Family estrangement is hard to explain to kids

Published 11:00 am Monday, April 19, 2021

Dear Abby: I am a woman who has been through a lot. I grew up thinking my grandmother was my mother, my mother was my sister, my uncle was my brother, and my own siblings my nieces and nephews. A “family issue” brought it all out in the open, and now I am estranged from my family.
My grandmother who adopted me passed away a few years ago. The issue was lies and the fact that I was molested, which is why my grandmother stepped in. How do I explain to my children, 6 and 9, that we don’t have family on my side? They have been asking because my husband is very close with his own family. — ESTRANGED IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR ESTRANGED: Your family situation is complicated, and I don’t think it would be appropriate for you to reveal the details until your children are quite a bit more mature. Lies, cover-ups and child molestation are valid reasons to have distanced yourself.
In the meantime, tell them you will explain when they are older. At some point they may need the information in case any of your relatives try to contact them in the future.
DEAR ABBY: I broke things off with my ex-husband back in 2011. His dad passed away in 2013, and I have just learned that his mother died two months ago. I heard through the wife of his friend that he didn’t take it well, so I sent him a sympathy card with my phone number in case he wanted to talk.
Today I found out that he eats only one meal a day or just has one of those shakes. He insisted he’s fine, but I don’t think so. It sounds like he’s still not handling it well. I’m worried that he’s going to waste away.
We live in the same state but in two different cities. I still love him, and I’m trying to help him. How can I do that? — WORRIED EX IN OHIO

DEAR EX: Does your ex have relatives who live closer to him than you do? If so, contact them and express your concerns so perhaps they can check on him. However, if he doesn’t, consider looking in on him yourself. If you do, it may not only ease your mind but also resuscitate your relationship, if he is open to a reconciliation.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 64-year-old woman. For once in my life, my hair is long, about elbow length. My son visits me about once every three months because he lives an hour’s drive away. Today when he arrived, the first words out of his mouth were, “You look like a witch!” It made me feel very sad. He then proceeded to tell me no one over the age of 40 should wear long hair. What do you think? I’ve always been neat and clean. — SAD MOM IN COLORADO

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DEAR SAD MOM: I think that at age 64, you can wear your hair any way you like it. Many women (and men) have allowed their hair to grow since the pandemic began, regardless of age. (I happen to know an 85-year-old woman whose lush, shiny hair is down to the middle of her back, and she looks great.) If you like your hair long, keep it that way. Do not allow your tactless son to be your fashion arbiter. Go, Rapunzel!
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)