DEAR ABBY: My little sister, “Cynda,” committed suicide
nine years ago. She was only 13. She did it because she was
being severely bullied at school.
I am now a mother, and my 7-year-old daughter has been
asking about Aunt Cynda and how she died. I have told her
that Auntie Cynda had a bad hurt on her neck and passed
away. Abby, my sister hung herself in her bedroom.
When is the right time or age to explain suicide to a
child? This is a very sensitive subject in my family. I
don’t want my daughter talking to others about my sister’s
death, especially my mother. I would prefer to teach my
little girl about the wonderful person Cynda was. Do you
have any advice for me? — HOLDING ONTO INNOCENCE

DEAR HOLDING: Yes. I sympathize with your desire to
protect your daughter’s innocence. But has it occurred to
you that the reason she’s asking about Cynda is because she
has already heard something and didn’t get the answers she
Ask your daughter why she’s asking about her aunt. Then
give her bits of information in doses she can absorb. A
suicide in the family can be a sensitive subject, but sooner
or later the truth is going to come out. And it’s important
that your child know that if she has questions about
ANYthing, she can come to her mother for honest answers.

DEAR ABBY: “Lila” is a lovely girl who works part-time
in the administrative office of our university to help pay
for her education. She has scoliosis, a curvature of the
spine, which you would never guess by looking at her.
Lila’s problem is she has an hour-long ride on the
subway to get here, and after carrying a heavy backpack all
day, standing becomes too painful. There have been times
when she has given up her seat to an elderly person or a
pregnant woman, but sometimes her back is so sore she simply
cannot get off her seat.
What is the proper etiquette in this situation, and how
should she deal with the glares she gets when she doesn’t
give up her seat? — CURIOUS IN ONTARIO

DEAR CURIOUS: Your friend does not owe anyone an
explanation for remaining in her seat — and the less
personal information she reveals about herself to strangers,
the better. However, I do have a word of advice for her.
Instead of lugging around a heavy backpack, which further
stresses the muscles in her already stressed back, she
should invest in a rolling bag to transport her books. It
might help her to have less pain more often.

DEAR ABBY: I work with a guy I consider to be a close
friend. He is friendly, outgoing and very personable. My
concern is that he often tells lies — sometimes about big
things, other times about small ones. I see a pattern, and
it’s really starting to annoy me.
He lies to his wife about “working late” to avoid going
home early to help with the kids. He’ll lie to me about
innocuous things and to our boss about his accomplishments.
I believe lying is one of the worst things a person can
do. Should I call him on it, or just start distancing myself
from the friendship? — TIRED OF THE LIES

DEAR TIRED: The last thing you need is an enemy in the
workplace. I see nothing to be gained by calling your co-
worker on the fact that he isn’t a straight shooter. Your
mistake is in thinking this man is capable of real
friendship. He may be “friendly, outgoing and personable,”
but he lacks the most important ingredient necessary in a
friendship, and that’s character. Distancing is the way to

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known
as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline
Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box
69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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