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Grandmother’s photo collage brings back painful memories

Published 12/28/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 12/27/2012 04:20 PM

DEAR ABBY: My daughter was repeatedly date-raped at the age of 16. Her predator threatened to kill her if she ever told, so she kept it to herself until she could get away from him. It was a very scary time in her life, but with the help of counseling she is working through it and moving on with her life.

The problem is, while visiting with my in-laws it was pointed out to us that my mother-in-law had made a collage of pictures and included in it the person who raped my daughter. In all, there are five pictures of him in group settings. When my husband asked her calmly to remove them, she refused. She says it would punish the other grandchildren if she removed the pictures, and it would "ruin her collage."

We have asked her three times, but she refuses to budge. She says WE all need counseling and that the request is completely out of line. Do you think our request was out of line?

- Appalled in Illinois

DEAR APPALLED: Of course not! Was your mother-in-law aware of what this person had done to her granddaughter when the collage was created? If so, her reaction is bizarre and unbelievably insensitive.

Approach her once more and ask if she would agree to take the collage to a photographer so your daughter's attacker can be digitally edited out of it. If that's not possible, perhaps she would agree to take down the collage when your family visits. However, if the response to that request is also negative, I wouldn't blame you if you went there very rarely, if ever.

DEAR ABBY: What do you say to people when they tell you they will "pray for you" when you're dealing with an illness or other life tragedy if you are a nonbeliever? Statistics say that 34 percent of Americans are nonbelievers, so please address this to the 34 percent who share my feelings of appreciation for the sentiment, but feel like hypocrites for playing along to reciprocate their kindness. I wonder if any of your nonbeliever readers can share how they internally deal with this dilemma.

- Nonbeliever, but grateful

DEAR NONBELIEVER: I'm sure they will, in droves. However, because nonbelievers physically resemble those who ARE believers, and nonbelievers don't usually wear symbols indicating their nonbelief, it's understandable that someone of faith would attempt to offer comfort that way. And most people battling a serious illness welcome a "blast of positivity," whether it is couched in religious terms or not.

When someone offers to pray for you, it's usually because the person cares about you, knows you are sick and feels helpless to offer anything more to help. Accept it for what it is, and say thank you rather than tell the person that what they offered is, in your eyes, worthless. That's called being gracious - regardless of your religious or nonreligious convictions.

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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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