DEAR ABBY: I am married to a man I’ll call “Chad.” We have had a few rough years since our child came along. We went to counseling as long as Chad’s parents paid for it, and even tried talking to the pastor of our church. Not a whole lot has changed.

I know you recommend counseling for married people in trouble, but what do you suggest for those of us who can’t afford it? – TRYING TO MAKE IT IN TUCSON

DEAR TRYING: A program that has been mentioned before in my column, and has enjoyed much success, is Retrouvaille, which started in Canada in 1977 and is now offered in many countries. It is Catholic in origin and orientation, but is open to all married couples, regardless of religious background.

Retrouvaille consists of a weekend, followed by a series of 12 presentations over the following three months. It is not a spiritual retreat, a sensitivity group or a seminar. During the Retrouvaille program, which is run by three married couples and a priest, the “team couples” – all of whom have experienced disillusionment, pain, anger and conflict in their own marriages – share their personal struggles, reconciliation and healing. For more information on programs in your area, call toll-free: (800) 470-2230 or visit

DEAR ABBY: My husband, “George,” died seven months ago, after a four-month battle with esophageal cancer. He was the oldest of six siblings. We all got along well. My three children and I are grateful to both of our families for all the help they gave us throughout George’s illness.

My problem is George’s brothers, sisters and their families. They have dropped us from their lives. I know they are grieving for their brother. My children and I are grieving for him, too. They say it’s “too hard to see us” because there are too many memories.

Abby, I like being with George’s family because they remind me of my husband. I don’t sit around talking about him all the time, and I don’t expect them to do that either. I guess what I’m looking for is a feeling of still belonging. I’m not talking about wanting to be with these people 24/7, just maybe seeing them once every two or three weeks. We all live close to each other.

Losing my husband was devastating, but losing his family makes it ever so much worse. How do I get them to see I need to stay in the family “loop”? – GEORGE’S WIFE IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR WIFE: Please accept my sympathy for your loss. You didn’t mention how often you saw your in-laws before your husband’s death, or what demands there are on their time. However, families are made up of individuals, and it would be interesting to know which of your husband’s siblings expressed that it is “too hard to see you,” whether they all feel the same way, or if one person was speaking for all of them.

While it may not be possible to remain close to all of your husband’s brothers and sisters, it may be possible to stay close with some of them. At the same time, please consider enlarging your social circle. Volunteer work is an excellent way to do that if you have the time. It will also give you less time to dwell on your loss.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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