DEAR ABBY: I am a 61-year-old never-married woman with no kids. Most of my life was spent caring for my aging parents, working on my education (I have a master's degree) and saving for my future. I am financially stable. I own my house free and clear, own my car and have very little credit card debt. I have a good job I enjoy, a circle of friends and many activities. I took care of my parents because it was the right thing to do, and I was prepared for their deaths when their time came.
My brother (my only sibling) died unexpectedly one year to the day after my mother's passing. It was a terrible shock, and it has taken me the last two years to come to terms with his loss. My issue is with my brother's widow. We have never been close. There's no animosity, nor have there ever been any harsh words, but we never bonded.
My niece and I get along beautifully but, no matter how much I try, I can't seem to break through to my sister-in-law. She is very dismissive of my grief. She never calls and never asks about my life. She never visits or reaches out in any way. She's responsive and kind when I do, but the communications are one-sided.
I honestly wouldn't miss her if I didn't see her, but my loyalty to my brother and my desire to keep my niece out of the middle has kept me from distancing too much. Now that my parents and brother are gone, there are things I would like to pursue on my own. How much do I owe to her? -- FUTURE-THINKING IN TENNESSEE
DEAR FUTURE-THINKING: Your brother's widow may have been dealing with her own grief over the loss of her spouse and unable to handle yours. Be cordial to her, as she is to you, but go on with your life and relationships. Remember her on special occasions with a call, a card or an invitation. If you and your niece have a closer bond, those things should come naturally.
You have handled the responsibilities life handed you with grace and generosity. It is now time for you to enjoy your own life and worry less about the lives of others.