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Dealing With Friends

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I went to the movies with a girlfriend yesterday evening. It was the second time I've been social since I lost my husband. It was okay, but afterwards we went for coffee and talked. She's been very helpful during this whole thing - coming with food after the funeral, calling and sending messages and e-mails, letting me know she's there.

The problem is that she constantly talks about her family, like what they did together over the weekend - making me feel even more alone. And she's very into showing pity for me, emphasizing how miserable I must be and how awful my situation is, and how horrified she would be to be me.

I KNOW how awful my situation is and how miserable I am. But I don't need it rubbed in. If anything I need hope that things will get better. I do think she's trying to be sympathetic, but it's misguided sympathy. And I'd rather have empathy than sympathy.

She said things like "You're living every woman's nightmare" and "Thyge (my husband) is dead. What a horrifying situation for you and your sons." She told me about somebody else we know who got divorced. I said that must be very difficult for her. She replied that at least her kids have a father, not like mine.

I've asked her earlier not to go on and on about her husband as it makes me feel bad. Especially hearing about their wonderful weekends together. I have trouble asking her not to talk about her kids - even though when she does, I get this image of them as carefree, happy-go-lucky teenagers who still have their dad. While mine are burdened with grief. It hurts. And it hurts to be reminded constantly of how miserable I am. I can manage that on my own.

How do I express to her how her sympathetic comments makes me feel? How do I get her to understand what to say to me and what not to?


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Tell her exactly what you told us... "I KNOW how awful my situation is and how miserable I am. But I don't need it rubbed in. If anything I need hope that things will get better. I do think she's trying to be sympathetic, but it's misguided sympathy. And I'd rather have empathy than sympathy." If that doesn't work, find reasons to not be around her. I know that's hard because she's your friend and right now, you do need your friends around you.

Maybe your friend just doesn't know how to deal with the situation of being a friend who lost a loved one? Get her a book on how to be that friend? I did look online for an answer and found this video... http://www.ehow.com/...o-has-lost.html I hope it helps.

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Melina, dear ~ I think Laurie's suggestions are excellent. You can decide how to contact your friend, either by phone, in person or even by writing what you need to say in a letter or an e-mail, if that would be easier for you.

You could say something like this: “I was thinking about our evening together and I wanted to say a couple of things.” This approach gets her attention and makes it clear that you have a message to deliver. Then, as Laurie suggested, you can tell her how difficult it is for you to hear how awful your situation is and how miserable you are, and then offer suggestions for what would be helpful to you instead -- as in "It would really help me if instead, you would . . ."

In addition to the video she found, you might want to check out the resources listed on this Web page: Helping Someone Who's Grieving

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I agree with what has been suggested already. When you talk to her, make sure to focus on your feelings to help preclude her getting hurt feelings. People can't argue our experience/feelings.

Example: "When you bring up how awful I must be feeling, it makes me focus on it and I feel worse. I choose to focus on what I can do about the situation rather than how terrible everything seems." or "When you talk about how wonderful your life/husband/kids are, I think about the contrast to my own life/situation/kids...maybe we could talk about something else at least until I can better handle this. It makes me think about all I am missing out on, my kids are missing, etc."

Good luck, I know it's hard, their worlds seem very removed from the one we now have. I know she's trying to be understanding, sympathetic, but sometimes when they haven't been through it they just don't know the best way or what we need and we have to tell them.

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I can remember looking around me at different places or events and the people there and asking how can they all be happy. I didn't want to be around happy people because I was more than miserable....it does get easier. But people do not get our pain...you unfortunately have to experience it to know what to give others and that is one of the lessons we learn. However I agree with the other comments, if she is a good friend and she sounds like she. she unfortunaely is not reading you. I remember saying "can we talk about something else" and it did the trick ....they got the message.

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Hi Melina,

I am going to group therapy and this is one of the topics that we have discussed.It was suggested that we write a "grief" letter, explaining how we feel, what we are going through.

Let the people know what to expect from you in your current state.

Let them know what they can do to help during this time.

Let them know what is needed and when it is needed.

Give this letter to everyone that you know. They will appreciate knowing how to help you.

I also found a wish list on this site that says it all.. It was posted 13 August 2004 by a guest,Steve. The title is A Wish List For Those Around You..how you would like people to respond.

I've given a copy of this to many people and they were very receptive.

Hope these suggestions help.


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Melina, my heart hurts for you. I am sorry you experienced that from your friend. I concur with all the suggestions you have been given. The only thing I would add is that I encourage you to listen to your own instincts and do what feels right for you.

Courage to you, Carol Ann

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