DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been married a year and a half. I was childless; she came into the marriage with three sons. The middle son went to live with his father, and I bonded with the oldest (age 17) and the youngest (age 9). Both boys called me Dad, and I called them my sons.
Two months ago, the older boy, "Troy," was killed in a car wreck. Friends and family came to console "Cynthia," but not me. The only time they talked to me was to ask how she was doing. When it came time to plan the services, Cynthia and her family did everything. No one asked me a question or for my opinion.
Troy was my son, too -- "step" or not. The pain of losing him is real and profound. I have tried to be there for Cynthia, but she has distanced herself from me. She has received cards, letters and phone calls, but I am having a difficult time dealing with the grief and loss, too. Why can't people realize that Troy was loved by both of us, not just by his mother? -- IN PAIN IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR IN PAIN: Please know you have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your stepson. It's possible that you didn't receive more support because people -- in the midst of their own grief -- didn't realize you needed it. You may feel "distanced" from your wife because she is grieving so deeply she is unable to communicate.
I hope the two of you will join a grief support group. It may bring you closer again and bring you some degree of comfort. Your religious adviser should be able to help you locate one.
A group that has been mentioned in my column before -- The Compassionate Friends -- can also be helpful. Founded in 1969, it has 600 chapters and offers mutual assistance, friendship and understanding to families following the death of a child. Its Web site is www.compassionatefriends.org, and the toll-free telephone number is (877) 969-0010.
DEAR ABBY: What is "true forgiveness"? I said some terrible things to a friend in anger and didn't hear from her for a few weeks. Recently, I received an e-mail saying she "forgave" me but no longer wants to keep in touch, adding that it is important for her to know that I am happy.
I wrote back saying I still want to stay in touch and remain friends. I apologized profusely for my lapse in judgment, but she hasn't responded.
Abby, I thought forgiveness meant to absolve, to cease to feel resentment -- to "wipe the slate clean." Am I wrong to feel that? Isn't she still holding a grudge against me? I realize it's up to her to communicate, but I'm confused how she can claim she forgives me while still harboring bad feelings. Can you help? -- PERPLEXED IN SOUTH DAKOTA
DEAR PERPLEXED: To forgive someone does not mean that you develop amnesia. While the woman you hurt may not be holding a grudge, she may consider you too "dangerous" to allow back into her life. May I offer a word of advice to you? Continue moseying on down the road of life, and in the future watch your mouth, or eventually you may find yourself friendless.
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