Seven years ago, I discovered that my friend of 30 years was bereft of empathy; or, more accurately as a general description, totally sucked as a friend.
It took me by surprise, because our decades-long history was one of the best things in my life.
Having known each other since Prep school, and through our 20s, we drank, watched each other get degrees, partied, watched each other get married, and celebrated the birth of our kids.
So much fun. So many memories. Just like a sister.
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But then, in our mid-30s, my dad died suddenly and violently. I was in shock, devastated, and it fundamentally changed my life. My dad’s death was the first major death in my life, and my friend had never lost anyone. I didn’t think that was an excuse for behaving how she did, though; change the topic when I wanted to talk about dad, or outright ignore me in social groups in case my sadness infected her in some way.
There was no 'I love you', 'let’s go do something fun', or 'I’m here for you'; but there was plenty of avoidance.
I found this very confusing, because I knew she loved me. But how could she not show that love at the worst time in my life? And it’s not like I wanted constant attention - just some support, occasionally.
“I’m sad for you that you’re so sad,” she once said when I forced her to answer why she just refused to give me any sort of comfort. I told her directly that her support mattered to me but still, nothing.
Eventually, I reasoned that for some reason she didn’t know how to comfort me. Unlike almost everyone else in my life, she just didn’t know what to say or do – not even the basics.
And so, we moved on.
I was wrong because years later, I see she was choosing not to extend me her friendship.