Dear Annie: Recently, our 18-year-old son chose to take his life soon after his high school graduation. Now we are left trying to pick up the pieces and move forward. We live in a small community, and everyone is well aware of what happened.
Our youngest son just started the sixth grade and came home sad. He says he feels that he doesn't have friends anymore and that everyone is talking about him behind his back. The parents of his used-to-be friends have shunned him because of what has happened in our family. I have felt the snubbing as well with my own encounters.
I have contacted our middle school guidance counselor, and she will keep an eye out for our son, but how do we stand up for ourselves? We feel devastated. We not only lost our beloved son, but we feel like outcasts in our own community. Moving is not a possibility right now. What can we do? — Confused and Hurting
Dear Confused: Our heartfelt condolences on the loss of your son. We know this is a terribly painful time for your family, and it is hardly a comfort for us to say that time will alleviate some of your concerns about your community. Until then, please contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org). You can find information, referrals to therapists, and support groups where you can share your grief with others who have suffered a similar tragedy. They also can connect you to support groups for children and teens.
Dear Annie: Our father has become a rather strange miser. He doesn't hoard his money. Instead, he manipulates others to obtain things for free.
When he needed Band-Aids, he finagled a handful when he went to the doctor (and also asked for pharmaceutical samples). When he needed rubber bands, he stopped the postman. He tells his neighbor that he's a horrible cook and encourages them to bring him their leftovers.
Money is not the issue. Is he being a master manipulator, or is this normal? — Bewildered in California
Dear California: A lot of people do this, either to save money or because they get a mild thrill out of the ability to snag freebies. If Dad has always been like this, we wouldn't worry. He isn't stealing or hoarding, and people are willing to enable this behavior. However, if this is a recent development, please get Dad to his doctor for a full checkup. New and odd behaviors can be symptoms of underlying medical conditions (e.g., small strokes) that require treatment.
Dear Annie: You often recommend Al-Anon for spouses of alcoholics. I was led to Al-Anon 38 years ago, and it saved my life and those of my children. I learned about how alcoholism affects the whole family. I also learned that we are so centered on the alcoholic that our lives revolve around him. But in Al-Anon, I changed my focus and became happier.
My husband was a wonderful man afflicted by the disease of alcoholism. I tried for 10 years to change him, only to discover that I probably hindered his recovery by thinking his drinking was partly my fault. Discovering that he was sick and that I had also become sick because of his drinking was an eye opener. Three years before he died, he wrote that if it hadn't been for the Al-Anon program, we would not be together today. What a beautiful written memory our children have of their father.
I encourage anyone out there to try Al-Anon. You might be surprised at what you can learn at a meeting. For information, call 1-888-4AL-ANON (1-888-425-2666) or visit www.al-anon.alateen.org. — B.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.