Are you losing friends as you get further into your withdrawal or healing process? It is not unusual for friends to start pulling away from you as you become less active or emotionally available. This unfortunate occurrence is hard to change, given the frailties of human nature.

Most people want to help others, but they do not know how. I remember when my best friend died, people consoled me by telling me to call if there was anything I needed. But the problem was I too grief stricken to pick up a phone. I scarcely knew what I needed to ask for. If I didn’t know how they could help, I assume my friends didn’t know either. It helps if you can be concrete in stating what you need and how people can fulfill that need for you.

For example, I was feeling abandoned by my parents who are on the East coast. I finally told them to please call more often. They didn’t know I needed that. How could they? They aren’t mind readers. Instead of sulking and wallowing in my negative feelings, I let them know what I need. They are happy to know how they can help.

What might you tell your friends you need and explain how they can fulfill that need?

If you are clear with people about what you need and they fail to fulfill that need, then you may want to rethink your relationship with them at some point. But please don’t write off friends who have pulled away until you give them the chance to answer your Big Brain Question with a “Yes!” That question is, “Are you there for me?” (Please look in the Big Brain Question category for more information about this important topic.)

I think people pull away from those of us in withdrawal for many reasons. They don’t know how to help, they grow tired of us talking about our withdrawal, we are often depressed and hard to interact with, we remind others how precarious life is and our illness makes others feel that they don’t know what to do for us. Human nature what it is, we usually avoid things that make us uncomfortable.

I have several friends who are currently MIA so to speak. It makes me sad, but I am doing my best to not take it personally. Their reluctance to maintain our friendship is more about them than it is a reflection on me.

When the dust settles, and I am recovered and embracing life fully, I will reassess my relationships. For now, I do my best to communicate my needs instead of making people read my mind, and I make certain I thank people for taking care of my stated needs. I do my best to not wallow in self-pity over relationships that don’t meet my needs. For all I know, some of the people who have pulled away from me are grieving over having lost a cheerful, spunky friend. I may not be the only one who feels a loss.

I hope you can navigate your friendships through your healing process. Once healed, you may find you have a higher standard of friendship, and you are more able to understand and answer others “Big Brain Question” with a loud, joyous, resounding, “YES!”

To strengthening our bonds to others,
Dr. Jenn