Without father & trying to fill void

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.

High school atheist

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. Should I tell everyone the truth?

- 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.