it happened in detail, but not the memory of her. I have seen a few psychiatrists at different times during the course of my life to deal with stress and daily life issues, and while they were aware of my background, we never really got into this.
For some reason it's bothering me more and more now. I want to remember my mother. When I ask her friends and relatives about her, I get general answers -- she was a nice person, very loving and crafty, etc. How does someone get their memories back? I've heard hypnosis can help, but I'm not sure. Do you have any advice? -- SON LEFT BEHIND
DEAR SON: Many people are reluctant to talk about family members who have passed on because they are afraid it will be painful for the listener. Perhaps if you approached your relatives and explained why you are asking for more details, it might jog some memories. However, if that doesn't bear fruit, then talking with a mental health professional about the fact that this is increasingly bothering you would be a good idea. That person can recommend hypnosis if it's appropriate.
DEAR ABBY: I am a divorced 53-year-old woman. My children are grown, and I have a good career in HR and payroll. It's not my dream job, though. I applied to and was accepted into a Master of Architecture program, but I just found out they will accept only 12 credits from my associate's degree, which means I will need five years of full-time college to achieve my dream, while working full-time, of course.
I'll be 58 when I graduate and probably should be planning for retirement, not taking on $100,000 in student loans. Should I abandon this dream? Have I run out of time to take on such a lofty goal? Or should I just sit back and relax and travel now that my kids are grown? By the way, my retirement goal was age 72. -- NOT SURE IN MICHIGAN
DEAR NOT SURE: What you are contemplating takes a great deal of stamina. Some individuals in their 50s are up for the challenge, others not so much. Before you commit, talk to a guidance counselor at the school to explore what opportunities might be available to an older graduate with no work experience in the field.
Would you still plan to retire at 72? Your student loans could take many more years to pay off if you don't quickly become a high-earning architect, so consider your next move carefully and receive as much unbiased counsel as you can before making a final decision.
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