It’s all just too heavy

I’d like to think of myself as a good friend. Someone that can be there when a friend needs a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. I like to think of myself as ‘there’ when someone needs them the most…I like to think of myself as a strong person.

But apparently, I am not. 

I realized this for the first time when my developmentally disabled client was put in the hospital in 2006. I went and visited him, because it was the right thing to do. But it was all just to heavy for me and I couldn’t go back. Even though he needed visitors. Even though he needed  an ambassador at his side making sure he got the right care. Even though he needed a friend.
But I just couldn’t do it.
I chalked it up at the time to his being belligerent and scared. I told myself I wasn’t physically strong enough to actually help.

I know different now.

A friend of mine has cancer. A friend of mine is dying. A friend of mine needs a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. A friend of mine needs a good friend.

But I just can’t do it.

As I write this, I cry. I feel ashamed. I feel guilty and I feel angry.

I received an email from her two days ago and I still have yet to respond to her. I still have yet to tell her that I miss her, that I love her and that I think about her everyday. I still can’t bring myself to be a good friend.
I can deal with a friend being sad about a family member or being sad about the loss of another friend; like my Kimmy. I can deal with that. I can be a shoulder and I can be that ear. I can deal with reading sad blog posts about loss and about grief. But I just can’t deal with this. I pray to God that this doesn’t make me a bad person. I pray to God that he understands my limitations. I pray to God that someday I will be strong enough to deal with things that are heavy.

And I pray to God that my friend understands.  


18 responses

  1. Oh Desiree, I understand how you feel. I wish I was closer to give you a hug and be there for you. These feelings and emotions you are going through are part of being there for others and should be shared with your friend, maybe you will cry maybe you will be strong but your friend will want you by her side no matter how. Prayer is good it feeds the soul and gives us strength. I’m so sorry for your friend I will keep her in my prayers.

  2. I am so sorry to hear about your friend. You’re a great friend and you are dealing with a heavy matter and transition that will take time to cope with. I will keep you and your friend in my thoughts. It is great that you shared your feelings. I know there are many others out there that can relate.

  3. Hi Desiree – I’m sure you’re not alone. My brother-in-law was almost completely absent from his family’s recent crisis – a very sick sister and father who recently passed on – and I’ll admit I’ve been very judgmental. But the truth is I have no idea what is going on inside of him, what his coping mechanisms are or what he does and doesn’t feel. I would make one suggestion to you – which is to reply to your friend’s email. Confess to her how incapable you are with this kind of burden. That you don’t understand your reaction yourself and that you love her. That will be gift enough for now. xo

  4. You are not a bad person! You feel so much empathy for others, that in fact the difficulty you have facing people in pain shows what a good person you are. But you are also feeling a tremendous amount of guilt. Good people like you shouldn’t be burdened by guilt…it’s hard, I know, but do your best to respond to your friend. If only to assuage your guilt and reawaken your knowledge that you are, indeed, a very, very good person. In five years, when you look back, you’ll be glad you did — no matter how hard it will be while in the moment.

  5. Hang in there, Desiree – you are a good person and you are stronger than you know. Give yourself time to feel comfortable with all of these strong emotions – and remember it’s OK for your friends to know how vulnerable you feel too! Sending a big hug your way.

  6. I know exactly how you feel. I think it is normal.

    What worked for me was taking baby steps outside of what I thought I could handle.

    I’m sorry, even if you are the one that is going through it, it still is hard to handle and that sounds like why you’re shying away.

    My husband said he remembers doing that to his mother that was dying of cancer when she was eight. It is a human coping mechanism. You’re human.

  7. OMG sorry I was logged into a weird account….

    here this is me saying it:
    I know exactly how you feel. I think it is normal.

    What worked for me was taking baby steps outside of what I thought I could handle.

    I’m sorry, even if you are the one that is going through it, it still is hard to handle and that sounds like why you’re shying away.

    My husband said he remembers doing that to his mother that was dying of cancer when she was eight. It is a human coping mechanism. You’re human.

