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Dear Abby: I am a 53-year-old woman who is a sexual abuse survivor. This has consumed every aspect of my life. It started when I was around 2, I believe, and was a daily occurrence until I was 14. My abuser was my paternal grandfather, now deceased.

I’ve sought counseling and therapy groups — whatever I could — over the years, to no avail. I just can’t shake it. I have dealt with flashbacks, nightmares, failed marriages, etc. I just want to be and feel normal, and I don’t know how.

Am I searching for something that does not exist?

Lost In The South

Dear Lost: My heart goes out to you. You have experienced an atrocity. The groups you have been attending may not have been the right ones for you. One-on-one sessions with a licensed mental health professional, someone who specializes in working with victims of sexual abuse and/or PTSD, might be more appropriate.

A good place to start finding the help you’re looking for would be the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. It’s the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence network. You can find it online at rainn.org or by calling 1-(800) 656-4673. I wish you healing and success. Please let me hear from you again and tell me how you are doing.

Dear Abby: I’m a 29-year-old woman living on my own an hour away from my family. My parents were bitterly divorced 10 years ago, and a year ago I lost my father to cancer. At the time, my mother voiced her disapproval of my going to be with him on his deathbed. The day he passed, she told me not to be too sad because “he was thinking about suicide anyway.” I have so much anger toward her for these and other things her emotional immaturity has led her to do or say.

On the one-year anniversary of Daddy’s death, she tried to pick a fight with me for “obviously not wanting to talk” to her. It prompted me to do exactly that, and I calmly discontinued speaking with her.

The past two weeks without my mother’s voice in my life have been the longest stretch of peace and confidence I’ve had in a long time, but her birthday is coming up. Am I being a bad daughter by continuing not to talk to her? What’s more important, healing the breach or my own mental health?

Conflicted Daughter

Dear Daughter: For both your sakes, do both if you can manage it. Try this: Explain to your mother the reason for your sudden silence. Set some firm boundaries. If she cooperates, you will still be able to have a relationship with her. If she doesn’t, at least you will know you tried.

Dear Abby: My friend just died. I receive only Social Security disability, and I’m poor. I don’t have a suit or dark dress pants, just blue jeans and T-shirts. However, I can afford a dark-colored dress shirt to wear to my friend’s funeral. Would it be better to say goodbye on my own after the funeral? I don’t know his relatives, and learned of his death only today when a family member showed up to collect something I held for him.

Saying Goodbye

Dear Saying Goodbye: I’m sorry you lost your friend. If you would like to attend the funeral, by all means do. Funerals aren’t supposed to be fashion runways, so wear whatever you feel is respectful and stop worrying about offending anyone’s sensibilities. People are there to pay respects to your friend. No one should be looking at or judging YOU.

Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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