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Dr. Saltzman,

My best friend's parents recently died (4 1/2 months apart). I have been there for her throughout. We (I thought) were the kind of friends who help each other in times of crisis. Meanwhile, I have been dealing with critical medical issues--34 years of dealing with issues---since I was a child, and I became very anxious, shaky, and weepy before a crucial appointment.

Almost two weeks ago, my friend and I were on the phone, and I started crying about the upcoming medical appointment. I immediately apologized, but she said she had to go and we would talk later. She did call me on the Sunday before the appointment, but I haven't heard from her since.

In that last conversation, I told her I would keep her updated and let her know when I was on the way home. The appointment went on longer than anticipated, so I text her. Then, I phoned and left a message letting her know what had happened and explaining that I would have to stay for a mammogram and bone scan the next day. In every call, I asked how she was and let her know I appreciated her ear and she had mine. No response.

It has been almost two weeks, and I have no idea what to do. Was I too needy? Did I not consider her feelings enough. (By the way, she gets upset if I do not keep her abreast of my medical problems and keep things from her.) I want to be there for her, and I am about to undergo a breast biopsy. How should I handle this? Call her? Leave her alone?

I am hurt, angry, scared, and concerned about her.

Please help.


Dear Liz--

First off, I am sorry for your suffering. Chronic illness is one of the most trying experiences known to us humans, and I wish you the strength to bear it, and that you find your way back to health.

I understand your concerns about this friendship, but I am afraid that without speaking with your friend directly I would only be guessing about her motives in having become more distant than is usual for you two. My guess, but it is only that--an uninformed conjecture--is that the mourning for her parents has left her less capable than usual of empathy for your own suffering. In other words, perhaps she is so overwhelmed with grief that she has no emotional energy left for any suffering but her own just now.

To answer your specific question: in my opinion you certainly should communicate with her, and soon. In matters of the heart, I feel that it is always better to know than to guess. So I advise you just to take the bull by the horns, be in touch with her, and arrange a meeting face to face. At that time you will be able to find out how her life is going, express your appreciation for her years of support, and apologize for perhaps having put too much weight on the friendship during her time of loss and pain. When you see how she responds to those words, you will know better what has come between you two, and how to deal with healing it, for certainly a friendship this important must be healed.

I hope your biopsy goes well for you.

Be well.

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page last modified July 19, 2007

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