Ask Amy: Friend who is reeling needs soft place to land

Amy Dickinson
Tribune Content Agency

Dear Amy: I have a friend who is going through a really rough patch in her life; she’s facing possible divorce.

She’s in therapy and marriage counseling, but she’s experiencing sadness and mental anguish, and is worried about the future.

She claims she’s not suffering from depression, but I’m not so sure.

As her friend I’m trying to be supportive and understanding; I listen to her, try not to give advice, but instead just be supportive and remind her that she has friends and family who love her and will stand by her no matter what.

I try and remind her of the joys in life and encourage her to take a mental break now and then. I also offer to hang out with her (the lockdown has added to her stress) to take a breather from her home situation, but she almost always declines.

Is there anything else I can do to support her through this dark time? — Worried Friend

Dear Worried Friend: I shared your letter with poet Maggie Smith, whose wonderful new book: “Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change” (2020, Atria/One Signal) would be a good gift for your friend.

Here’s Maggie’s response: “You’re already doing the most important thing: showing up. You’re listening, offering support, not imposing your own solutions.

“What made the biggest difference for me during my divorce was stability from others when I felt the ground shifting beneath me. This unwavering support took many forms: phone calls, supportive texts, regular dinners that were on the calendar the same day each month (and therefore harder for me to cancel), spontaneous walks when I was feeling frazzled. I didn’t need anyone to “fix” it for me; I just needed people to be with me through it.

“Your friend is going through an extremely destabilizing experience in an already destabilizing time. I picture divorce as the center of a Venn Diagram where so many circles of feeling overlap: sadness and grief for the life you had; fear and insecurity about the future; guilt about not being able to ‘fix it.’ And that’s without a pandemic!

“She may or may not be depressed, but she is certainly grief-stricken and reeling. It’s normal to feel heartbroken when your heart’s been broken. It’s also normal to pull away, because you feel like you won’t be good company, like you are a burden. Be patient with her. Let her know she doesn’t need to ‘cheer up’ for you: she can feel however she’s feeling for as long as she needs to, and you’re not going anywhere.

“Above all: even if you have to physically keep your distance because of the pandemic, keep showing up. Be a constant in a sea of overwhelming variables. Be a soft place for her to land.”

I’ll add my voice to Maggie’s. During my own losses, people who have been able to simply dwell with me in my own worst moments have given me what I needed most.

Dear Amy: I have a very dear male friend (married) who has suddenly begun making inappropriate comments to me.

I am also married, and his wife is a good friend.

I want to tell him to stop, but don’t want to ruin our friendship in any way.

How do you suggest I handle this? — Inappropriate

Dear Inappropriate: Here’s the thing about inappropriate boundary-crossers: they get to do/say what they want, while you get to worry about “ruining the friendship.”

Let’s stipulate the usuals: Your friend could be experiencing some health-related or cognitive issues that have upped his libido and lowered his social stop signs.

There are a few legitimate reasons that might explain his behavior, but they don’t excuse his behavior. Most importantly, none of this should matter (to you) because no matter why he has been doing this, your response should be consistent: “Stop. I don’t like that. Don’t do that again, understand?”

The challenge to your friendship brought about by his behavior is his problem, and he’ll have to figure out how to fix it.

Dear Amy: “Anxious Wife” wanted her husband to help more with household chores, like vacuuming.

This may sound trite, but all of the members of my household HATE to vacuum with the heat of a thousand suns. Our otherwise tidy house would look like the Sahara if we followed our instincts.

We got one of those robot vacuums and problem solved! — Dust Free

Dear Dust Free: Great suggestion. If this spells the beginning of the robot revolution, then I say: Bring it on!