What happened here?
January 12, 2009 10:51 AM   Subscribe

My grandma (who I am very close to) recently went into a diabetic coma, had to have a leg amputated, and almost died. Obviously this has been a tough time for me. But, with the support of my family and many of my friends I am okay. What I find quite alarming was/is the absense of support from two of my closest friends.

Grandma is doing better. She's gained consciousness, and is in less pain, but she still isn't completely well. When she was sicker, I was pretty freaked out. As a result, I notified people by phone, text, and myspace/facebook to pray for her. I got replies back from all sorts of people, telling me that they were praying for her, keeping her in their thoughts, asking me and my father (his mother) if we needed anything, and few of my friends and relatives took me out for coffee or whatever to calm my anxiety. And it is worth mentioning, that some of those people were people I forgot or for some reason chose not to notify, yet I still heard from them.

I am REALLY REALLY thankful for their support, I think their prayers have helped to heal my grandma. And it is good to know that we have people thinking of my grandma, my father and me during these tough times. But, why not from two specific people, who I consider to be good friends? Friend #1 sent me a text asking how she was doing I think two days after my grandma got ill. I haven't heard from her since (my grandma got ill a day after Christmas, and is still in the hospital). Friend #2 asked about my grandma when I saw her in person a day or two before new years, and I haven't heard from her since. On the other hand, I am still hearing from less close friends constantly, checking on my grandma's status and how me and my dad are coping.

I find this all pretty strange, it is not like these two friends are selfish or unsympathetic or anything. We've had two other friends who went through crisis within the last few years. Friend #3 was homeless for two years in San Francisco. Friend #1 and #2 routinely checked on this friend by phone, sent him stuff, and bought his plane tickets when he visited. Friend #4's grandpa was suffering from Leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. They volunteered their time going around very poor and rough neighborhoods to hand out flyers to recruit potential donors. They were very uncomfortable, but was happy to do it anyway. And they always checked with friend #4 to see how her grandpa was doing.

Well, I do NOT want anything from my friends like gifts or anything. I want to make that clear! Since I have I job I can buy my own things. I just want to know why I have not heard from them and what I can do about it...or if I should do anything about it. There has to be some sort of explanation. I mean I'm kind of at the point I am contemplating on terminating these two friendships. What's the point of having friends if they will not be by your side in the time of crisis?

My question is how should I handle these two people? Has anyone been in a similar situation? What would cause friends to fall off the face of the earth during rough times?
posted by sixcolors to Human Relations (55 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't see how strangers on the Internet can know this. You need to talk to them yourself. Try not to sound as judgmental as you do here. Perhaps they're busy. Perhaps you being freaked out is freaking them out. Perhaps they have problems you don't know about. Again, you won't find out by asking us.
posted by RussHy at 10:57 AM on January 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Have you tried asking them why they haven't been in touch?

I get the impression that you're taking this personally, when you don't actually know if the reason they didn't contact you was personal in nature. They could have had other stuff going on in their lives, or maybe just forgot, and therefore were unable to contact you.

The best thing to do is speak to them. Only they will know why they didn't call.
posted by Solomon at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2009


They're having their own rough times? Maybe you've given them the impression that everything is okay so they don't feel they need to do anything else? Maybe the other friends they helped gave them explicit "here's what you can do" suggestions so they could be helpful?

There are lots of reasons, and no one else is qualified to tell you what they are. Perhaps you should ask your friends point blank, "What's up? I kind of felt abandoned by you during this whole thing."
posted by cooker girl at 11:00 AM on January 12, 2009


some people aren't close to their grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins and so when something happens to a friend that involves one of those people it's not put in the same brain space as friend is homeless, sick, just broke up with a guy. it doesn't mean they're uncaring or unfeeling - just that in their own lives they value different things.

if they haven't shown any other signs of being twats, wait a few weeks or months until you're not emotional about it anymore and one on one say "hey, back at new years i was going through a really tough time with my grandma and i was hurt that you didn't check in on me." let them respond to that and decide how you feel.

on the flip side - sometimes friends can be incredibly close (or so you think) you can stay up long hours talking them through every little crisis and then when the chips are down and you just flat out need a shoulder, suddenly all you hear is crickets. people are fickle and shitty sometimes.

from your descriptions, it's probably more the first than the second.
posted by nadawi at 11:00 AM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


You haven't not heard from these friends. You stated that Friend #1 sent you a text and Friend #2 asked in person how your grandma was doing. You're overreacting and your expectations are unreasonable.
posted by re.becca at 11:01 AM on January 12, 2009 [42 favorites]


Yeah, please don't lose two good friends over what is most likely a misunderstanding. Just talk to them about it. God knows I've done things around my friends that have mystified them and sometimes hurt them, and they have occasionally done the same to me. But getting up my courage and COMMUNICATING with them about it has been much better in the long run than looking back years later and thinking, "did we really have a falling out over THAT?"
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 11:02 AM on January 12, 2009


You're manufacturing drama.
posted by smackfu at 11:04 AM on January 12, 2009 [52 favorites]


What would cause friends to fall off the face of the earth during rough times?

