Dear Amy:

I have unbearable guilt.

I am a 49-year-old, educated, successful man. I was raised in a loving home with three siblings.

My parents were attentive, hardworking and in love with each other. My mother went to work outside our home so that we could have college money. We were all loved and cared for unconditionally.

I met and married a difficult woman. She is selfish and spoiled. From the start, she made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with my family, so we moved 3,000 miles away. To keep peace with my wife, I have ignored my parents and siblings for 25 years.

Over the years my mother sent us countless letters, cards and gifts. All her time, money and efforts went unacknowledged. I did not send the photos of my children she begged for. My life was easier that way.

My mother died this week. There is no funeral or memorial service for me to attend.

Because of me, my children will never know the grandmother they deserved to have.

I can hardly stand to look at myself in the mirror. I cry all of the time. My wife is aloof and calls me a hypocrite.

Now, I am compelled to see my father and siblings, but I am afraid they will run me out of town, and who could blame them? Should I chance it and show up? My wife is against it.

How do I live with such guilt?

Tormented in Vancouver

Living with this guilt isn't your best option -- alleviating your guilt through your actions is the way to go.

Not surprisingly, this crisis has triggered a full-scale depression and reassessment of your life and choices. Now you have the chance to make things right. You will rediscover yourself and your humanity through your efforts.

Because your wife doesn't support you, you should seek counseling, preferably with a therapist who specializes in working with men at midlife. You need help with your depression as well as support and guidance.

You should marshal your strength and reach out to your family, starting with your father. Rather than shock your family members by showing up in your home town, write them letters expressing your remorse and asking for forgiveness. Tell them you have denied your own children the value of knowing them and that you regret it and want to make things right. Tell them you will be visiting and ask to see them.

Throw yourself onto the mercy of your family. If they are the beautifully raised and loving family you describe, they will find a way to forgive and enfold you again.

This journey will be the most difficult of your life, but the emotional rewards are great, and I wish you all the best.

Dear Amy:

My husband and I recently entertained his daughter and her family.

His daughter asked if she could say the blessing, and when she did, she prayed that her father might "come to know the Lord."

We were stunned, but said nothing.

Amy, I work in a church and my husband has sung in choirs for many years, and I assure you he knows and is known by his Lord and Savior very well.

He is resentful of those who try to cram their style of religion down his throat.

Are there others out there who feel the same way?

Stomachache

I'm sure there are others out there who feel the same way, I, for one. There's nothing quite like being a person of faith, only to be told that your faith is not enough, or not the right kind, or yesterday's flavor.

Your husband should speak to his daughter to set her straight. I think that a "no proselytizing at the table" rule is in order.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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