DEAR ABBY: My wife has stage 4 breast cancer. She is only 51, and our most optimistic prognosis is three to four more years.

Our children, 15 and 16, understand her disease, but don't really have a sense of how much longer we all have together.

Recently, we went out to dinner, and the kids started talking about my retirement plans and their college plans.

Later that night, my wife told me how sad it was hearing the kids talk about things she knows she will never see.

I have been debating whether I should have a talk with the kids and perhaps suggest they avoid subjects that make their mother sad.

What do you think?

- Not Talking About the Future

DEAR NOT TALKING: Before talking to your children, I think you should talk to your wife. Although your instinct is to protect her, I don't think you can.

Sadness in her situation is normal. I'm sure if you were to ask her if she'd prefer the kids censor their remarks in front of her, she would tell you she wants to hear everything she can about what they are thinking.

When people have a terminal illness, they have a right to be sad when contemplating the things they will be missing - in your wife's case it will be seeing her children get married, her grandchildren and more.

Let your children express themselves fully with their mother, and if she's having a bad/sad day, listen and let her unburden herself.

A joy shared is twice a joy, and a burden shared is half a burden.

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