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How do I help my friend?

(26 Posts)
stanlaw Wed 07-Sep-16 11:01:54

My friend and I met at university in the 1970s and have stayed in touch initially spasmodically. Her marriage broke down in the early 80s and since then she has lived alone but taken more and more responsibility for her demanding mother who eventually died earlier this year. Over the last few years she has become increasingly dependent on me as her closest friend though we live a long way apart. She has a very short fuse and is not much fun to be with but I have visited her fairly regularly and phone her every couple of weeks. She has now lost all interest in herself, has put on a lot of weight and is becoming increasingly isolated but will not seek counselling or medical help. I have a very busy and happy life (still working full time) which I realize she must thirst for, but I really want to help her notwithstanding her tetchiness. Anyone got any ideas how I can help her to move on and up?

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 07-Sep-16 11:10:35

Perhaps you can't. I can't think of anything you can do, other than what you are doing already.

Life has dealt her a shit hand. sad

Send flowers from time to time? Even with a few choccies added on.

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 07-Sep-16 11:11:49

Maybe she doesn't want to move 'on and up'. Not everyone does.

Riverwalk Wed 07-Sep-16 11:24:33

I don't know why you think she must 'thirst' for the life you have.

I would just continue as you are - being supportive but not interfering with her choices.

Cherrytree59 Wed 07-Sep-16 11:25:36

What subjects did she take at Uni?
When you call or see her why not mention the subjects and see if there is any real interest left.
If so then maybe find (google) some courses that are near her
It is possible that she is grieving for not only her DM but the life she has lost whilst caring for her DM.
She has not yet realised that she could be on the brink of a new 'life adventure'.
She may also be suffering from depression
I wouldn't mention her weight gain.

Alishka Wed 07-Sep-16 11:29:11

Agree with the shit hand. sad
Any chance you two can get away somewhere for a long weekend together? Change of scenery, bracing sea air and walks on the beach, even if it's a pebbly one, might be a tonic for her.
Lots of offers around atm. Co-op travel has been my go-to for short breaks.

cornergran Wed 07-Sep-16 11:59:04

Your friend surely must be grieving. Withdrawal is not uncommon, anger is also part of grief and can be indiscriminate. I agree with cherrytree, her behaviour could indicate depression, again not uncommon with grieving. If her life was very focused on caring for her mother there will inevitably be a huge loss of purpose. Having said all that you can't fix things for her. Gently suggesting a chat with her GP, preferably one who knows the history or a look at the Cruse website could plant seeds for the future. If you've already done that I wouldn't push her, she needs to take her own time. Isn't it horrid to want to help but not be able to? Just spend as much time with her as your own life allows. Would she visit you rather than you go to her? She may be envious of her perception of your life but she may not, I wouldn't assume although if she has said so that's a different thing. Hope she can seek professional help soon, sending good wishes to you both.

stanlaw Thu 08-Sep-16 09:14:51

Thank you for all the suggestions and support which galvanized me into ringing her again last night and persuading her that we would go to a spa/country house hotel for a few days--now booked and should give me a chance to gently encourage her to move forward.

annsixty Thu 08-Sep-16 09:27:09

Well done, you have made a good start and in the relaxed atmosphere she may open up to you as to whether she is really unhappy or just tired. You must encourage her to build a life for herself now.

radicalnan Thu 08-Sep-16 09:32:54

Bereavement isn't just about losing someone you love, it can be about any loss, career for instance or just the life you had planned. Maybe her grieving has been going on for years and now she is freer to make choices there will be a lot of letting go for her to cope with. Not everyone wants or needs to move on, she may be content where she is in life. It isn't your cup of tea but she has had a burden to carry for years and she's done it, hats off to her for caring for elderly parent etc.

Grief is the price we pay for loving,and she has been paying the price for years already, it is as hard to let go of painful, damaging patterns of living as it is to move on when a wonderful life suddenly takes a downturn.

Give time, time as they say and if her choice is to stay stout and snippy..........don't take that away from her unless she asks for help with it.

Calder Thu 08-Sep-16 09:33:23

What a lovely caring friend you are Stanlaw. All you can do is to continue to allow her to talk to you and let her get through this awful period of her life. I feel for her very deeply as much of what you describe of her life mimics my own. I have been through a very similar bad patch this year and have relied on about 4 close friends to have the patience to listen to me and not judge. My OH has been supportive best he can, but there is nothing like close girlfriends. I found that by hearing myself talk about my situation I came to understand my own thought processes and feelings and started to come to terms with the situation and move gradually into a happier place. But it is sometimes 2 steps forward 1 step back, but still progress.

Your friend may well find your own happy life circumstances difficult - I know I tended to cut myself off from friends and family who seemed to have the perfect life purely because it only exaggerated my own rotten circumstances (not n cessation of my own making). She may well be feeling a burden on you as a friend right now. The suggestion of offering to spend some time with her, if at all possible, could be a god send to her as she possibly is reluctant to ask.

