DEAR ABBY: Nine years ago, my sister and I gave birth on the same day. Her daughter lived; my son died the next day.
At my niece's birthday parties my family insists on bringing gifts for my deceased son. My niece opens his gifts and my mother and sister then take them to the cemetery. They also order a special birthday cake for him along with the one for my niece.
I have tried telling them several times that this is confusing to my 6-year-old son, and it depresses my husband and me. My husband refuses to attend any more of my niece's birthday parties until the gifts/cake for our deceased son stop, and I'm about ready to join him.
Are we being "too uptight," as my family says, and is this behavior on the part of my family normal? Are we right to ask them to stop? And how do we convey this to them without hurting their feelings again? -- MOURNING MOTHER IN BIG SPRING, TEXAS
DEAR MOURNING MOTHER: The practice of taking gifts to the deceased does occur in other cultures, and is considered normal in those cultures. However, for your mother and sister to insist upon doing so when you and your husband have told them that it causes you pain is wrong. Tell them before the next party that you do not want it to happen, and exactly why. If they disregard your wishes, follow your husband's lead and skip the parties, too.