DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband and I have remained friends and lovers for the past 37 years. We maintained a relationship that included shared vacations and socializing together. We even talked of living in a retirement home together one day.

Three months ago, he stopped communicating with me. A month later, he sent me a greeting card telling me to "remember our good times always."

My heart has not mended. I cry continuously. I have not contacted him, but I know I deserve more than this because of the nature of our relationship. Abby, how do I handle these emotions, my future, and the social and family events that will be coming up? -- GRIEVING IN DAYTON, OHIO

DEAR GRIEVING: Under the circumstances, your feelings -- and your tears -- are normal. You are grieving for your lost husband. This is a process you should have gone through 37 years ago, when the marriage ended. But because you continued behaving as husband and wife, the strings remained tied.

It would be healthier for you if you had some closure. By that I mean if he had explained why he was ceasing communication. After all this time you deserve some answers -- even if they're painful to hear.

You may need professional counseling to handle your emotions. As to the social and family events that are scheduled, ask a friend to accompany you. Your future will take care of itself.

DEAR ABBY: I am in my 40s, single, and have bought a house. There is no man in my future. My parents helped me by giving me the down payment. They expect me to pay them back plus interest.

My parents paid for both my sisters' weddings and also helped with the expense for my brother's wedding. Since they didn't have to pay for a wedding for me, I think the down payment should be considered "wedding money," and I should not be required to pay it back. What is your opinion? -- JILTED DOWN SOUTH

DEAR JILTED: What bothers me about your letter is the sense of entitlement it conveys. I assume that at the time your parents loaned you the money, you agreed to the terms. If that's the case, then you should abide by them. You are fortunate your parents were willing (and able) to help you. Residential loans are not easy to get right now.

DEAR ABBY: I always find the letters you print about "pennies from heaven" intriguing. I lost a dear friend to a serious illness a few years ago. I was at work the day after her death, and we were having a severe, unseasonable thunderstorm. I had to wait until it was over to get to my car.

As I approached my car, I noticed a shiny penny -- not on the ground, but on the back of my windshield! The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I immediately thought of my friend Lisa. She must have known that I had been berating myself for not having been there for her while she was at her sickest point. In my heart, I feel that the penny was Lisa's way of telling me she forgave me for not being a better friend. -- WISH I HAD A SECOND CHANCE

DEAR WISH: Regret is the cancer of life. Rather than looking backward, resolve to do better in the future. We find forgiveness where we look for it -- and if finding the penny was a comfort to you, then it has served its purpose.

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