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Tell Me About It: Be honest with friends who were absent during illness

Q: I am 23. About a year ago I was diagnosed with what turned out to be a nonlife-threatening cancer. Throughout that time, I (or my family) sent infrequent update emails to friends and our extended family letting them know what was going on. At one point, I announced that I was ready for visitors and phone calls. I heard from a few people, but not at all from some friends I would have expected to hear from. I understand that some people didn't know how to react or what to say. Though my feelings were hurt at the time, this isn't something I am choosing to hold grudges over.

But now, as I'm re-emerging, friends will say things like, "Sorry I wasn't in touch more, but I knew you were well taken care of." How do I respond when they say things like this?

Healthy but Confused

A: Now that you're feeling better, you have an impulse to make people more crisis-friendly by educating them. I understand that. But it's not your job to change the way anyone responds to some friend's future illness. It is your job, as a friend, to be a friend, which includes sharing your feelings, and giving those close to you a chance to give you what you want and need. To those whose absence didn't rattle you, you give the hey-no-worries treatment. With friends whose absence did rattle you, deploy the truth: "I was well cared for, yes, but I missed you and was hurt you didn't come." If they take it as a guilt trip, then assure them that's not your intent. The results could be awkward. Or, the ensuing conversation could bring you closer to these select few friends than before.

Tell Me About It: Be honest with friends who were absent during illness 02/11/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 6:42pm]
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