Perhaps she is feeling guilty because there is much relief in no longer having to look after elderly parents, but at the same time huge grief for the loss of the relationship which had been her focus for so long and a massive hole that needs to be filled. We have words widow/widower when a spouse passes away, but we don't have words for having lost your parents that is indicative of the importance they held in your life - orphan doesn't really fit the bill!

Be assured you are helping by being patient and willing to listen and discuss. Not much fun for you I know, but she needs you more than ever now. Remember loneliness is still very hard to admit as it implies self pity, but can simply be due to circumstances out of your control and an indication of knowing what to do next for the best.

Good luck and keep doing what you are doing. x

Calder Thu 08-Sep-16 09:35:45

Sorry a few typos above! "...not knowing..." In last sentence.

oldgoose Thu 08-Sep-16 09:35:57

She is lucky to have you as a friend. How about taking things in small steps. Maybe suggest going out for afternoon tea and a long chat.Write her a letter, explaining how you feel and ask if there is anywhere she would like you to go together or do together. She sounds very depressed. I think she needs medical help too and if you do get to have a long chat, you may be able to talk her into it, and go along with her to the appointment if she agrees. Good luck.

Cath9 Thu 08-Sep-16 09:44:52

I believe we have all suffered from depression or stress. What always got me through was trying to stop thinking negatively. When the worries appeared, I would say to myself, - stop and think of something positive. After a few days this always worked. Do you know of any hobbies that she is or was interested in?

If so, suggest that she tries to find out if there are any local ones that she may be interested in joining. But keep positve, adding that it is for her own sake, so it is herself who has to make the decision. Or go out to a yoga class that will help to unwind her problems.

hulahoop Thu 08-Sep-16 09:46:00

You sound a very good friend hope she appreciates that probably does but doesn't know how to show it . Hope you both have good few days off

kathryn489 Thu 08-Sep-16 10:35:04

Be firm with her, go with her to her gp she just needs a structure to pick herself back but but probably needs someone to say right this is what we are going to do. Hard. Xxx

wilygran Thu 08-Sep-16 10:38:35

I had a similar situation with an old friend who was carer of a family member. It took her three years just to begin to get on top of things & feel able to take an active interest in her freedom to pursue possibilities for a new stage in her life. All you do is listen & encourage wherever possible. Sometimes it's hard not to be judgemental, but people take their own time to recover from life's hard knocks.

Stansgran Thu 08-Sep-16 10:46:27

I'm reading this with interest as a close friend has recently lost her husband. Lost in both senses as he was not the man she married for quite some time previously. I'm sure her family will fill in gaps but I think she will be trying to make up for lost time in other ways.

annsixty Thu 08-Sep-16 11:28:42

That is me Stansgran I also am caring in the physical sense for a man I do not know, I have recently had surgery and I am still caring for him, he still expects it even though he knows I struggle. My depression comes from the fact that he will probably outlive me as he is so very healthy apart from his mind. So any thoughts of my life changing at some time is remote. I do hope that your friend can enjoy the rest of her life with few regrets.

micmc47 Thu 08-Sep-16 12:28:05

There's a very fine line between being helpful and being interfering. Also, your assumption that she must "thirst for" your "busy and happy life" may be well wide of the mark. We're all different, and some people are entirely happy with their own company, and although your judgement is that "she's let herself go", she may not see it like that. She's also grieving the loss of her Mother, who again, she may not have seen as the "burden" which you describe. Bottom line.. don't assume her priorities mirror yours in any way. If you are a true friend to this "short fused" person who is "not much fun to be with", you'll cut her some slack and continue to support her as she is... not as you'd prefer her to be...

loopyloo Thu 08-Sep-16 13:31:58

This lady does sound really depressed and with reason. Good things she has you as a friend. Little things can help like going out for a walk each day. When you spend the weekend with her perhaps she could get a new haircut or a new look somehow. Perhaps if you rang her doctors surgery you could express your concerns to them without breaching any confidentiality issues. Some times one becomes too low to do anything about it oneself.
Joining a slimming club might help, she might make new friends, also perhaps having a pet.
Wishing you all the best.

coxie Thu 08-Sep-16 14:35:05

What a lovely friend you are stanlaw flowers

NaughtyNanna Thu 08-Sep-16 14:54:37

All you carers out there, past and present, take a look at the Carers Trust and Carers UK websites. They are full of helpful and informed advice and guidance. Also, when ready after the caring role has ended, try getting some coaching. It is designed to help you find your own way out of those circumstances when you feel stuck and unable to move forward. It's non judgmental and is not counselling.

Strawberry10 Fri 09-Sep-16 08:20:21

Well done. You are a very good friend to her. She is lucky to have you. Good luck with the Spa break.

Witzend Sat 10-Sep-16 10:20:42

Loopyloo, unless it was in some dire emergency or for any really serious reason, I would be absolutely bl**dy livid if anyone secretly phoned my GP about me.

As someone else said, there is a very fine line between being helpful and interfering.
And I have to say that people who have always been very sociable, sometimes have a tendency to think that there's something wrong with people who prefer their own company much of thrive.