No one knows but your friends. However, it's typical in stressful situations like this that 1) some people will fail to rise to the challenge and not behave in ways that you expect/need 2) you'll make a big deal of them not being there for you because you're stressed and already feeling bad. Here are some things I always think could have been happening. However, you'll never know if you don't ask them (in some neutral way, at some neutral time)

- people assume you are notifying them when you send out mass (i.e. facebook/myspace) messages and don't think you need a personalized reply
- some people freak out about hospital/tragedy stuff and just can't handle news like this
- people assume that because they did contact you back, that YOU'd follow-up if you needed anything beyond that
- some people who are not religious ignore people's requests to pray for people
- people assume that following up may lead to a TMI dump which would make them uncomfortable so they stay at arms-length
- people aren't close to their grandmas so they think that if this were them, they were responding appropriately
- the holidays suck for everyone and maybe they have their own stuff going on (it's unclear if you contacted them again after the initial lukewarm replies you got)
- people have their own weird issues which makes them act differently then you would or you think they should in a different situation.

Really the last one is the most important. Your Friends Are Not You, combined with You Will Not Know Why People Do Things Unless You Ask Them.

When my Mom told people she had cancer and was undergoing chemo, she had a similar set of reactions. Most people were awesome, a few people vanished. My Mom was, as you'd expect, incredibly upset that some people vanished, but it was also the stress of the time that made her even more upset about this than I think she'd otherwise be, she really sort of focussed on it to the point where I was like "Can we talk about your chemo or something else, I'm sorry your friends suck, but what else can we say about this?"

If I were you, and I'm aware that I am not, I'd contact them after this is a little more history and say something like "Hey I was a little hurt that you seemed to not be around after I told you about my grandma, I really could have used a friend" and see what they say.
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 AM on January 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Some people are just not that good at constant checking in on a situation. I don't think they don't CARE, they just aren't reacting the way you want them to.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:09 AM on January 12, 2009


You haven't not heard from these friends. You stated that Friend #1 sent you a text and Friend #2 asked in person how your grandma was doing.

This.
Also, your Grandma was unfortunate enough to have all of this happen to her at the time of year when people are most involved with their own families and their own plans (xmas and new years). Cut your friends some slack here, they DID ask about her and people are still adjusting to being back to work/school etc.
posted by rmless at 11:16 AM on January 12, 2009


Friend #1 sent me a text asking how she was doing I think two days after my grandma got ill. I haven't heard from her since (my grandma got ill a day after Christmas, and is still in the hospital). Friend #2 asked about my grandma when I saw her in person a day or two before new years, and I haven't heard from her since. On the other hand, I am still hearing from less close friends constantly, checking on my grandma's status and how me and my dad are coping.

I really don't see what you're flipping out about--they have contacted you about your grandmother; it's not as if they ignored you completely. All of this happened right around the holidays, which are a busy, stressful time for most people. It sounds like you have a fine support system, so I don't know why the lack of a freak out, from these friends specifically, is such a big deal to you.

Also, I think in the facebook age, it's tempting to guilt people about all sorts of lack of contact, but I think it's a poor way of evaluating friendships. Could you call either of these people if you needed to talk? If so, your friendships with them are solid, and you're spazzing for no reason. Those people you can actually reach out to if needed are worth so much more than the gazillions of people from high school who feel it necessary to comment on your facebook status, despite the fact that you haven't had a conversation with them in years.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:20 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


As has been mentioned, not everyone is as close to their grandparents as you are. And your grandmother survived this. They may think, "Hey, she's okay now. It's all good."

Or they may simply not know what to say or do. When another friend was homeless, that touched a little closer to home for #1 and #2. That was someone they knew personally, and there was a way they could help. When the other friend's grandfather needed a bone marrow transplant, there was still something they could do to directly help. In your case, it doesn't sound like there was anything they could do other than make sure you're okay, which they have already done by text and in person.

