Dealing with grief, unsure how to ask friends for support, if at all.
posted by anonymous to human relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My Dad has been been battling cancer the past few years, and after almost two years of apparent remission, was diagnosed with local aggressive recurrence back in March. The symptoms are progressing rapidly. We have always been very close as a family and I am very involved in my father's care (the doctor visits, arranging tests, all the logistics). When I first learned of his disease, a few years back, I was in the process of breaking up with someone, and for the first few months for a year I was basically in survival mode, crying or sleeping whenever I wasn't at my Dad's house, most of the time.
It's like I started grieving for him then. Then he got better for a while, even though he was noticeably weaker. I got into a better mental space, and my life also improved, with a new hobby and some new friendships.
This year we learned he has a recurrence. It was hard. There were some really difficult decisions to make, and... also lots of sadness, and fear, and uncertainty.
We grew even closer and this is the part for which I am grateful. My Dad is surrounded by love, and as much companionship as he can handle.
When all this started, my friends were supportive. They called, they invited me over, they sent messages. I was grateful, and tried not to impose on them too much. I knew it can be exhausting to deal with someone else's grief so I tried to not to ask for help too often, but in general, I felt safe in doing so. Most of the time, all I needed was just some together time, like going out for ice-cream, or for a walk, but there were a few times when I called them just to cry, and again, they were great about it.
During late spring and early summer, Dad's health stabilized, and we had a good time together as a family. It was also a good time with friends, we socialized a lot, and did some fun activities together.
And now Dad is worse, and deteriorating rapidly. There are days when I have it all together, and days where I cry, cry, cry.
I also feel very lonely, this time, because my friends seem to be pulling away. There are days where I'd just like for someone to sit by me and hold me while I cry but I do not feel like it's an appropriate thing to ask anyone but a very close friend, if someone's not offering. I am afraid of coming across as too needy. I feel like have used up my allowance back in March, and could use some reassurance it's still OK to call them and cry, you know? I'm pretty sure if I called any of them and right-out asked for a walk, or a chat, or (maybe) coming over, they would do it, because who wouldn't? But they do not call me on their own, like ever. They know what's going on, because I saw them a few times doing a group activity, and they asked how things were, and I told them, and they asked how I was and if I needed anything, and I said well yes, I feel sad, and I'd love to just hang out or go out for coffee/see a movie at home, or if they could call me sometimes on the phone. I shared a few updates in an email or text, going as far as saying I would love to hang out, and I get "sure, call me!" and then they are not picking up the phone. Or a friend has offered to go for a walk that very night, and then cancelled last minute.
I do have one very close friend who calls all the time, and who I normally spend a lot of time with, but who does not talk about emotional stuff ever, and we only ever talk about ideas. We both value this friendship very much but I have been calling her much less lately because I am too exhausted to have this kind of conversation we usually enjoy.
Another close friend is busy helping out one of her friends who recently suffered a major loss, and I do not want to burden her even more. And yes, I have offered her my support but she usually prefers to just withdraw into her space when overwhelmed and resurfaces when she feels better, and she's said this much.
So it's more about the semi-close friends, as I'm realizing typing this question, people I'd been growing closer with, and spending more and more time with, the past year and a half. I sometimes wonder if I'm just too needy, and should just deal with it on my own, or whether I'm not communicating well.
Some days I think it's less about the absence of support, and more about the friendships themselves, and the realization we were not as close as I thought we were, and that the mutual sharing of confidences, and hanging out every week does not a close friend make, and I am not trying to be snarky, this is like a new realization for me.
So my question is, as a Guesser who has been trying to adapt some Ask habits but found they feel weird to me...
How do I communicate with people who are offering help but then flaking on me? Am I too passive? Is there an appropriate way to ask someone for their time/support without making it awkward for them to refuse? And how much is too much to ask?
Thanks, and please do not be too harsh with the responses. I realized, typing this, that I have a lot of growing up to do... but I'm really trying.