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Should You Get in Touch With an Ex-Friend After Hearing Bad News?

In midlife and beyond, we’re bound to hear bad news and good news about ex-friends. Former friends get sick or lose family members and significant others. On the flip side, our old friends publish books, or become in-laws and grandparents. Have you ever attempted getting back in touch with an ex-friend after hearing some notable news? Do you think it’s nourishing to the soul to dip back into the past, or is it best to leave well enough alone?


Dear Nina,

About fifteen years ago, my friend since kindergarten, Sarah, cut me out of her life. It was during our mid-twenties when a toxic person came between us. I knew Sarah’s close friend was toxic, but it took Sarah several more years to come to the same conclusion. I’ve since learned that the two of them no longer speak.

Sarah recently lost her father quite suddenly. I attended the funeral, and she indicated to me how much it meant to her.apology will not come, and at this point, it no longer matters what happened in the past. What does matter is that I try in some way to rejuvenate the friendship that was lost. I feel as if Sarah’s father’s death could in some way be the catalyst for us getting together. Perhaps it could be a positive outcome of an extreme negative.

What do you advise on the best way to go about reconnecting with Sarah? Do you agree with me that all is not lost and perhaps we can find a way back on the path of friendship we shared for so many years?

Signed, Back in Touch

Dear Back in Touch,

Those childhood friendships never leave us, even the ones that end badly. If anything, the ones that end badly can take on an inflated importance as we repeatedly analyze what went wrong. I say “we” because I think many people reading this have been there, including me. Before delving into your specific questions, I want to commend you for attending Sarah’s father’s funeral. Perhaps that seemed like an obvious choice for you, but I bet many others in your situation would write a note expressing condolences, which is a very reasonable option here, or simply do nothing, which is probably the more common route. Attending the funeral required the greatest amount of effort and vulnerability. So, should you get back in touch with Sarah? More than ever, I’m coming from a “life is short” philosophy, which can cut both ways. Life is short, so if you’re missing Sarah’s friendship, I think you should go for it. But since life is really too short to waste on people who do not appreciate us, I have to caution you that if Sarah seems at all reluctant (takes a long time responding, cancels more than once, does not ask you about your life, etc.), then you can feel satisfied about making the attempt but leaving Sarah in the past.

Is it possible to find a way back to a friendship after so many years? The fact that you’re not expecting an apology is what makes me believe there is a chance for the two of you. It would be impossible for Sarah to know at this point exactly why she got so close to that toxic friend and why she felt she couldn’t have both of you in her life.

Your willingness to release Sarah from an explanation is your best chance. As for how to go about a reconciliation, I consulted my wise mom, Kathy. Here’s what my mom said: “You might consider emailing or calling to ask if Sarah wants to get together. If Sarah says yes, then suggest getting out your calendars. If Sarah is unwilling to make a date right then—short of getting ready for a trip or a really good excuse—I would consider the friendship not worth pursuing at this point. You can feel satisfied in having taken the high road by attending the funeral, then you have to let the friendship go and be glad you have closure.”

My mom and I are saying the same thing, which makes sense since she taught me everything I know. Bottom line: Yes, you should try, but do not be the only one making an obvious effort.

Warmly, Nina


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