What would have made this better in your eyes? Did you need them to check in on you repeatedly? Did you need them to spend more time with you? Maybe they weren't aware of your needs. Maybe they assumed you were very busy dealing with this and would come to them when you were ready. Maybe they just aren't good with emotional stuff, and that's why they're better when the occasion calls for action rather than just sympathy. As others have said, maybe these two have their own personal stuff going on.

The only way you're going to resolve this is by talking to your friends. Or you could just let it go and choose to see the best in your friends. You've got enough to handle without thinking of your good friends as uncaring and selfish.
posted by katillathehun at 11:22 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


You need to be direct with your friends and ask them for support. Perhaps Friends #3 and #4 made direct requests, to which #1 and #2 responded. I would not write them off until you've made a reasonable request for support. From your other posts, you seem to come off to others as highly independent/eccentric, so it's possible they don't think you need emotional support as much as 3 and 4 did.
posted by desjardins at 11:24 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


You write that you "notified people... to pray for her." Rather than that she was sick, or that you were dealing with a tough situation, or something else like that. Maybe that was the problem? Not everyone is the praying type...
posted by Perplexity at 11:24 AM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


A lot of friends, even close ones, get a little hands-off during family crises unless specifically asked to offer support. Many people don't want to seem nosy or officious during a dire crisis with a family that isn't their own unless their aid is solicited (such as the case with your other friend's grandfather). They're not part of your familial network, they might have never seen your grandmother, and they're probably assuming that your various cousins, parents, aunts and uncles are commiserating together, and they don't want to intrude on this very personal scare.

I understand your concern, and can see how their standoffish behavior worries you, but keep in mind that many good friends will treat other people's family drama as gingerly as possible.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:25 AM on January 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Have you called them and asked them for anything? Usually, if a friend has a relative with a health crisis, I will check in with them to see how everything is going, but I don't necessarily make them a casserole. If they called me and asked for one, I would make them three. Sometimes people don't offer help because you don't seem to need it. Ask for it before you get angry about not getting it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:26 AM on January 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you want to converse about a topic with a person, it is generally good form to contact that person and let him or her know about it. You did so; each one of them reached out to you, made mention of the event, and touched base with you - what more do you want? That is not a rhetorical question - you need to identify the answer and communicate it to your friend before you can feel resentful for not receiving it.

In prior times when a person wore a black armband in mourning it was not necessarily considered appropriate to bring up the topic unless the mourner did so first; there is something to be said for not stirring up unwanted feelings at all times.

If you want a particular kind of support, learn to ask for it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:27 AM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can understand that what makes this sting more is that they have gone above and beyond for other people. It is reasonable to feel bad that your friends rose to the occasion for others and not for you, but at the same time, by not talking about this with them directly you're not giving them the chance to make things better (if they so choose).

People above have already given a great range of reasons as to why they may not have contacted you -- in your shoes I would take them as reasons why I should rein in my hurt feelings a bit, and talk to my friends about what is bothering me. Hurt feelings are normal but gone unchecked they lead to self-pity, and that usually tends to close down communication.

And, of course, the idea is not to demand an explanation from them, but to simply let them know how you perceived their lack of contact and let them know how you are feeling right now. They can choose to explain and try to be more proactive from now on, or they can disagree with your perception. But at least you will actually have the answer to your question, from the only people who can really give it.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 11:27 AM on January 12, 2009


Unfortunately, friendships can and do deteriorate during tough emotional times. One of my best friends abruptly stopped contacting me when I was going through a really down period and never told me why; the only clue I got was from a mutual friend who mentioned that he found me to be something of a burden. To be fair, I'm sure I was. I don't forgive him, exactly, but I do understand where he was coming from.

Not everyone is well-equipped to support their friends in times of crisis. These two specific people may not be. Sometimes people who aren't good crisis-friends can still be good friends to have; sometimes not.

You mention that they both asked about your grandmother right after she fell ill, but not a peep since. How often do you normally see them, and has it been longer than normal? Have you initiated contact yourself and not heard a response, or are you just waiting for them to sense how in-need you are and call?

Also, since you got out the word about your grandmother via facebook/myspace, both of which are somewhat impersonal, they may think that you're getting enough support from the rest of the world and don't need any from them, or they may feel a little jealous of the attention you're getting from other people, or they think any hanging out will be all about your grandmother and you won't be your normal self and they won't know how to deal with it. (I'm thinking about the episode of My So-Called Life where Sharon's dad has a heart attack; just about everyone goes out of their way to be kind to Sharon but Angela is resentful and distant.)

