Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: After more than 49 years of a wonderful and happy marriage, my wife became ill and died within five days. I was overcome with grief. It has been four months, and I am still depressed and heartbroken. How long will it take for the heartache to go away?

From your experience, do you think it would be better to sell my home that we lived in 49 years with all the memories -- or wait a while? I live out in the country, and my small town and church offer very little social activity.

Abby, I can't seem to think clearly and would appreciate your advice. -- ROBERT IN NEW YORK STATE

DEAR ROBERT: Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss. There is no set timetable for grieving the death of a loved one.

The best advice I can offer you is to get involved with a grief support group as soon as possible. You can be referred to one by your clergyperson or the hospital where your wife died. It's a step in the right direction.

Equally as important: Do nothing in haste. Make no important decision, such as what to do with your house, for one year. By then, you will be thinking more clearly and will be able to decide what is most practical for you.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a married man, "Randy," who is 20 years my senior. He is far more financially secure than I am, but I'm the one paying for our love affair. Wherever we go -- restaurants, motels, taxi rides -- I end up paying because he has "forgotten" his wallet with the credit cards.

Abby, I love Randy with all my heart, but I am going broke. Please tell me what to do without losing him or my self-respect. -- EMPTY POCKETS IN MISSISSIPPI

DEAR EMPTY POCKETS: Your married boyfriend isn't using credit cards because he's afraid his wife will find evidence of his affair with you -- and you're paying the price for it in more ways than one.

Try this: Stop carrying cash and leave your credit cards at home. Or better yet, drop this cheap, two-timing Casanova and find a more generous guy -- who's also single.

DEAR ABBY: Last week I turned in a history paper at school. I procrastinated until the last minute and plagiarized someone else's work off the Internet. The odds are my teach will not find out about it. However, I have a feeling that I will eventually get caught, receive a failing grade, and it will go on my permanent school record.

The thought of being found out is ruining my sleep and my social life. Is there any way I can rid myself of this horrible feeling of guilt? -- COPYCAT ON CAMPUS

DEAR COPYCAT: Yes. Write another history paper and give it to the "teach" as soon as possible. Just say, "Sorry this is late. It's the paper I should have turned in." Then pray he or she is lenient and respects your desire to correct your lapse in judgment.

Hint: Make sure the paper is your very best effort.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600