  8. It’s so hard. But bearing the guilt is definitely harder. Force yourself to do it. Don’t think about the gravity of it all, just hit reply and write something to your friend and not to the cancer. It’s so hard but so easy. Ask her about something unrelated. Talk about a tv show. Whatever you would normally chat about. She probably needs your friendship way more than your pity. I think for me, this has been the key for getting myself to deal with this stuff. Separating the person from the tragic thing. It’s the elephant in the room for sure but the illness, the tragedy is not the person. Don’t let (fear of) death define your relationship for all time. We’re all afraid of dying. Having a loved one facing that makes us face it – for them and ourselves. Tough tough stuff. You are stronger than you think. Hugs to you!

  9. I am sorry you are going through this – I felt the same way when recently my friend was diagnosed with cancer – especially having gone through it before with my mom (twice!) But I made her dinner and I brought it to her house and I was happy that I did.

    One thing that I live by though…and something to think about…

    if you choose to not call her, it is totally ok. However, if something happens, you need to be okay that you did not pick up the phone.

    Big hugs,

  10. It is certainly easier to be there for friends in the good times, but it important to try to support them during the tough times too. I always think about how I would feel if the situation was reversed. You are obviously a very caring person so maybe you can find a way to show your support in a way that you feel comfortable. Maybe you are not able to sit by her bedside, but can instead send emails, drop off dinners, send care packages in the mail with magazines and other treats or offer to pick up groceries on the way home. Find your own way to show your support and love for you friend. It’s important. 🙂

  11. I think the guilt just gets in the way of processing news that is very, very hard. Or maybe it’s part of the process. God, we always want to be able to make things better. I keep learning–especially through mothering–that I don’t have that much power. There’s a badge on your site that comes up right next to the comment box–Blog with Integrity. Integrity. A good word. You’re being honest about your feelings and limitations. This shows integrity. Maybe today you can’t write that email or reach out, but you will. You can’t make things all better, but holding your friend in your thoughts counts. Writing to find clarity is another step. We’ve all been there.

  12. I can really relate to this. I’m the kind of friend that loves a good laugh, is there during the good times, but when the times get tough I never know what to say or even know what the other person could possibly need, nor do I even know where to begin to talk about it. However, I think it’s very common. When times get tough, and situations arise, there are many who say or do nothing but often times are still there observing.

    For those of us who are empathetic, it’s natural to want to take the pain and suffering away, but in a lot of situations we can’t. For me, I like to see progress, but there isn’t always progress.

    However, replying to an email is often enough. Be honored that your friend came to you during this difficult time. That says enough right there.

  13. I wish I had read this before I saw you today, but take my virtual hug now. You can only do what feels right for you but I agree with Ciaran. I think if you hit reply and just email like you would any other time, you will both feel better.

  14. Thank you all for commenting. Each and every one of you is someone that I admire and respect and hearing your words of encouragement is so comforting to hear.
    I emailed my friend late last night and apologized for being unable to be there for her when she needs it most. She was very gracious and understanding. She even suggested we talk about other things besides cancer.
    I feel slightly better.

  15. Desiree, you are human….I’d think it odd if you didn’t find it difficult. It shows your compassion…the heaviness in your heart that you feel for your friend. But I think like so many of the wise women have said above, focusing on your friendship….those moments and memories of how you used to be before the cancer….and talking about it…or not talking about it…both are perfectly acceptable…..and you are a good friend because you are stronger than you think…. XO

  16. You have gotten so many great comments here, I just want to go through and click “like” on all of them. You simply do what you can at any given moment and focus on that. With the momentum of each step, you will figure it out. Support comes in all kinds of forms. You are resourceful, remember that.

  17. I think it’s totally normal to feel awkward about those situations. I do too. I remember in high school when my boyfriend was put in the hospital for a burst appendix and I refused to go visit. I felt nervous and scared. Every time someone close to me goes through something really hard, I tend to pull away because I don’t like those weird feelings.

    I just try to let people know how I struggle with these issues and also let them know I’m here if they want to talk. Or send them a card. Little things. But try to stretch yourself and see how you do over time. Maybe it will get better.

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