Freaking Out About Your Friends
Feb 26, 2013 by Victoria Noe, in anticipatory grief , Friend Grief , Friendship , Grief , grief and guilt
I admitted recently that I’m a little paranoid about the health of my friends. Okay, more than a little. Three death notices in a week’s time will do that to you. So when I hear comments like…
“She called the doctor; something’s wrong and she’s not sure what.”
“He’s not eating.”
“She’s been coughing for weeks.”
“They’re running more tests.”
…I can feel my body tense up.
Maybe you have a friend whose health is shaky. Maybe they drink too much, or use drugs. Maybe they’re so busy taking care of their families than they neglect their own needs. Maybe they’re healthy as a horse, but something strange has happened.
No one wants to hear a lecture about their health. “Stubborn, not incompetent” is the way I describe a lot of people I know. And yeah, I could describe myself that way, too.
“Do you have that effect on people? You keep them all jolly?” demands one character in The Big Chill. The friends are gathered for the funeral of one of their group who committed suicide. All of them are dissecting Alex’ last days and years, speculating on how they could’ve stopped him from taking his own life. Guilt? Sure. Ego? Probably. Selfishness? Absolutely. And why not?
Our friends are part of us. They represent the best – and occasionally the worst – in us. They remind us of who we are and where we’ve come from. They are there for us when we need them, even if we think we don’t.
So if a friend is sick, we want to help. If they’re doing things that are bad for them, we want to make them to stop it.
Saying “I’m worried about you” is often met with “Don’t be – I’m fine.” That kind of rejection is hard to hear. But what is said next is important.
Instead of – as I tend to do – getting mad or defensive when they reject your concern, try following it up with this:
“I’ve lost too many friends already. I don’t want to lose you, too. So I’m going to keep worrying because I love you. And I’m here if you need anything, anytime. Because I know you’d do the same for me.”
I think I’ll give this a try. How about you?