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Supporting Friends & Family in Distress
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Supporting Friends & Family in Distress
I have been a part of a close group of girlfriends for several years.
We spend a lot of time together and are very supportive of each other.
In the past few months some really life-altering changes have happened
to everyone in the group except me. Divorces, forclosures, spouses
falling off the wagon, job losses, major illness and surgery, kids
getting in trouble with the law, parents dying. It's really a
nightmare. I am able to be there for my friends and help them out in
lots of ways. What is troubling me is that it's very awkward for me
to talk about my own life, which is going really well in lots of ways.
Friend's will say, ''What's up with you? Tell me something good'' and
I'm floundering because the good stuff in my life seems to me to be
salt in their wounds, because it's about exactly the opposite of what
their problems are. We're making an offer on a house, or getting
promoted at work, the kids won some kind of award, etc. I'm worried
it will eventually lead to the end of our friendship, because several
women are truly in crisis mode and are not at a stage one would expect
equanimity. I just smile and say, ''Oh things are good'' and change
the subject. This is my support network and I can't imagine losing it.
However, I sometimes wonder if these problems last a long time, if I
won't get burnt out being the only ''well one''. I'm also conflicted
because I feel like I would have a hard time explaining time spent
away from the group to try and cultivate new friendships to have a
place I can feel supported in my mundane, but not illegitimate
concerns. I am married and talk with my spouse, but he's just not a
First of all, it doesn't sound to me as if you are the only ''well''
one, it sounds like
you are the only one not currently having challenges. Don't worry, no
one lives a
charmed life, your turn will come. And when it does, do you want your
not to tell you about how great their lives are? Will you begrudge them
and happiness, because you're having difficulties? Do you really think
friends would regard the good things in your life as ''salt in their
wounds?'' It's not
as if you are intentionally slighting them by not happening to have
going on right now.
And think about this: if these are truly good, close friends of yours,
who love you,
perhaps your current good fortune will actually be CHEERING for them.
what you are saying otherwise: that they are so full of self-pity that
how great things are for you will just be infuriating for them, because
they'll feel so
jealous. What kind of friends would they be then?
Don't Begrudge My Friends Their Happiness
Instead of bragging about buying a new house or receiving a
promotion to your friends who are struggling, you could say that
your life is completely boring and you hope it stays that way so
that you can be there for your friend who is going through a
difficult time. If you want to talk about something, can you
tell an upbeat story about how someone you know solved the
problem that your friend is going through? For example, I helped
my friend who was going through a difficult time by telling him
about an option to take time off from work without pay. He
wasn't aware that his employer offered that option.
Modest (with much to be modest about)
Be there for your friends -- you never know when the shoe is
going to be on the other foot...BUT, don't be the sole source of
support for them. I was always that person who took on her
friends' problems. One friend (turned out she was pretty
depressed and had been in and out of institutions for
years...when she went off her meds, I would end up fielding 3
a.m. phone calls to talk about her life as the illegitimate
offspring of Baby Doc Duvalier. That is the extreme, but there
were plenty of other more normal problems that took way too much
of my energy. I listen. If they want advice, I give it. But,
if we are still talking about the same issue a few weeks on (in
the same way...not new developments in the same issue -- I
realize that divorce and all of the surrounding issues are not a
two week thing...but, I don't want to discuss 'the jerk' for the
next three months), then I start to wean myself off of the
Also, make new friends. You are allowed to...
Trust that when your friends ask about your life that they really
want to hear about your life--even if it's going well. Sometimes
people going through a rough time don't want to think about their
own stuff, and since they're good friends I can only assume they
really do care about you and your life, too. And if you still
feel uncomfortable, feel free to say, ''Things are going pretty
well for me, but I feel funny talking about it because I know
you're having such a hard time right now.'' It might actually lead
to a good conversation.
Speaking as someone who has had more than a bit of trouble
lately, please know that when your friends say, ''tell me
something good,'' they mean it. People who are having a hard time
need a break from thinking about what is going wrong in their
lives. If you are close friends they will probably let you know
if you are causing offense. It's easy for people who are having a
challenging time to become isolated because others feel
uncomfortable around them. It's okay. Just hang in there, be a
good listener, and make them laugh.
I have never been in your situation, but I wanted to share a
situation that might provide food for thought.
I have a girlfriend for whom nothing is every wrong. ''Things are
good'' is her only reply. We are in similar points in our lives,
marriages, and child-rearing. I think she thinks my life is
harder than hers; having her say nothing about her life certainly
makes me feel like mine is harder! What's more, it doesn't
encourage me to share anything about my life, good or bad. It
forces me to reply with nothing more than ''things are okay,'' too.
These women are your friends; they care about you and your life
no matter what is going on in theirs. Share your news--the good,
the bad, the petty--and listen closely to theirs. Doing less will
be recognized as a judgment of their ability to care for you, or
a comment on your willingness to care about them.
Think twice about running off to find new friends....It may all
hit the fan for you someday, and the friends you find in fair
weather may not be so interested in seeing you through.
Your post raises some interesting points. As a person who has
gone through hard times, I can assure you that when I call my
friends it's wonderful to hear how well they are doing and to
hear their genuine good-news stories. This allows me to share
in their happiness even when times for me might not be the
best. It doesn't make me feel bitter or isolated to hear that
although I am going through a rough patch my friends are not.
Frienship has been called a sharing of souls. It is a
wonderful thing when it is genuine and sincere.
You can inspire your friends if you are genuine with them and
if you don't pre-judge or over-analyze them.
Also, there's nothing wrong with making new friends as well who
are currently going through happy times. New friendships don't
banish old ones.
friendship enriches everyone
First, let me just say how lucky your friends are to have
supportive friendships in place like this group of women, even
though it sounds like they are going through a lot.
Second, I am in their place and I want you to know that some of
us on this crazy downward spiraling roller coaster are glad to
have the distraction of some of your good news (or even just
plain old day to day stuff). My son has a serious illness and I
can be a bit of a handful for my friends to care-take at times. I
don't have a tight group of girlfriends but the positive things
my friends bring are sometimes the only good thing to cross my
mind all day. I need their goings-on to remind me things can and
will get better and it's just a matter of riding it out. Thank
you becca anna and bamber for buying houses, making me help you
pick-out your outfits, and for being my friends even when I've
got nothing sunny.
this page was last updated: Nov 14, 2008
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