Ask Dr. Annie K: Being There for a Friend

A dear friend of mine lost her father a year ago and consistently brings him up in conservation. It’s hard when she goes on and on about how great he was and how she lost six significant males in her life within one year. My dad passed away ten years ago and I haven’t had one male in my family I could ever count on. My dad was, to put it lightly, a horrible person for the things he did to my mom and family. Every time my friend brings up her dad, it hits a dark sour spot for me. I’ve tried to talk to her about finding a way to find peace with what happened, but everyone handles things in their own time and in different ways. Is it insensitive of me to tell her that I don’t want to hear it so much? It’s ok when she would bring it up every now and then, but it’s very consistent now. I want to be a good friend and be there so I keep my mouth shut, and suppress my own personal feelings. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!
– Anonymous Reader

Love+Medicine

Thank you for this thought-provoking question. It is so hard to see a friend in pain. 

My initial thought is that you need to just listen. There is no time limit on grief and it sounds like the hurt gets reenacted every time another man leaves her. Her psyche isn’t given the chance to heal. Part of being a good friend is to listen to her for as long as she needs you to. We all need to listen more and advise less. While we are wracking our brains trying to give the best answers, all people really want is to be heard. 

It sounds like her conversation is bringing up unresolved issues for you. While it isn’t easy, isolating your own emotion from the discussion can both increase your capacity to listen and decrease your angst about the content. You and your dad followed a different script, so unlike your friend’s. 

At some point, for your own peace of mind and for your friend’s healing process, you may want to gently talk to her about your concerns. It is important not to make it about you and how it makes you feel. For her own health she needs to take time for the dad talk, and then be able to set it aside and talk about other things. If she connects every male rejection to her father’s death, it will be very difficult to sustain healthy intimate relationships. You may want to suggest she see a therapist to help her move through the stages of grief in a healthy way. 

Her dad would not want her to suffer like this. Loss is a part of life and she is lucky to have someone to grieve.

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2 comments

  1. I always respect the wisdom you share on your blog. This topic was dear to me in regards how to help others in their time of grief and loss. As well as how my grief or response to it can impact others. Ann you are a gem. Your writing is peaceful, real and inspiring. Thank you.

    1. It’s because readers ask these thought provoking questions- challenges me to think! How our grief response effects others was something I never was aware of that part :-/

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