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DEAR HARRIETTE: Should I reach out to a former friend of mine who is grieving the loss of a parent? I’m not sure if she ever wants to hear from me again because of the way we left off. I don’t want to offend her. What would be the best way to send my condolences to someone who might not want to hear from me? — No Longer Friends
DEAR NO LONGER FRIENDS: During times of grief, hearing from an old friend can be meaningful as long as that person doesn’t asking for anything in return. Consider sending your friend a card that expresses your sincere sadness over the loss of her parent. Offer blessings and healing, and leave it at that. Do not ask to get together, to call or anything else. You can put your return address on the envelope in case she chooses to reach back, but you should make your gesture purely one of sympathy.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A good friend of mine is depressed, and honestly she’s becoming a bit of a drag. Am I a bad friend for wanting distance from her? She’s just not the same person she once was. I tell her all the time that I want to help pull her out of this state, but I realize that’s something I may not be able to do. — Depressed Friend
DEAR DEPRESSED FRIEND: One sad reality for many people who have a depressed friend in their midst is that they can feel the burden of the depression, especially if the one who is suffering is not getting professional help. No matter how well-meaning you may be, when you do not have the professional capability to navigate your friend’s mental health challenges, the relationship can become stressful, taxing and impossible to manage.
For starters, approach your friend with empathy. She is in crisis and is reaching out to her loved ones for help. Understand that this is her reality. Yours is that you do not have the tools to help her adequately. You will need to stand up and encourage her to seek out a mental health counselor. You can even offer to take her to an appointment. You must also make it clear to your friend that her issues are not for you to solve because you aren’t equipped to do so. Suggest that you give her space to work with her therapist and handle her problems directly. After she is grounded again, you can get back together. Make sure she knows you are not leaving the friendship. Instead, you are giving her the time she needs to get the help she needs and deserves.
According to healthline.com, here are classic signs of depression:
— seems more sad or tearful than usual
— appears more pessimistic than usual or hopeless about the future
— talks about feeling guilty, empty or worthless more often than usual
— seems less interested in spending time together or communicates less frequently than they normally would
— gets upset easily or seems unusually irritable
— has less energy than usual, moves slowly or seems generally listless
— has less interest in their appearance than usual or neglects basic hygiene, such as showering and brushing their teeth
— has trouble sleeping or sleeps much more than usual
— cares less about their usual activities and interests
— experiences forgetfulness more often or has trouble concentrating or deciding on things
— eats more or less than usual
— talks about death or suicide
If your friend is exhibiting any of this behavior, do your best to guide her toward professional help.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.