If you haven't already, call them up and say, "I haven't heard from you in a while, and I'm going through some rough times, and I would really like to see you; I think it would cheer me up." They're your friends, and this is really more about you and your feelings than your grandmother's, so I'd suggest looking at it in a "I would like to spend time with you" way than "I would like you to be sympathetic about my grandmother." Chances are they will be open to that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:35 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Friends have no obligation to wish you anything, whether it's good wishes or condolences or any level of support. Some choose to offer lots, sometimes based on their personal experiences with loss, and some don't offer anything. But that's not even the point here, as the two friends have already sent you messages of support.

There is no reason to terminate the friendships. They have fulfilled if not exceeded their social obligation in regards to caring about your grandmother, a figure that probably does not play a significant role in their lives. What would you expect them to do, bake your grandmother some casseroles? Call you all day? Accepting responses, favours, well wishings from others is perfectly fine in rough times, but demanding or expecting them is not acceptable at all. Different people deal with events in different ways, don't expect everyone to act the same all the time.
posted by Meagan at 11:40 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


A lot of friends, even close ones, get a little hands-off during family crises unless specifically asked to offer support. Many people don't want to seem nosy or officious during a dire crisis with a family that isn't their own unless their aid is solicited (such as the case with your other friend's grandfather). They're not part of your familial network, they might have never seen your grandmother, and they're probably assuming that your various cousins, parents, aunts and uncles are commiserating together, and they don't want to intrude on this very personal scare.

This. Or -- they may be so terrified of saying the wrong thing that it's making them tongue-tied. I get that way -- when I was a kid I had a couple of really, really uncomfortable instances of Saying The Wrong Thing when someone's mother/sister/grandma/whatever had died and I tried to say something that I thought would make them feel better, because it was all I could think to say, but I really put my foot in my mouth both times. Granted, I was only about eight and didn't know any better, but in both cases I made them have a complete meltdown, and it's made me tongue-tied today because I'm just petrified of saying something dumb again.

Your friends could be undergoing the same paralysis. Death and near-death makes us all feel helpless, and your friends could really want to help you, but they just feel so helpless because they can't think what to say, and so rather than risk saying something dumb that'd hurt you even more, they're opting for silence.

The thing is, though, if this is what's going on, if you give them the hint that, "uh, guys, need a little help here? you don't have to say anything in particular, just....see how I'm doing, 'kay?" That would help them break out of the "I don't know what to do!" flailing and they'd realize, "Oh! Right! Calling every day! Asking 'how are you'! I can do that! yay, now I know what to do!"

You won't know for sure unless you talk to them, though.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:00 PM on January 12, 2009


Seconding the drama manufacturing. Cut it out, it's not helping you or anyone else. Your friends have given you the amount of support THEY feel like they should give you, not the amount of support YOU feel like they should give you. That's what friends do.

People above have given you some excellent advice as to why this may be the case, but unless you genuinely need to focus on this issue to distract you from others you may have been spending too much time on (totally understandable), this kind of thing is, to put it very bluntly, a waste of your precious, amazing life.
posted by Aquaman at 12:05 PM on January 12, 2009


Perhaps you should focus your energy on supporting your grandmother, since she, not you, is the one going through this crisis.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:15 PM on January 12, 2009 [17 favorites]


It bears repeating: You Will Not Know Why People Do Things Unless You Ask Them

You should consider that people deal with different crises in different ways. Some people are do-ers/fixers and when there's no problem to fix (as in this case, unless Friends #1 and #2 work on experimental diabetes research), there's simply nothing to do.

When the shit hits my own personal fan in a way where there isn't really a problem to solve, I'd prefer to be alone and just get over it rather than involve other people. Thus when someone else's fan is being hit by shit, my first assumption is that they'd like to be left alone while they're getting over it. And I definitely don't want people me calling me when a family member is having rough medical times just to "check in" on people just to make me feel better. For me, someone who had only met my grandmother a few times calling me multiple times to ask how she's doing would be grating and awkward. For you, this is being supportive.

