My beautiful 20-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. I am writing this not only for myself, but for all parents who have lost a child, and to all of the wonderful people who asked, "What can I do for you?"
At the time there wasn't much anyone could do to help, but after two years I have an answer: Accept me for who I am NOW.
When Rachel came into my life, it changed me profoundly. Losing her did the same. Her father and I work hard to honor her memory, but we will never "get over it" to the degree of being who we were before. I am different now. In some ways - I think - better. I am kinder, more patient, more appreciative of small things, but I am not as outgoing nor as quick to laugh.
I know people mean well when they encourage me to get on with my life, but this IS my life. My priorities have changed. My expectations of what my future will hold have changed. Please extend to me again the offer of "anything I can do" and, please, accept me as I am now.
- Different Now in Riverview, Fla.
DEAR DIFFERENT NOW: Please accept my profound sympathy for the tragic loss of your daughter. I hope that your letter will help anyone who doesn't understand that the death of a child is the most devastating loss parents can suffer and that the experience is life-changing. They may get beyond it, but they never get "over" it. To expect that they would is unrealistic, because it's a wound that may become less visible but never goes away.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I struggled for years to have children. After many attempts and disappointments, we have exhausted all our options. It has been extremely difficult for me to accept.
My husband recently found his daughter from a previous relationship. He knew she existed, but his ex had kept the girl from him for many years. He is now ecstatic and wants to spend every minute with her. He tells me how happy he is to have a daughter. I want to be supportive, but it kills me.
The girl appears to have no desire to have me in her life. I don't know if I'll ever be able to view her as my stepdaughter. Yes, she's my husband's - but she is his, not "ours."
I accept that my feelings are somewhat selfish, but I am not sure how to deal with them. I have been in and out of counseling with no change. Please help.
- Not a "Real" Mom
DEAR NOT: Stop beating yourself up for having unpleasant feelings. If your description is accurate, your husband has allowed his daughter to "clique" you out. While it's understandable that because of their long separation his daughter could be fixated on him and vice versa, he should let her know that both of you will love her if she'll give you the chance.
Look at it from her perspective. If she's a young woman, she is dealing with a lot of emotions right now. Try to be patient, treat her warmly when you see her, and give her a chance to get to know you. Good relationships aren't hatched fully formed; they take time to build.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.