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DEAR ABBY: I got a stepdad when I was a young teen. He never tried to replace my dad, and was very respectful of that relationship. I didn't regard him as a father figure, but more as a relative, friend, and a good man who has done a lot of good for my family.

I'm a young adult now. My real dad died recently. Father's Day is now just a painful emptiness I would rather ignore, instead of partaking in celebrations that remind me the most important man in my life is gone.

My mom insists that I continue to acknowledge my stepdad on Father's Day. I know it's the polite and courteous thing to do, and my stepdad deserves every accolade in the world, but it's awkward for me. I hurt for the loss of Dad and don't want to be reminded on a holiday where everyone else at the party is surrounded by theirs. Is there a "best path" answer here? -- DAUGHTER MISSING DAD IN KANSAS

DEAR DAUGHTER: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your father. It's understandable that your heart is heavy. Mother's Day and Father's Day can evoke sadness for those who have lost a parent.

That said, I do think the respectful thing to do would be to remember your stepdad with a card as your mother wishes. Sometimes, knowing we have done something nice for someone else -- even if we are hurting -- can make us feel better. If you do, you won't be sorry. I know, because it has worked for me.

P.S. Readers, allow me to wish a Happy Father's Day to fathers everywhere -- birth fathers, stepfathers, adoptive and foster fathers, grandfathers, and all of those caring men who mentor children and fill the role of absent dads. And, of course, a big shout-out to dual-role moms and grandmothers. I applaud you all. -- LOVE, ABBY


Teen Feels out of Touch With Family's Religion

DEAR ABBY: I am in high school and I'm an atheist. My parents are Catholic. Over the past couple of years, for various reasons, I have realized I don't believe what my parents and priest were telling me. I haven't told my parents because I'm afraid of what they'll say. Mom will probably think she failed as a parent, my grandma would never talk to me again and I'll be forced to go to church every Sunday, do the sacraments and go to religion class.

I've been silent for a while, but I'm going to make my confirmation soon and I feel terrible. When I go to confirmation classes, I feel like a hypocrite. I want to tell everyone the truth, but I don't know if it's a good idea. Should I? -- NEW ENGLAND HERETIC

DEAR "HERETIC": Although this may seem counterintuitive, consider talking to your priest about your feelings. I am positive that it won't be the first time he has heard something like this. Keep in mind that as you grow older, your feelings about atheism may moderate. People have been known to return to -- and find comfort from -- the church after a long absence.

Read more in: Teens

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