The problem is projection, in both directions. Your friends are acting the way they'd like you to act if they were in your situation. You're mad because your friends are not acting the way you'd like them to if you were in their situation. You can be resentful that they don't deal with rough times the same way you do, ask them to be supportive ways that fit your personality, or understand that they think they're already doing the right thing.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:36 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't you be too busy being supportive of your father and grandma to be worried about this? What would you have them do? They've asked how she's doing, and it sounds like you don't need any more people taking you out for coffee.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:48 PM on January 12, 2009


I’m glad your grandma is recovering, and it’s wonderful that you’re so close to her and that you have a support network to turn to during a crisis. One thing to note is that in your examples of Friend #3’s homelessness and Friend #4’s grandfather, both of those were cases where there were concrete things to do for the person experiencing the crisis: send supplies to the homeless guy, recruit bone marrow donors for the leukemia patient. (And, once they’d gone to the trouble of recruiting donors, it makes sense that they’d check on the grandfather’s status regularly.) Maybe the take-away from this experience isn’t that these friends are mean or selfish, but that they prefer to offer support in concrete, organize-and-execute kinds of ways, rather than through prayers or long conversations. So, next time you’re having a family crisis, those are the friends to call when your grandma’s stuck in the hospital and needs someone to go water her garden, or you’re spending so much time visiting her you need someone to go to your apartment and feed your cat.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:02 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


how should I handle these two people?

You don't need to "handle" your friends in any way. Support your grandma, be grateful for what sounds like an excellent support system, and learn to stop creating a drama whereby you get to be the center of attention.
posted by scody at 1:03 PM on January 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


They probably felt that the last thing you needed at the moment was them poking their noses into your family emergency.

Relax.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:24 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hope by, close friends, you don't mean people who are physically close and with whom you hang out a lot with. Because that doesn't qualify someone as a close friend. You also asked them to 'pray'. Yea, I'm just not the praying type so if a friend had asked this and just asked for this I'd be like, "Um, ok". Also this is your grandmother, how well do your friends know her? Whatever the hell you want your friends to do for you, tell them. They can't read your mind. And how close were they to #4 friend? That grandpa had leukemia, its a cancer so I think its pretty clear they can support that friend through finding a donor. Your grandmother went into a diabetic coma. What can they do? Roll their sleeves up and haul ass into the ER?

The world does not revolve around you. And if nothing else, you've been shown the gems ("not so close friends") with whom you have not cultivated a relationship with. Take it as a lesson that all those around you care and love you and be grateful for the support you have been given.
posted by guniang at 1:24 PM on January 12, 2009


I'm with Green Eyed Monster and M.C. Lo-Carb!, your grandmother has been gravely ill and you're here yammering on inventing a crisis and seemingly tallying up who gave you how much coffee and sympathy.

This one should be about your grandmother, not you – I'm not sure you understand that.
posted by mandal at 1:28 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Different strokes for different folks. If I heard "constantly" from my less close friends under those circumstances, that would be a little much for me. Your "bad" friends actually were in touch, so I don't know how much more you want to know that they care about you.

How many times is a friend expected to ask how you're holding up over a 3-week period? As others have indicated, your expectations are a little out of whack, especially over the holidays. (I blame Facebook and other social networking for creating expectations that everyone will react early and often to everything you're going through). But I'm glad your grandmother is doing better and you have friends who care about you, which is really the important thing here.
posted by *s at 1:28 PM on January 12, 2009


Response by poster: Thanks for talking some sense into me. I guess it can be numerous things.

Both of them dislike their grandma and their families period.

Maybe I should've contacted them personally. Instead of mass text and using myspace bulletin.

Maybe they are simply closer friends to friend 3 and 4.

I haven't mentioned any expectations and feel awkward doing so.
To tell the truth I don't have any specific ones. I just expected to hear from them more than I did, I don't want any gifts or food or even a tons of sympathy.

As for those who mentioned that I need to support my grandma. I have. I've been to the hospital everyday except for two. I didn't start thinking about this until last weekend, when I posted my second progress report on myspace. I think this is what bothered me most is that while tons of people were glad that she is doing better, I heard/read nothing from them. My grandma means the world to me but so do my friends. So of course I want to know where they stand.
posted by sixcolors at 1:30 PM on January 12, 2009


I think this is what bothered me most is that while tons of people were glad that she is doing better, I heard/read nothing from them....So of course I want to know where they stand.

One doesn't have anything to do with the other, unless you genuinely believe that these two friends AREN'T glad that your grandma's doing better -- which would require them to be sociopaths, which presumably they aren't. Right? (I mean, where else could they "stand"? On the side of hoping that she stays in her coma and dies?)

