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Q: Can you go to Al-Anon if you had a husband who was an alcoholic, but is dead? He committed suicide by drinking himself to death.

I have been a mess for the last two years. I can't sleep, can't concentrate and don't enjoy anything. I would really like to talk with people who understand what living with an alcoholic is like and won't blame me for what he did, as most of his family does. But I hesitate to go to Al-Anon.

What can I do to get over the self-inflicted death of a man I'll never stop loving?

Hurting in Houston

A: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your husband. There are several things you can do to heal yourself. The first is to recognize that the symptoms you describe are signs of chronic depression for which you will need professional help. Call your doctor and ask for a referral to a therapist.

While I am sure you would be welcome at Al-Anon, another group that would also welcome you with open arms is the American Association of Suicidology, which provides - among other things - materials and referrals to local self-help groups for people whose loved ones have committed suicide. The Web site is

Column helps couple

Q: I want you to know you have helped me find a way to spend more time not only talking with my fiance, but also sharing our thoughts and values. We have been together more than two years. "Marshall" isn't much of a talker, while sometimes I just ramble on. I suspect Marshall often agrees with me just to get me to shut up.

Well, I have been reading your column archives online recently and have started sharing some of the letters with him. I read them aloud and ask him how he would respond to them and why. After he answers, I tell him my feelings on the subject. The broad range of issues in your column helps us discuss important issues that don't normally come up in conversation.

Marshall and I agree most of the time, but not always. When we don't agree, we discuss how we would compromise if we were in the same situation as the person writing the letter. Then we read your response. This has helped us realize things about each other that we hadn't previously and has definitely brought us closer together. Thank you!

Loyal Reader in San Antonio

A: You're welcome. I'm pleased my column is helping you and your fiance to better communicate. However, before you and Marshall finally tie the knot, allow me to offer a suggestion that could help you head off numerous serious problems before they become issues. It's premarital counseling, and it will facilitate meaningful discussions regarding money, sex, children and religion, to name a few of the topics.

Proof's in the presents

Q: My soon-to-be-ex-husband's secretary keeps giving my 16-year-old daughter extravagant gifts for Christmas. One year it was a complete Tiffany jewelry set (earrings, necklace and ring). This past year, "Donna" gave my daughter a $200 gift certificate to an expensive clothing store and another $200 one at a trendy cosmetics store. Should I be suspicious?

East Coast Mama

A: No, by now you should be convinced.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips. Find columns at

Universal Press Syndicate