DEAR ABBY: My granddaughter was murdered by her boyfriend. They had an 18-month-old daughter, "Bella." All three were living together when he shot her, but we don't know what room Bella was in when it happened.
Another family member (I'll call her Lucy) took Bella into her home, and Bella calls her Mom. Lucy has been taking Bella to the prison to visit her father, but has told her he is her uncle. I told Lucy I thought it would be better to wait until Bella is old enough to understand, then tell her what happened and let her decide whether she wants to visit her father.
Bella went into the closet one day and came out holding a T-shirt with her mother's picture on it, asking, "Who is this?" Lucy's only response was, "You know you aren't allowed in my closet. Take that back!" She never answered the question.
I have a framed photo of Bella's mother on my wall. The last time Bella was here, I noticed her looking out of the corner of her eye and scowling at the picture. I was the only one who noticed.
Bella is now 4, and I can't accept that Lucy thinks it's OK to lie to her. I feel it should be Bella's decision whether to visit her dad. Am I wrong? How should this be handled so Bella isn't traumatized any more than need be? Because of these incidents, I'm almost convinced she should have some kind of counseling, but perhaps she's too young. This is why I desperately need advice, in the best interest of the child. -- BELLA'S GREAT-GRANDMA
DEAR GREAT-GRANDMA: Is Lucy a member of your family or the murderous boyfriend's? I find it hard to comprehend that a family member of the victim would drag a toddler to a prison to visit the lowlife who killed her mother.
I do not think it is healthy to lie to children. This situation will explode when Bella finally learns that the woman she has always called "Mom" isn't her mother, and the man in the orange jumpsuit not only isn't her uncle but killed her birth mother. That poor girl won't know whom she can believe and could have trust issues that affect her relationships for the rest of her life. Does she need counseling now? No. But will she when she finds out about the deception? You bet!