Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief

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Hattie

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Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« on: October 29, 2021, 07:03:56 AM »
Hi, I have a friend who has been in my life for around 15 years. She was a close friend at one stage and supported me through my breakup with my ex. Recently though I have started to feel that the friendship has run its course. She is very conversationally dominant and never stops talking, and is a terrible listener. I don't think she is a bad person at heart, but the more I come Out of the FOG, the less of this sort of behaviour I am willing to tolerate.

Anyway she contacted me yesterday, very upset, as her husband has lost a family member in a violent and unexpected way. Understandably she is very shocked and angry. The husband has travelled to be with his family so she is on her own now.

She reached out to ask to meet up in a couple of days, and I agreed. But now I am feeling super anxious about it as I know she will just dump all her grief and anger on me, with no empathy for my feelings. I also realised that the time I agreed to meet her is a time that I had been planning to do something important that can't be rescheduled. I forgot about it in all the drama.

I'm not sure how to handle this, as I don't want to let her down in her hour of need. At the same time, my gut is telling me that it is too much for me to handle right now. I have been doing some intense psychotherapy lately and really feel I need to respect my energy boundaries.

Gah! Anyone else relate?
Love is patient; love is kind.
It does not envy; it does not boast.
It is not proud. It does not dishonour others.
It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

1 Corinthians 13: 5-8.

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notrightinthehead

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2021, 06:10:55 AM »
I totally can! I also have reduced the amount of contact with friends who know it all and are non-stop talkers. I now set myself time limits for interactions with such friends, one hour, a hour and a half at most,  with no exceptions, in order to protect myself. I set my timer on my phone and tell them that I have so much time at the beginning of the meeting, and that I will have to leave or hang up at such a time. Then I can devote myself to listening and being a sponge for the pre determined time. I will leave drained and exhausted but I will feel in control because I stuck to my time limit and I recover much faster.
I can't hate my way into loving myself.

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Hattie

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2021, 08:49:15 AM »
Thanks for the reply. In this case my friend has to leave after 2.5 hours but that seems like a long time, so maybe I will do as you suggest and leave earlier.

This has certainly made me realise that I need to be careful in my interactions with this person.

I think I got myself into this situation because she texted me late at night when I was tired, so I wasn't sufficiently resourced to really check in with myself as to what I wanted. That and the fact that it is a very sad and shocking event that has happened, so there is a human impulse to caretake, even if generally I want to avoid that sort of thing.

I know my friend values people sticking to plans, so I will probably go even though I am dreading it somewhat. In the future though when it is not an emergency situation, I think I need to reconsider the friendship. Seems surprisingly hard to let it go.
Love is patient; love is kind.
It does not envy; it does not boast.
It is not proud. It does not dishonour others.
It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

1 Corinthians 13: 5-8.

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Hazy111

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2021, 11:46:57 AM »
Hattie, She is very conversationally dominant and never stops talking, and is a terrible listener. i think you know what youre dealing with here. Your her friend on her terms,, someone she can unload on without you interrupting and or expressing your own needs or wishes.

As i came Out of the FOG . i went from someone who compulsorily had to answer the phone, respond to emails etc for fear of upsetting them.....to someone who  (and it takes practice and time. keep at it) never responds or i do so in my own time. Just quickly i used to answer the phone to my father every day for years and years until it stopped , queue the rage (PD playbook ,threatened with the police classic faux concern for me , flying monkeys deployed etc ) My T at time said "Why dont you just not answer" I was completely thrown.

If the person on the other end , doesnt like it , its their problem not yours. True friends (not PD/narcs will get this) , the PDs in your life will resent the imposition of a boundary....NB....dont give into guilt  (the most pointless emotion) !!  Trust your gut,,, (your inner child) screaming NO!!!   You might be amazed how many of your so called friends you may lose.... cos its more common than you think

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clara

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2021, 12:23:15 PM »
When I realized many of my friends were in my life but I wasn't really in theirs, I started re-evaluating them as friends. 

We may have had a bond at one point, but that bond was transient and lasted no longer than the event creating the bond.  Afterwards, it seemed I was just an audience for them, or someone to do something for them.  During my time with them, I would look forward to it ending.  Since I was still foggy, I couldn't understand my feelings.  Indeed, my gut was telling me one thing but I was behaving by force of habit.  The guilt over trying to impose MY boundaries was very hard to overcome, because I didn't really believe I had a right to them.  The "friend" had rights I wasn't giving myself.

It takes time and effort and energy to get over those behaviors, but it can be done, and yes--you'll possibly lose a lot of your so-called friends in the process.  It certainly happened to me, but I can't say I miss those old relationships.  There's nothing to miss since the friendship wasn't a true one in the first place.

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square

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2021, 02:36:51 PM »
Some tricks I started applying in the past few years, that I also taught my mom - we both can end up agreeing to do things for people then regretting it.

“I’ll check my calendar”
Doesn’t matter if you are staring at your calendar right now. Always buy a little time before agreeing to a get-together, favor, etc. That way you can identify any feelings of pressure to agree on the spot, come up with a counterproposal, ir steel yourself to say no. If they pressure you to get back immediately “I wouldn’t want to have to reschedule if I have any conflicts, so I’ll get back to you.”

“I will think about that.” Can be said with a warm and friendly tone, as in “what a lovely idea, let me think about that.” Same goal, give yourself space to check in with your feelings, make your own decision, and plan out counterpropisal or “no” if needed.

