Dear Abby: I recently lost my brother to suicide. After many months of depression, medication and trips to a psychologist, life was more than he could bear. It has been very hard the past few weeks dealing with everything that has gone on.

I know people don't mean to be cruel, but when they hear that someone has died, they ask, "How old?" (He was only 43.) Then they say, "Oh, did he have a heart attack?"

It's painful to say, "No, he committed suicide." Now I think I have come up with a good answer that has stopped a few people already — and it's the truth. My minister suggested I pass it along to you to share with your readers.

A lady at church asked the usual questions, and my response was, "No, he died as a result of severe depression." That stopped her in her tracks. With an embarrassed look on her face, she said, "Oh" and turned and left.

Hope this is a help to others who are faced with the same situation. — Mary Anderson, Stillwater, Minn.

Dear Mary: Please accept my sympathy for the untimely loss of your beloved brother. I have said many times that it is impolite to ask the cause of death when extending one's sympathy to the bereaved because discussing the details is usually painful regardless of how the person died. I think you handled the intrusion extremely well.

Dear Abby: I am attracted to one of my college friends. We went out last Saturday night, and I asked if he would like us to be "more than friends." He said, "No. We're graduating in a few months, and I don't want either of us to become 'attached.' "

I asked him if he would like us to be "friends with benefits." You know — friends who show affection and who comfort each other, with no strings attached. He said OK as long as I promised there would be no repercussions — then he kissed me. Abby, it was one of those kisses that if I had been standing up, I would have fallen down!

I haven't been able to stop thinking about that kiss. I know we're going our separate ways in a few months, and I think I can protect myself from becoming attached. On the other hand, do you think I am setting myself up for a fall? — "No Strings" Girl in Virginia

Dear "No Strings": Yes, big time. Don't sample the goodies unless you're willing to risk addiction and withdrawal. You're hoping that the young man will change his mind about you in a few months and give you a commitment. However, what you really would be doing is fulfilling many a young man's fantasy — a physical relationship with a woman who has no expectations.

Think twice about your "benefit package." Do you really want a broken heart as a graduation gift?

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