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June 2012
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Parents enabling, not helping, grieving, angry daughter

Staff report

Dear Annie: My 39-year-old son-in-law died two years ago, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. My daughter is still grieving, which I fully understand, but her grief has turned her into an angry and jealous person.

My husband and I are the only family she has. When she married, she moved close to her husband's friends, but after he died, they did not keep in touch. She went for counseling right afterward, but said the counselor could not help her because he couldn't give her what she wanted. She refuses to see a doctor for anti-anxiety medication or an antidepressant.

I want to be helpful and supportive, but her difficult personality is now putting a strain on our health, not to mention our marriage. We call her a few times a day and are always here if she needs to talk, but she is so angry and hateful that every conversation becomes stressful. How much support must we offer? I would like to entertain people again and perhaps travel, but we would feel guilty leaving her on her own. - No Name, No State, Please

Dear No Name: You may think you are helping your daughter, but you are actually enabling her to be emotionally dependent on you, allowing her to avoid dealing with her own issues. You need to scale back. Encourage her to seek counseling again or to attend a grief support group through a local hospital or hospice. Then plan your vacations and your entertainment. You can still stay in touch as often as you wish. She may object to your having a life while she doesn't, but that is her choice.

Dear Annie: I am in my 80s and live a great distance from my grandchildren. I always send them cards (with money) for birthdays and Christmas, but seldom, if ever, do I get a thank you, whether written or oral.

That's bad enough. But when it is my birthday, I get a card from my children with the names of my grandchildren included. These grandkids are in their late 20s and do not live with their parents. At what point do they start taking responsibility for sending their own cards?

I would love to get a card directly from my grandchildren, signed by them in their own handwriting, making it more personal. How do I arrange this? - Neglected Grandma

Dear Grandma: This is actually something your children should have taught their own kids, but instead, they are covering for them so you don't feel you've been forgotten. We don't believe your grandchildren are deliberately ignoring these occasions. We think they are oblivious to how much it means to you. If you have a good relationship with your grandchildren, tell them that you'd appreciate a card for your birthday directly from them. Ask whether they have your address. If you have email, suggest they send you an e-card. When your birthday is due, remind them in a lighthearted, humorous way. We hope they come through.

Annie's Snippet (credit Martin Luther King Jr.): Procrastination is still the thief of time. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too Late."

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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