DEAR ABBY: My brother passed away a year ago, leaving a wife and five children. They are wonderful, well-behaved kids. Unfortunately, my brother appears to have been the one who kept everybody on schedule and made all the decisions. My sister-in-law just did whatever he said, deciding nothing on her own. Now that he's gone, the family seems to be falling apart.
The kids spend very little time at home, and they never eat together as a family anymore -- something I know is necessary these days to keep tabs on what the kids are up to. I could go into detail about how things have gone to pot, but I want to keep this brief. It breaks my heart to see it happen.
I would love to have a little chat with my sister-in-law to explain to her that she must step up to the plate and be the adult. How does one broach the subject without alienating her? -- LOVING AUNT IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR LOVING AUNT: Start by telling this widowed mother of five that you are worried about her, that you're concerned she may be chronically depressed over her husband's death, and you think she may need to talk to her doctor.
A woman in her situation, someone who has never made a decision for herself since the day she was married (or maybe longer), is in a terrible pickle. She needs a mentor because she will have to learn self-sufficiency from the ground up. So be prepared to share every bit of wisdom you can with her.