Really, the only facts you can conclude from this episode is that A) you prefer to have people be in frequent touch with you during times of stress , and B) not everyone intuitively knows this or shares your preference. The people who fall into category B do not automatically care any less for you or your grandmother's well-being than those who called or emailed every day.
posted by scody at 1:53 PM on January 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


To give you the opposite perspective... I had a friend whose family cat was getting sick and the family had been discussing their options. This friend called me frequently to tell me what was going on and what had been said/decided. I had thought an appropriate follow-up schedule was an e-mail after a few weeks but it became clear that this friend wanted to talk every few days on the phone.

I don't mean to say your grandma is the same as their cat... just that friends don't always know the level of support you need. I cared about her feelings and her family but I underestimated her needs - if she hadn't called me to talk about it, I wouldn't have known.

So instead of thinking of it as "asking for support" (which might make you think you have to officially define and state your emotional needs), why not think of it as "giving them an update"? Phone both tonight - update them on your grandma's situation, thank them for their message and talk about some of your feelings. They sound like sensitive people and I'm sure if you broach the topic, they will realize you need to discuss it.
posted by cranberrymonger at 1:54 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Don't assume that people are on myspace all the time checking stuff, also, they probably assume that if you don't contact them personally it's not that important to you that they respond.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:58 PM on January 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: I don't understand. Maybe I am severely overestimating the importance of the role my friends play in my life. I don't have a significant other, siblings, or close cousins. Matter of fact I kind of view my friends as siblings or cousins. I don't understand how it is unnatural to upset in this situation.

At this point I'm not saying it's their fault. In fact it is mine, for not communicating this enough to my closer friends.

I don't understand the drama angle either, I have not mentioned any of this to my friend because I don't want to start any drama. I'm thinking seriously of not saying anything. That's why I posted here.
posted by sixcolors at 2:02 PM on January 12, 2009


They can't know what you want unless you ask for it. If you want more support from them, call them up and say "I need your support right now." And if that isn't what you want...and in fact, don't really want anything...then aren't they doing exactly what you want already?
posted by agentwills at 2:07 PM on January 12, 2009


I don't understand the drama angle either, I have not mentioned any of this to my friend because I don't want to start any drama. I'm thinking seriously of not saying anything. That's why I posted here.

Maybe we read too much into this?: "I mean I'm kind of at the point I am contemplating on terminating these two friendships"
posted by smackfu at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2009


Maybe I am severely overestimating the importance of the role my friends play in my life.

No, you seem to be assuming that all friendships can be measured or quantified in the exact same way. This is a faulty assumption. These two friends, in all likelihood, care very much about you and your grandmother's well-being, AND AT THE SAME TIME they do not happen to show their caring in exactly the same way as some of your other friends.

In other words: your expectations are narrow; the range of human needs, behavior, and intimacy, however, is broad.

I have not mentioned any of this to my friend because I don't want to start any drama.

Yet you are considering ending two friendships over the fact that they haven't called or emailed you enough.
posted by scody at 2:22 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


First of all, I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother and I'm sure this has been very hard on you.

I mean I'm kind of at the point I am contemplating on terminating these two friendships. What's the point of having friends if they will not be by your side in the time of crisis?

Everyone responds differently in a time of crisis, and unless you specifically asked them to come and they didn't and ignored you, then you have no right for the moral indignation. Again, I know you are very upset right now, but you haven't been without support. If you specifically needed them, then you should have told them. But they may have not wanted to intrude on a family time, may have had their own personal discomfort with illness or hospitals to get over, may have heard from other friends that you were amply supported, may have been ill themselves, may have been in a really foul mood, may have had something terrible happen to them and not wanted to burden you with it.

When I went through a tragedy I specifically told friends that I wanted to be left alone, and then when I didn't want to be left alone, I told people "Hey, I'm done hiding in a cave, I could really use this specific kind of support."

Do not compare one friend's response to another. Do not compare one previous situation to another. Tell your friends what you need right now. I'm sure they'll be glad to have specific direction. But if you do not, you have no right to jump to conclusions, sick grandmother or not.
posted by micawber at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


on preview...

this is all going on ON MYSPACE? not in real life?

zero right for moral ground or indignation or minor snit. pick up a phone.
posted by micawber at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Posting a family crisis update bulletin on myspace is about the least personal thing I can think of. Why are you expecting a more personal response from these two friends?
posted by cosmic osmo at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have tended to view myspace updates as a way for a person to NOT talk to people. If I'm not also personally contacted I'd figure you wanted space and anything beyond a text or email from me would be intrusive.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:30 PM on January 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't have a significant other, siblings, or close cousins. Matter of fact I kind of view my friends as siblings or cousins. I don't understand how it is unnatural to upset in this situation.

