Ex-Friends Reconnecting After a Loss in The Family

Ex-Friends Reconnecting After a Loss in The Family

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In this month’s HerTake question, the question asker wants to reconnect with an ex-friend after a loss in the ex-friend’s family. Is it a good idea to make one last effort at reconciliation all these years later, or should our question asker leave well enough alone?

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Dear Nina,

About fifteen years ago, my friend since kindergarten, Sarah, cut me out of her life. It was during our mid-twenties when a toxic person came between us. I knew Sarah’s close friend was toxic, but it took Sarah several more years to come to the same conclusion. The word on the street is that the two of them no longer speak.

Sarah recently lost her father quite suddenly. I attended the funeral, and she indicated to me how much it meant to her. For years now since learning that the toxic person was out of Sarah’s life, I’ve wanted to reconnect with her. I know that an apology will not come, and at this point, it no longer matters to me what happened in the past. What does matter is that I try in some way to rejuvenate the friendship that was lost. I feel as if Sarah’s father’s death could in some way be the catalyst for us getting together. Perhaps it could be a positive outcome of an extreme negative.

What do you advise on the best way to go about reconnecting with Sarah? Do you agree with me that all is not lost and perhaps we can find a way back on the path of friendship we shared for so many years?

Thank you for taking the time to consider these questions.

Signed,

Hoping to Get Back in Touch

 

Dear Hoping to Get Back in Touch,

Those childhood friendships never leaves us, even the ones that end badly. If anything, the ones that end badly can take on an inflated importance as we repeatedly analyze what went wrong. I say “we” because I think many people reading this have been there, including me.

Before delving into your specific questions, I want to commend you for attending Sarah’s father’s funeral. Perhaps that seemed like an obvious move for you, but I bet that many others in your situation would have either ignored the loss, made a donation to the family’s favorite charity in the father’s honor, or written a lovely note expressing condolences. There’s no shame in going with the donation or personal note options. My point is that making the effort to attend the funeral was the hardest choice as it required the greatest amount of vulnerability.

So, should you get back in touch with Sarah?

More than ever, I’m coming from a “life is short” philosophy, which can cut both ways. Life is short, so if you’re missing Sarah’s friendship, I think you should go for it. But since life is really too short to waste on people who not appreciate us, I have to caution that if Sarah seems at all reluctant (takes a long time responding, cancels more than once, does not ask you about your life, etc.), then I say you can feel satisfied about trying and leave Sarah in the past.

Is it possible to find a way back to a friendship?

The fact that you’re not expecting an apology is what makes me believe there is a chance for the two of you. It would be impossible for Sarah to know at this point exactly why she got so close to that toxic friend and why she felt she couldn’t have both of you in her life. Your willingness to release Sarah from an explanation from 15 years ago is your best chance.

As for how to go about a reconciliation, I once again consulted my wise mom, Kathy, who readers enjoyed last month.

Here’s what my mom said: “Back in Touch might consider emailing or calling to ask if Sarah wants to get together. If Sarah says yes, then Back in Touch might suggest they get out their calendars (or whatever young women do these days). If Sarah is unwilling to make a date right then—short of getting ready for a trip or a really good excuse—I would consider the friendship not worth pursuing at this point. Back in Touch can take satisfaction in having taken the high road, i.e. attended the funeral, and she then has to let the friendship go and be glad she has closure.”

Essentially, my mom and I are saying the same thing, which makes sense since she taught me everything I know. Bottom line: Yes, you should try, but do not be the only one making an obvious effort.

Good luck and please report back!

Warmly,

Nina

 

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13 comments

  1. I actually had this happen to me a couple of years ago, and I did reach out and was able to reconnect. My friend made it clear she was still upset with me about the thing that caused the rift in our friendship, and (although I was still upset, too) I let it all go because I didn’t feel it was fair to express my anger in the midst of her sudden loss. Unfortunately that balance has not really shifted in the years since…in short, I really needed this advice: “Yes, you should try, but do not be the only one making an obvious effort.” Thank you (and to your mom, too!)

  2. Dakota says:

    Unfortunately I don’t have any advice to offer – but I do think Back in Touch should go for it. It’s possible Sarah is missing you as much as you’ve missed her, but hasn’t been able to figure out how to bridge the gap. It can be really hard to reach out to someone that you’ve wronged – and the double reassurance of you attending the funeral and then reaching out, might be what she needs to trust that you’re not upset with her any more.
    Dakota recently posted…Lament for a fieldMy Profile

  3. Caryn says:

    I completely agree with you and your mother’s wonderful advice! The only thing I would add is that since Sarah just lost her father suddenly (and the letter writer doesn’t know any other issues that could be going on in her life right now), her response could be delayed or muted, but not necessarily mean she doesn’t want to reconnect. That said, of course if the letter writer is making all of the effort, it’s not worth it! Best of luck — I hope they are able to reconnect and have an even stronger friendship moving forward.
    Caryn recently posted…That Time I Did All The JudgingMy Profile

  4. Here is why you remain my favorite go-to for advice:

    “…many others in your situation would have either ignored the loss, made a donation to the family’s favorite charity in the father’s honor, or written a lovely note expressing condolences. There’s no shame in going with the donation or personal note options.”

    I appreciate your willingness to look at more than one approach to a situation and your extension of grace when people make different choices. You and your mother are smart and always consider intention.

    Your advice here is spot on and I hope “Back in Touch” is satisfied with whatever ends up happening.
    julie gardner recently posted…This Is Really HappeningMy Profile

  5. A similiar situation recently happened to me. I reached out to a childhood friend (our friendship had been strained in recent years) whose father was hospitalized and we talked on the phone for thirty minutes. I don’t think I am in a place to rekindle our relationship, but I do care about her well-being and hope things with her father turn out well.

    As you eloquently stated, friendships can be salvaged if both people are willing to make an authentic effort.
    rudri bhatt patel @ being rudri recently posted…Everyday Delights – February EditionMy Profile

  6. Dana says:

    Oh, this is so wise and well thought out, Nina! I agree with you and your lovely mom, and so many here. It takes two, and if the friend doesn’t seem willing to put in some effort and kindness, then it’s perhaps not worth the effort. But there is grace in trying, which, in a way, the woman already did by going to the funeral. I hope whatever happens next gives her peace and some closure.

  7. As you said, Back in Touch took the courageous step by attending the funeral. I suspect that decision was made easier by the fact that the toxic friend is out of the picture and Back in Touch’s position proved to be the correct one. Your advice, as always, was perfect. I wonder, though, would you have answered differently if the toxic friend was still around?
    Mo at Mocadeaux recently posted…Pairing Wine And Grilled CheeseMy Profile

  8. Kira says:

    I had this happen to me recently – a friend kind of dropped me two years ago, and I saw on Facebook that she’d broken up with her boyfriend, so I sent her a brief note saying I was sorry to hear about it, and now we’ve slowly been reconnecting. Agreed – life is short, if you don’t take chances you won’t find out what might have been!
    Kira recently posted…Should I Give My Ex-Boyfriend Another Chance?My Profile

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