Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Friends' reactions to mom's illness vary

Q: My mom is dealing with an array of medical problems right now. It's very stressful and scary. Several friends know what's up.

I'm noticing, maybe resentfully, that some friends inquire after my mom and others just don't ask. It makes me feel like maybe they aren't real friends, which is a sad realization at a hard time. I can't imagine not inquiring if the shoe was on the other foot.

Do I just write these folks off? Do I say, "Hey! It bugs me you're not asking about my ill mother!" Do I just shrug and assume people are busy? Help.

My Mom Is Sick

A: All of those are decent answers, depending on what you need and what makes sense for each friend and each friendship.

They're all different, of course; even if you have one defined group of friends, it's still just a collection of individual and often very different bonds. With one friend it might be forgivable that she never asks, while with another it's a slap in the face.

So with that in mind, you could talk it out with this friend, shrug and assume with that friend (though I'd replace "busy" with "awkward" or "afraid to say the wrong thing"), and write off a third — based on who they are, versus how well their actions approximate what you'd do in their places.

There can be wild cards, people who are just really, really good in a crisis — the ones who will call you almost daily during your hell even though you heard from them every month or three, if that, during happier times). They're the ones who say just the right thing when you didn't even know what the right thing was until they said it. The ones who ask nothing in return.

Life isn't linear, people aren't linear, and so we do ourselves and others a huge disservice when our expectations are linear. Weighing the end of valued friendships is anguish you don't need right now, too. My advice is to tilt yourself toward the people you find helpful and comforting today, and leave it at that. If there's any reckoning to be done, it can certainly wait.

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