This isn't about natural or unnatural as much as it is trying to help you get a read on why people may not have acted the way you wanted them to and what is appropriate given the situation. Many people have pointed out that

- saying you want to end friendships over this seems out of wack
- it may have not been clear at all to your friends that you expected something other than what they gave you
- your stress over this tough time with your family may be affecting your percetions

But, to your comment above, if your friends DO have siblings, close cousins and/or significant others, they may be playing a role in your life that you do not play in their life in return. They may assume that you have family members who are doing the part of day-to-day checking in and emotional support. In the example that I gave I think my Mom was extra hurt by her friends' lack of responsiveness specifically because she is not married and places her friend interactions in a more-significant place as a result. This doesn't necessarily speak to married/unmarried or anything else, just for some people friendships are more limited and/or some things that are family things should stay family things.

Additionally, I can't stress enough that broadcast emails/MySpace/Facebook announcements do not, to me, get the point across that "I am having a very personal issue right now and I would appreciate some emotional support and/or attention" Again, only you know your friends but I, personally, do not use these sorts of tools for communicating private, cimplicated or very touchy emotional stuff and it may be that other people feel the same way. I do not assume that a facebook friend making a status update "gramma fine, thanks for your kind words" needs a response from me.

Ask your friends if it matters. Claiming you are thinking of severing friendships over this is, to my mind overly dramatic for a situation in which you have insufficient information. Or, if you roll that way, don't ask us, just stop interacting with them.
posted by jessamyn at 2:31 PM on January 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Maybe I should've contacted them personally. Instead of mass text and using myspace bulletin.

YES.

If a friend mentions in a mass email that something is going down, the best they can hope for from me is a one-sentence "Hope you're ok! Call me if you need something!" response. If they do not then CALL ME, I assume that they're fine.

This is most likely what happened with your friends.

Someone wise once said "Don't attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance" (I think it might have been Gandhi). Your friends are not ignoring you, they just aren't mind-readers. If you want personal attention FROM someone, you need to contact them PERSONALLY. The best MySpace or Facebook have to offer is everyone you ever want to high school with sending you *hugz.*
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:14 PM on January 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't have any siblings. I'm not close to my cousins. I have a significant other, but I have gone through long periods as a single woman. My friends are like family to me, too, but just like a blood family, we don't place the same value on everything, and we can't read each others' minds. You say you blame yourself for not communicating, yet you admitted you were thinking of ending these friendships because they didn't respond as urgently as you thought they should to some MySpace bulletins. I am very sorry that you're going through this tough time, and that you had such a close call with your grandma. I hope she improves. But some maturity is gravely in order here.
posted by katillathehun at 4:00 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Different people are, well, different. I grew up in a family where we told each other we were sick only when we'd already gotten better, because we didn't want people to worry; where we always assume people don't want to be bothered by us unless they ask for help; and where our default position for a lot of things was physical and emotional distance out of respect and habit.

I have no doubt that if I were a close friend of yours and loved you very much, I would have asked once how she was doing, offered any assistance you might want (just ask), and left it at that. As I was raised, that's the right thing to do, because I wouldn't be a primary player in the tragedy, just a reserve player. You need me, tell me, otherwise I'll let you worry about yourself.

Now, is this right or wrong? Nope, just different. I married someone who's the opposite, and over time I'm becoming more prone to reaching out to help people, and she's becoming more likely to give people their privacy and space.

So don't assume your friends are bad, or don't care; consider the possibility that they've just been taught/learned to handle such situations differently.

Here's another case in point: my father died, and I was keeping it close to my vest because I didn't want a lot of fuss or bother; I wanted to work it out at my own pace. My wife (against my wishes) told her closest friend -- including telling her not to tell anyone -- and that friend sent a mass mailing announcing my father's death, and encouraging people to reach out to me and help because she knew what I was going through from her father's death years before. She even noted that she knew I didn't want her to do it, but that she felt she knew what I needed better than I did (although I was conspicuously left off of the mailing.)

Was I pissed? Did I get upset? Nah. No biggie; I knew her heart was in the right place, and she was doing what she thought was best. She actually got herself worked up about it, and I ended up comforting her instead of the other way around.

Like I said, people are different.
posted by davejay at 4:09 PM on January 12, 2009


I have no doubt that if I were a close friend of yours and loved you very much, I would have asked once how she was doing, offered any assistance you might want (just ask), and left it at that. As I was raised, that's the right thing to do, because I wouldn't be a primary player in the tragedy, just a reserve player. You need me, tell me, otherwise I'll let you worry about yourself.

