Ask Amy: Friend feels selfish with response to grief

Dear Amy: My childhood friend of almost 50 years recently lost a child to suicide. We usually only call one another on our birthdays, and I have not physically seen her in almost 20 years.

I have struggled most of my life with PTSD resulting from a sexual abuse trauma when I was 17.

I really did not begin healing until my current physician diagnosed me and referred me to a specialist for therapy.

Suicides always send me to a dark place because it was riding my shoulder for so many years.

My friend did not notify me personally; she posted the news to Facebook.

I saw that she was receiving a lot of support, and I could not bring myself to call her.

Months passed, and instead I wrote her a letter of apology for my lack of communication, and expressed as well as I know how the sorrow I felt for her in dealing with her terrible loss.

She has not reached out to me.

I am riddled with guilt over my reaction to her loss. I usually reach out to people who have lost loved ones in a timely manner.

She has had a rough life, but in the last 25 years she remarried and took life by the horns and has done quite well.

I, however, am just now finding peace, due to finally receiving proper treatment. I procrastinated reaching out because of my own selfish(?) fears of my own instability.

How can I fix this?

— Selfish

Dear Selfish: Your shame has sent you into a self-punishing spiral. Now that you have processed your own behavior, you really should stop making this about you.

You have no way of knowing how this tragedy has affected your friend. You should assume that she received, read and appreciated your thoughtful note, but this sort of communication does not beg a response (grieving people are not always able to reply), and so do not think that the ball is in her court.

You should call your friend, even though it isn’t her birthday. Do not continue to apologize for or explain your reaction to her child’s death. Don’t make references to your own trauma. Simply tell her that she continues to be in your daily thoughts, and ask her how she is doing. And then listen to her with thoughtful compassion. If she doesn’t want to talk about her loss, then segue into other topics that you two have traditionally discussed.

Dear Amy: Recently a longtime, good friend was staying with me as a guest for five nights at an expensive resort.

She is used to consuming drinks and snacks throughout the day.

I am the opposite and closely watch what I eat and always politely decline ordering anything when she asks.

Last week she told me how impolite it is for me to never eat anything while she does because she feels she shouldn’t be eating “alone,” and it makes her not enjoy her food.

I was stunned and yet politely assured and reminded her that I am not being rude but simply do not eat in-between meals (she knows this very well).

Well, she went on and on trying to get a different response from me.

I was hurt and felt as though she was treating me as one of her children, husband, or work colleague.

I let it end and had no other response.

Did I need to reply by saying I watch my weight and do not eat or enjoy unhealthy donuts and such mindlessly all day or explain a health problem?

Is it necessary to order something (only to throw it away) for my friend to not eat alone?

I do not want to be impolite, wasteful, lose my friend or be berated like this again.

— Upset

Dear Upset: You do not need to snack alongside your friend in order to be polite. You also don’t need to ingest her bullying and berating.

Dear Amy: “No Plaque” complained because her dental hygienist spoke to her using “baby talk.”

As a mid-30 something, I can’t recall having spent much time with elderly people who DIDN’T have some type of dementia.

It has an unfortunately outsized role in my life, family and social circle.

This might also be the case for the hygienist.

— Been There

Dear Been There: I’m sorry about your own experience with elders, but you also need to get out more.

Baby talk is not necessary when dealing with someone with dementia (which this writer does not have).

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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