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DEAR ABBY: My aunt had a stillborn baby 20 years ago. At the time, I was a teenager. Ever since then she has lived a morbid lifestyle -- like you'd see in a scary movie. After the first year, she threw a party with a cake for all of us, and wanted us to sing "Happy Birthday" to a baby that never lived.

When my grandfather died recently, she made sure the preacher announced that my grandfather also had another grandchild. I found out that when her cat died she kept it in the house for several days because she didn't want to let it go.

It bothers us a lot, because she acts like she is the victim in life and tries to make people feel guilty for being happy. How do we talk to her? -- CRYSTAL IN NEVADA

DEAR CRYSTAL: Your aunt should have sought grief counseling after she lost her baby. That she would throw a birthday party a year later and expect everyone to participate as if the child had lived is truly sad. Because you and your relatives feel she still hasn't gotten beyond the tragedy, those closest to her should suggest she talk with a therapist now or join a support group.

That said, I am not sure her wish that her little angel be mentioned at your grandfather's funeral was out of line. Although the baby was stillborn, I'm sure the loss was grieved by your grandfather as well as your aunt.


DEAR ABBY: Our oldest son has had a girlfriend for almost two years. She's a lovely, kind and quality person, the type you would want him to marry. The problem I'm having is that I have slipped and called her by the name of his former girlfriend. This happens sometimes during casual conversation, especially when I'm not concentrating. I have tried to be careful because I don't want to hurt her or my son's feelings, but sadly, I have.

I know she has heard me at least a couple of times. I have no affinity for the former girlfriend. Abby, this is damaging my relationship with my son and his girlfriend although she is too classy to say a word. What do I do? -- HEARTBROKEN IN NEW ENGLAND

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: When it happens again -- and it may -- apologize, explain that it's embarrassing, and you don't know why it happens. Then thank her for being as classy as she has been about it.


DEAR ABBY: My brother-in-law is starting a business and has offered my husband a job he is well-qualified for. I think it's a bad idea to mix family and business. I should mention that it's my husband's brother, and in the past when my husband has done odd jobs for him, he has had trouble getting paid for them. Do you agree with me that it's a bad idea for my husband to work for his brother? -- NOT SO SURE

DEAR NOT: Working for a relative can pack a double whammy because of unresolved emotional baggage that can come with the job, but it's not always a bad thing. Sometimes it works out very well. However, because your husband's brother has a history of not paying his debts, I agree with you that in this case, it would be a bad idea.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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