I miss my long-lost friend

I keep writing but she doesn't respond. Should I give up?

By Cary Tennis

Published April 4, 2011 12:01AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I have lost touch with a dear friend for over 20 years now. Not only were we college roommates and best friends but she was the only "bridesmaid" at my wedding. At one time, after I was married but before she was, she came and lived with us for four months. I do think some things that happened then affected our friendship. She may have felt embarrassed or guilty or frustrated by some events and also overwhelmed by my husband's and my very strong personalities.

I love my friend and our drifting apart is as much my fault as anyone's. Marriage, moving overseas with the Peace Corps and having children all took much of my attention and time.

I did not nourish our friendship and let it slip away.

Over the past few years I have attempted to get in touch with her through email searches and other means to no avail. I finally contacted the man I thought was her husband on Facebook. I found out that they had divorced, under what I assume were difficult circumstances, since he said she does not answer his calls or emails. Despite that, he sent me what he presumes are her still current email, phone numbers and address. I have called and left messages with an answering service with her voice on it, written a letter or two, and sent emails with no reply.

My biggest question is this. Do I keep writing her and calling her and leaving messages (I have left perhaps three over the past year and written two emails and sent one letter -- not yet what I would call intrusive but bordering on it). I want to reestablish contact. I worry some that my insistence has to do with some guilt on my part and my need for forgiveness and perhaps has less to do with her. I probably do want forgiveness and acceptance on some level but more than that I think our lives would both be enriched by renewing our friendship. She is a dear, dear friend -- or can I say that -- perhaps she was a dear, dear friend?

So, at what point do my efforts to "woo" her (because that's what it feels I'm doing) become intrusive? At what point am I operating out of a lack of respect for her need for distance and silence? I keep hoping I'll say the right thing and she'll realize that my desire to connect is simply a desire to be close again, to reestablish our friendship and provide support and comfort as we grow older (we have recently passed 50). Can I keep writing periodically? Am I addressing my need for her as a friend? Am I invading her privacy? Do I need to let this go and just keep her in my thoughts and prayers and hope that one day, if she needs or wants to communicate, she'll do so? What is the loving thing to do?

A Friend

Dear Friend,

Well, at this point, it might help to send her a goodbye letter. I mean, it might help to write it, too. In this goodbye letter you could tell her all the things that you have wanted to tell her, and be honest with her.

It doesn't have to be the last letter you write. You could tell her in it that you might write again, but that you wanted to write this letter to at least say goodbye if that is what the future holds. That way, you could at least stop this cycle of pleading and not getting what you are asking for. You can say OK, you're not asking for anything anymore, and make it explicit that this is about your need to work things out for yourself.

Surely this has a lot to do with you and how you feel about getting older and about your past. But it is also possible that your friend needs help. She may be in trouble. She may be depressed or sick and not know it. So another thought I have is that you might visit her. Just go see her and see if she is OK. It may be a long trip but it might be worth it.

I know how painful it is to see that time has passed and we may have lost touch with people we care about. And I know how difficult it can be to know if we are doing the right thing by reaching out to people.

So my two suggestions both involve doing something new, so that you stop repeating this behavior that is getting no results.

Creative Getaway

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

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