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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Whose Dad Died Young Can't Feel the Pain of Others

DEAR ABBY: I lost my father suddenly six years ago. He was 56 and I was 25. I had always been Daddy's girl, and it took me a long time to deal with his death.

My problem is I'm unsympathetic to everyone around me now. I'll give you an example. A woman I work with is 60 and both her parents are still living, although her father is in failing health. She talks endlessly about his poor health and how it takes up all her time. Most people feel bad for her, but I resent the fact that she's upset that her dad is 86 and dying, when my dad died so young.

I feel like I am becoming a cold, unfeeling person and I don't know how to stop it. Can you help? -- UNSYMPATHETIC IN NEW YORK

DEAR UNSYMPATHETIC: I don't think you are cold, unfeeling or unsympathetic. You may still not be over the loss of your father. The late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross broke the grieving process into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It might be helpful for you to discuss your concerns with a licensed mental health professional who can help you work this through.

And in the meantime, when your co-worker raises the subject of her pain at losing her father -- which I'm sure you identify with -- explain that it's too painful for you to hear and excuse yourself.