When a Friend Moves Away

Dear Ms. Demeanor:

A good friend of mine has lived across the street from me for 10 years. We have a close-knit neighborhood, and although she and I have discussed leaving the neighborhood -- the issue came up several different times in differing circumstances -- her response has always been to wait till the kids grow up, then look. Then recently another neighborhood friend came by and asked if I heard that my good friend and her family were moving. My mouth simply opened in shock. I couldn't believe that news.

I told my family. No one believed it. A day later my friend did call to tell me "her news." As she spoke, quite matter-of-factly, I felt my heart sink into my shoes; it was difficult to say anything, much less, "Oh, how wonderful! You're moving!" I managed a few questions, and then she, sensing the difficulties I had, ended the conversation. Things have been awkward since then.

I don't like that she told me one thing and did another. I feel that it would have still been hard to take, but an inkling of her plans could have helped prepare us all (three others in the neighborhood feel much the same as me). I think she turned on a dime and decided she didn't need to account to anyone, which I believe in principle is correct; my heart tells me, though, that the least she could have done, as difficult as it may have been, was to tell us in order to prepare us.

I would like to save the relationship, but I wonder a few things: Who is this person? Did I ever really know her? And if I did, and we work through this, how do I reconcile my hurt feelings (now double hurt because of her reaction to my reaction) with the role of peacemaker? I am having a really tough time with this one.

--blackburnd

Question:

Dear blackburnd:

Did it occur to you that both of you are grieving? Moving away from home, from your support system, is traumatic at best. It's a loss for both of you, and it's difficult to deal with.

Steer clear of the "you said, I said" stuff. It won't help anyone. Guaranteed. Instead, tell her you'd like to have lunch together, or coffee, or something away from your houses.

Tell her how you feel. Don't say, "You did ..." Instead, say something like, "When I heard you were going to be leaving, I felt ..."

Tell her how much her friendship means. Tell her you'll miss her. Tell her you're having a tough time handling it, and it's caused you to be overly sensitive. Apologize for anything you might have said or done to create negative feelings in her.

This does sound as if I'm suggesting you absolve her of any responsibility for the breach. For the moment, I am. Be the bigger person and reach out to her. Obviously she can't reach out to you. Not now, at least.

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