I have not spoken to an old friend for a few years. We just stopped being friends. We aren’t in sync anymore like we were years ago. I just found out that she has cancer. I don’t know whether to acknowledge this or not. I don’t want the friendship back at all but I also don’t wish her any harm. What do you think ? Thank you.
–Donna Leigh, Boston
About former friends who are ill and you don’t know what to do.
We all have those old friendships that we ceased to stop working to sustain for one reason or other. As you say, you aren’t in sync any longer. A friendship takes a certain amount of work to keep the seesaw level.
Do your homework behind the scenes to find out more about your former friend’s illness by sharing your concern with mutual friends. Ask if there is something you can do.
Then try to arrange a lunch with her and another friend you have in common; do the inviting and pick up the check.
Often those with a potentially critically illness feel alone and getting out of their normal routine and looking forward to having a fun lunch date helps to strengthen their self-esteem.
Personally, I’m the worst person to ask about this. Not long ago, a childhood friend called to tell me that she had breast cancer and I burst out crying over the phone! A lot of help I was! So embarrassing for me and exactly what she did NOT need. She had to comfort me! Hopefully, I’ve learned from my overly emotionally reaction not to overreact.
From that dreadful experience I am now more centered in such situations. Cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, as you no doubt know.
Think about your situation like this. If it was you who had cancer, how would you want your former friend to respond.
A simple fun lunch sounds good to me. At the lunch don’t feel that you have to ask a lot of questions. Let her talk. Perhaps you’ll pick up on some small thing you can do to help other than treating her to lovely lunch.
One last thing, instead of asking, “How are you?” Instead say, “How are you doing?”
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