this is truly beautiful, Peter. painful to read but shining with compassion and hope. i don't have answers to your questions, but it sure sounds to me like a measure of healing has taken place in your heart from the compassion that is glowing through these words.
"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself... And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity." - Paulo Coelho