“That won’t work for me.” With high pressure types, you will be demanded to justify this, so be ready with slight variations, all vague: “I’ve got too much going on right now,” “It’s just not going to work this week/month/year” (when the demand’s time is constrained), “yeah, I’m just not going to be able to swing that.”

Anyway, those of us who rush to please others can get in the habit of creating space before agreeing. Even legitimately urgent demands can be met with “I’ll call you back in a few minutes.” (Emergencies should call 911, you always have a few minutes to decide something.) And you should always be able to get AWAY from the high demand person to decide, not merely get a few minutes while continuing the conversation.

We should make it a habit even if we don’t intend to say no, because we have a hard time resisting high pressure and need to be sure we’re making our own choices. When we feel that pressure to AGREE NOW is the warning sign to back off and get that space first.

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Hattie

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2021, 07:36:25 PM »
Thanks for the replies guys.

So in the end, it wasn't as I feared it would be, and the conversation with her actually felt quite connecting.

I cancelled a couple of other plans over the weekend, to give myself lots of time for self care. I was therefore able to stay centred despite the challenging situation.
Love is patient; love is kind.
It does not envy; it does not boast.
It is not proud. It does not dishonour others.
It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

1 Corinthians 13: 5-8.

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Worthy of Care

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2021, 08:07:59 PM »
Hattie,
I'm glad that the conversation turned out better than anticipated and that you felt connected to your friend. Good job setting aside time for self-care.  :cheer:


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bee well

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2021, 11:05:40 AM »
Hi Hattie and All,

Hattie I'm glad you felt good about the solution you found, and that you prioritized self-care. High five to you!

I am a bit late to the conversation but I came into the forum today thinking about a similar issue.

Oh, yes, I certainly can relate!

(Just as a preface: fortunately I am now working on dealing with my own history and the "why" I have found myself in these situations over and over, so I can prevent it from happening in the future. Unfortunately I have to deal with the ones that already exist before things get to where they should be.)

I have a close friend who has been doing something similar to what you described for years. We used to have a more reciprocal relationship, and I keep telling myself it'll get better. It doesn't. She's been a dear friend and I don't want to abandon her. Perhaps I am giving to much weight to the past. Unfortunately though, she has been going through some severe traumas as of late.

I have cancelled some holiday plans because I've realized these  interactions are draining and harmful to me, especially when I am dealing with difficulties if my own. I'm just not emotionally equipped to absorb all of her venting. It's also quite demoralizing that she rarely if ever asks me how I am doing except at the end of a two hour one-way conversation. Or when I contact her afterward expressing concern, I get a one line, short answer, or no answer. It's as if once she has released all the tension she just goes on as usual, and then pops up down the line needing to  vent again.

Anyway I plan on waiting to see how things go when we talk over the holidays and then , if things continue as they have, I'm going to tell her how I feel. What I intend to say is that I can't go on like this, passively listening  as she vents, not acknowledging feedback when I do make suggestions. (It appears to me as if she feels It's always someone or someone else's fault in her  view, and she hasn't made any effort over the years to change her situation.)

My only hope is that maybe she will come around in the next conversation, when I tell her what I have been going through, and perhaps we can have a two way conversation.

I have already offered advice and I know it's not my job to fix her so I told her I am not the right person to give the help she might need, and suggested some options. She did not respond to my suggestions, positively or negatively. (She was in the middle of her latest traumatic event and I did not insist, I just left it at that)

My concern is that I don't want to add to her pain by telling her these things just a few months or so after her trauma, and I know she is struggling at the holidays. On the other hand it is a source of extreme stress and at times resentment that is not healthy for me.  (As you can see I'm in a double bind).

I don't want to prolong the situation but on the other hand I have empathy for my friend, and feel badly for her.

So my question to anyone who might be listening is this: do you think it would be destabilizing for my friend if I tell her how I feel before the New Year? Any thoughts on this?

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bee well

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2021, 06:27:16 AM »
Hi Again,
After I posted my comment and then my own story/question, something hit me. Here I was on Hattie's thread, asking for advice about my own experience with someone who has a tendency to monopolize the conversation. I wondered if I was doing the same thing, so I am going to post my dilemma in another thread, entitled "One-way conversations with friends." Thanks to anyone who may have read/be reading.

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Hattie

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2021, 07:12:35 PM »
Hi Bee Well! It is fine. We are here to share experiences, don't worry!

With your friend, I suspect it will never be a "right time" to tell her how you feel... but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. In fact, I think that it would be brave.

If she is that insensitive though, she might not really be able to take on board what you are saying, so you might need to think about how to look after yourself if that happens
Love is patient; love is kind.
It does not envy; it does not boast.
It is not proud. It does not dishonour others.
It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

1 Corinthians 13: 5-8.

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bee well

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Re: Feel overwhelmed by friend's grief
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2021, 10:51:46 AM »
Hi Hattie,

Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it.

I agree with you. Given the history, there will likely never be a "right" time.  I hope I will be brave enough to do it, and I have a feeling there's a good chance the time will come when I will have to. Also thanks for the advice about looking after myself afterward. It was very difficult after the last call.

I have been thinking about the taking care after part and I think it would be unwise to stir things up until I have less going on personally. The added stress is not with it. Unless I happen to find myself in a situation where the passive listening gets to be too much to take. I'm trying to learn to avoid what someone else on the board has referred to as "idiot compassion."