DEAR ABBY: I still feel immensely hurt because of a failed relationship from almost 30 years ago. My high school sweetheart of almost four years broke off our engagement when we were in our early 20s. Our lives were going in different directions -- I was going to college and she was partying.

Over the years I never really got over the hurt, even though I have been married for 20 years and have a loving family. I finished college and have a great career.

Recently the wound was reopened when she reconnected through our high school Web site. She told me about her life, which has had its ups and downs. She now lives five states away. She's happily married but "just wanted to see what I'm doing and how my life ended up." I never returned the e-mail as it hurts too much.

How do I get over this, or doesn't the pain ever truly go away? -- ACHING IN NEW YORK

DEAR ACHING: First, thank your higher power that you have a successful career, a happy marriage and a loving family. Your pain will dissipate when you stop nursing your old hurts and count your blessings.

Quit dwelling on a disappointment from 30 years ago and begin living in the moment. Brooding is wasted effort. It only diminishes the present, and you have already wasted enough time looking over your shoulder.

If my commonsense cure doesn't do the trick, ask your doctor for a referral to a licensed psychotherapist for counseling because it appears you're mesmerized by the ghost of Christmas past.

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DEAR ABBY: In April, my husband and I lost our daughter, Sophia, to complications from several birth defects. We received support from everyone we know, including some nice gifts, money for expenses, as well as cards and meals.

We have so many people to thank. We truly appreciate everything we have received, and when I see people in person I thank them. But I can't seem to bring myself to write thank-you cards.

Would someone expect a thank-you card for a gift to a parent who has just lost a child? I'm dreading the idea of going through the process of writing them. It brings back so many difficult memories. Does that make me ungrateful? I don't want to seem ungrateful, but the stress of having to write the thank-you cards is making me sick. -- GRIEVING MOTHER IN MISSOURI

DEAR GRIEVING MOTHER: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your baby girl. Please know that under the circumstances, all of your feelings are normal. However, the caring and generosity of those who reached out to you should be acknowledged.

Because you can't bring yourself to do this task yourself, enlist the help of close friends and family to help. The message doesn't have to be long and fancy. Keep it simple: "Thank you for reaching out to our family during this difficult time. Your kindness and generosity are much appreciated," should suffice. You should sign the cards. This will get the job done and free you from any sense of guilt or obligation you have for not having tackled the task sooner.

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Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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