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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Suspects Boyfriend Is Hiding an Inability to Read

DEAR ABBY: After 32 mostly wonderful years of marriage, I lost my husband. "Arthur" had been having serious health problems for the last three years. He couldn't work and was unhappy and needy.

My first reaction after his death was, "I'm free! I can do what I want." (I had never realized I felt this way.)

Clearing out my husband's stuff and the junk he kept was exhilarating. I feel good because my house is orderly. I know of no one who has ever had this reaction. Why do I feel guilty? How can I heal? Losing a mate should be devastating. A clean house should be unimportant. -- ALONE BUT HAPPY IN CANADA

DEAR ALONE BUT HAPPY: You'll start healing as soon as you quit flogging yourself for not feeling awful. Caring for an unhappy, needy and ailing spouse for three years is physically exhausting and emotionally draining. And while many widows and widowers would not broadcast these sentiments, your feelings are not unusual. You did everything you could for your husband during his illness, and his death freed you of those demands. So enjoy your house, enjoy your life and stop blaming yourself for having a sense of relief. In time you may experience a sense of loss, but not necessarily.