Carolyn Hax: College friend’s distance adds to her grief
Dear Carolyn: A few years ago, my husband died, and immediately after that, I had a miscarriage. It was a very low time in my life. I have a group of friends from college, and one of them did not reach out during this time at all. No note, text, email, appearance at the funeral, nothing. Mutual friends made excuses I don’t recall specifically now. I am cordial to her, but I have no desire to be friends with her anymore.
She clearly feels bad about this and has hinted she wants to be closer friends again. I’ve dodged the hints. She just sent me a text asking to get together and clear the air so we can get our friendship back on track. But we can’t. I don’t hate her, I don’t dislike her even. I just don’t want to have anything to do with her beyond being basically pleasant in a group.
How should I respond? She is asking for a lunch or happy hour, and I just don’t want to. I don’t know how to send a text that I don’t wish her harm but don’t want to see her face.
— No Desire to Be Friends
No Desire to Be Friends: I am mindful of — and so sorry for — your devastation. But please allow me to make an argument for hearing her out. You’d be under zero obligation to “get our friendship back on track”; you’d just be getting an explanation for behavior you can’t imagine even has an explanation.
You can agree to the barest minimum — coffee? a walk in a public park? — and make sure you have options for an unobstructed exit. Let her say her piece, then choose whether you then have any interest in saying yours. Or don’t meet and say she’s welcome to say what’s on her mind using some other means.
I won’t defend her behavior in any way. But I do think an approach to life that grants ample space to people trying to overcome their frailties is one that pays precious dividends, especially over time. Giving her grace might even make you feel better.
If you’re just not interested in doing this, yet or ever, then send your text: “I mean no harm, but don’t want to meet [right now].”
Again — my condolences.
Re: Friend: I was once that missing friend. I am generally known as an always-there-for-you, shows-up-in-a-crisis person. A friend of mine had a psychotic break, and I fell off the edge of the earth. My birth mom was paranoid schizophrenic and it had been only two years since she’d died and I no longer had to deal with the constant surprise appearances of behavior I couldn’t handle in my life.
Afterward, I was able to talk to my friend and explain what had happened to me. It was actually a hard lesson for me to learn that there were things I couldn’t handle and I wouldn’t be the person who showed up for them. Our friendship survived — a bit altered, yes. But essentially whole and fulfilling. She was able to understand why I couldn’t be there and give to her in that moment, and I deeply appreciated it.
Anonymous: Thank you for the example, and willingness to share such a tough time in your life.