Disappearing Friend

6 Nov

Dear LetterBalm: I have a good friend who recently went missing. E-mails and texts unanswered, no replies to plans proposed, unanswered phone calls, even a no-show for drinks after work. I couldn’t stand it any longer, and when he did show up after we made plans for dinner, I called him on it. He burst into tears. Turns out he had a really good reason. His wife has been battling cancer this year, and he’s been preoccupied with her care and treatments. The prognosis is still uncertain. He didn’t want to tell me because he didn’t want anyone to know. I feel really bad for what I did – I think I added to his anxiety. What can I say to him after I was such a jerk?

–Apologetic

Your buddy has something bigger going on in his life than your friendship, but please don’t worry. None of us knows just what to say when we’ve pushed for an answer from a good friend and are blindsided by the true response. Your friend was trying to protect you, and, in the process, he exposed himself to your criticism. All will be well; your friendship will endure. Ms. L.B. suggests you e-mail or call your friend and let him know you’re sorry for pressing him and for his troubles now, but that you can be there to take some pressure off him:

Geraldo, I’ve got to apologize again for giving you grief about not hanging out with me. We’re good friends, and I’m sorry you’re going through such a bad time with Consuela’s sickness. I just want you to know that I’m here if you need me – I can lend you my car or pick up stuff or just step in last-minute. Whenever you want, we can get together for a beer or something so you can take the pressure off. You don’t have to say anything; we can just sit. You can call me anytime.

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