Yes, this. I was in a similar position as your friends. I cannot emphasise enough that YOU NEED TO TALK TO THEM if you want more support than they have offered.

My friend lived eight hours' drive away. Her mother died. I was notified via her blog (which is fair enough; I am sure she didn't feel like getting in touch with everyone individually to tell them). I called her as soon as I found out, told her to let me know if she needed anything, offered to go to the funeral with her, called her several times during the ensuing weeks. To me, she seemed to be doing absolutely fine; she was coping, she arranged everything confidently and competently, she didn't cry over the phone and she didn't ask me for anything. But as far as she is concerned, I didn't offer her enough support, and the things I did say were clumsy and made her feel worse, and this was the catalyst for a long, horribly painful period of splitting up. I would have been on the phone in a second if she'd called me or emailed me and said "oh, I feel terrible" or "please, I need to talk to you". She didn't. I did not know what was going through her head or that she needed more until she was already eaten up with resentment, and the friendship ate itself over this. Don't be her.

You can't know what's in their heads, and they can't know what's in yours, without communicating.
posted by andraste at 5:40 PM on January 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I agree with everyone.

And one more thing:

It's perfectly reasonable to ask for what you want from people.

"Hi... !! Your friendship is really important to me in this time of need... !! Please call me soon!" Or on myspace or email, "Hey everyone... this is a tough time for me, I really appreciate your support and encouraging words... "

Ask for what you want, then you can decide how handle the people who don't come through.
posted by Locochona at 7:08 PM on January 12, 2009


I don't know you or your friends.

That said...

Don't be quick to assume they don't care or have dismissed you. I'm not the kind of friend that will call someone up and check on them... but I am the kind of friend that will help you bury a body in the Nevada night.

People express themselves in different ways.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 11:07 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


You asked what people meant when they said that you were creating drama. This...THIS is creating drama. You set up this scenario where you are abandoned in your moment of need by your TWO BEST FRIENDS!!! But wait...1/2 way down the post you reveal that you notified them of your trauma via MySpace!

I thought for a moment that I would explain to you the concept of bait and switch...but you're a smart girl - you know. Maybe your friends are just getting tired of being jerked around. I know I am.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:14 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Woah, here. I said I notified my friends by text messaging and myspace. It's the way we communicate in our group, we seldomly make phone calls. I notified my closer friends by text when my grandma first became ill. And did the updates on myspace bulletin. They read them, because I've seen them replying to other people's bulletins around the same time.
posted by sixcolors at 5:39 AM on January 13, 2009


Woah, here. I said I notified my friends by text messaging and myspace. It's the way we communicate in our group, we seldomly make phone calls. I notified my closer friends by text when my grandma first became ill.

I'm thinking you seldom make phone calls. The rest of your friends might actually pick up the phone once in a while. I suggest you try it yourself the next time you want your friends to communicate with you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:28 AM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


None of us are in your head, and none of your friends are, either, but you keep following up as if we and they should be able to not only empathize, but anticipate your needs and feelings. For instance, from the very beginning:

My grandma (who I am very close to) recently went into a diabetic coma, had to have a leg amputated, and almost died. Obviously this has been a tough time for me.

Well, actually, obviously it has been a tough time for your grandma. Your emotional experience is not obvious to anyone who isn’t you. My reaction to family crises is different from yours is different from your friends’. If you typically use texts and myspace to communicate with friends, that’s fine, but I think you need to recognize the limitations of those lines of communication. If you typically use texts or myspace, but are experiencing an atypical situation for which you need additional support from friends, get their attention by calling or meeting in person to tell them with your own human voice what you need. Think about the difference between getting a text that says “I’m really sad about [something]” and hearing the same thing from a live person--texting gets a text-response, calling gets a conversation. You want a conversation? Call.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:12 AM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Woah, here. I said I notified my friends by text messaging and myspace. It's the way we communicate in our group, we seldomly make phone calls. I notified my closer friends by text when my grandma first became ill. And did the updates on myspace bulletin. They read them, because I've seen them replying to other people's bulletins around the same time.

I was trying to resist, but I'm going to cave and go with the crowd that says you are CREATING drama. Why do you care whose bulletins your friends respond to? Why are you paying more attention to their MySpace accounts and texts than you do to the friends who are supporting you?

Drop. It.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:53 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


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