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by Abigail Van Buren

Mistress' Affair Has Ended After Death of Man's Wife

DEAR ABBY: I was in a seven-year relationship with a wonderful married man I'll call Hank. We were discreet and respectful with his wife. She died three months ago after a lingering illness. A month after that, Hank suggested we date openly and talked as though we were a couple.

Two weeks ago, he canceled our plans at the last minute, saying he had had a "surreal experience" and "what was OK then is not OK now." He would not be more specific. I begged for an explanation and closure. He refused to be more specific and became defensive. We have not spoken since.

Abby, I am still reeling from this because I thought we had a strong friendship and a foundation for something in the future.

Friends have told me that rejection of the mistress after the death of a wife is very common. Can you give me some insight into the emotional dynamics of this situation? -- FORMER MISTRESS IN MOURNING

DEAR FORMER MISTRESS: Yes. It could be delayed guilt -- or his "surreal experience" was with someone else.

DEAR ABBY: I am 52 years old and have been married for 22 years to my second husband. We have four teenage sons. I was widowed at 22 when my first husband was killed in Vietnam. I was pregnant and lost our child when I was told of my husband's death.

I was 30 when I married my second husband. He knows, of course, that I was married before, but for some reason I never felt confortable telling his parents. (My children know.) I think his parents always suspected something, but they've never asked me directly.

My problem is, I am afraid this information will slip someday, and my in-laws will be hurt and angry at me. What do you think I should do? -- WANT TO DO THE RIGHT THING

DEAR WANT: This has stayed in the closet for too long. You are acting as though you have a shameful secret. Being the widow of a man who gave his life for his country is nothing to be ashamed of. It should be a point of pride.

Call a family meeting with your in-laws, and with your husband at your side, tell them. They deserve to know the truth, and it will ease your conscience.

DEAR ABBY: My sister-in-law has only a few months to live. She's called everyone in the family to explain her situation and to express her last wishes here on Earth. We are grateful she has been granted this time to take care of loose ends and to express her feelings.

Since we are never taught how to deal with death, what do you say to someone you love, who is dying, to make them feel better about themselves?

My conversations with her feel awkward and forced. I feel tongue-tied and at a loss for words. I think about her daily and want to call her, but what can I say? -- AT A LOSS FOR WORDS

DEAR AT A LOSS: Talk about the good times. Let her know she has made a difference. Point out the positive achievements of her life, all the people who know and love her, her personal and business successes, and what her presence has meant to the people whose lives she has touched and always will. It's OK to cry. Tears are healing, and it will be therapeutic for both of you.

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