• Resolving Problems

Let Down By A Friend When I Needed Her Most

Published: March 28, 2013 | Last Updated: August 21, 2022 By | 18 Replies Continue Reading
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The options are limited when you are let down by a friend whom you always thought you could count upon.


Dear Irene,

Last year we had a horrific thing happen in our family. My son, in a drug-induced psychotic episode, killed our daughter-in-law. My husband and I found her dead after my son went missing for several days until he called my husband, who in turn called the police.

Our son had taken 100 pills and went into a seizure upon being taken into custody by the police. The police brought him to a hospital, where he spent a month. He is now, after pleading guilty, serving a 25-year term in prison. My son had a drug problem for a long time, which we thought he had conquered.

So this is my problem. My girlfriend, whom I have known for 30 years, came over while my son was missing and proceeded to get drunk. I am assuming this is how she dealt with what had happened. She went to my daughter-in-law’s viewing both days and went to the funeral mass. She never returned to our house after that night, except when we had a party this year.

She would call to ask how I was doing and constantly told my husband I needed therapy. Over the whole year, she never asked how my son was doing. She acts as if he does not exist. She will talk about her children and ask how everyone in my family is doing except my son. I really feel let down by a friend whom I thought I could count on.

When I asked her about this, she said, “I did not want to ask you because I am a private person” (BS). I told her she could ask and that it bothers me that she doesn’t ask about him.

Well, this did not work, and although we continued to speak, she continued to ignore my son’s existence. I have stopped returning her calls, and she has finally stopped calling. I felt this was the best thing to do as I was so drained and sad after speaking with her on the phone.

It is breaking my heart to lose a friendship of thirty years, but, at this point, I must look out for my mental health, and I believe this is what I need to do. Please advise.

Signed, Adriana


Dear Adriana,

First, my heart goes out to you and your family. I’m sure that this unimaginable tragedy continues to haunt everyone touched by it, including your family, your daughter-in-law’s family, and many other friends and acquaintances.

Clearly, you tried to open the door for a conversation about your son with your friend and expressed your need to speak about him, but she was unable to respond or to offer you the kind of support you expected.

Everyone copes with tragedy in different ways. She may have been trying to block your son out of her consciousness because this tragedy was painful to her, too, even as a bystander—or else it may have been her way of trying to do what she thought was best for you. Her comment about you needing therapy confirms she isn’t comfortable talking to you about your son and thinks you should be talking to someone else.

Sometimes people involved only indirectly in a traumatic situation, such as your friend was, are also profoundly affected. And if your friend personally experienced prior traumas in her life, even as a child, she may have been particularly vulnerable to the events that transpired.

From your perspective, I’m sure you must feel like your friend hasn’t acted like a true friend and let you down. Apropos of this tragedy, you suffered major upheavals in your life and in multiple relationships: with your daughter-in-law, your son, possibly some friends and neighbors, and now with a close friend.

If you feel that this last disappointment is so painful that you need to protect yourself, that is understandable. You may simply need to keep some distance from her for a while, give yourself more time to grieve and heal, and give your friend the chance to reach out to you at some later time if she can.

I can understand your disappointment but I would think long and hard about closing the door completely on such a long-standing friendship. Right now, you need the support of family and friends and you do seem somewhat ambivalent about losing this friendship entirely. If you aren’t able to talk to your friend about your son, perhaps she can still be supportive in other ways while you depend on other people for the conversations you need to have now. Reaching out to a trained professional may not be a bad idea.

Hope this helps a bit.

Warm regards, Irene

Also on The Friendship Blog:

Expecting…..And Feeling Let Down By Friends

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Category: Disappointing friends

Comments (18)

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  1. LaTrice says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter-in-law, Adriana. I can’t imagine the pain and the turmoil that your family is going through at this moment. What your son did was senseless and horrific. There’s nothing glamorous about taking another human being’s life-whatever the reasons may be.

    You need to think twice about ending your thirty years of friendship with your best friend. She’s having a difficult time handling this event herself, and it’s a HUGE pill to swallow-not just her, but for EVERYONE!! You can’t force her to address your son, so as Irene was saying, surround yourself with those that are supporting you. If you want to speak to a professional about it, it’s a decision that you have to make.

  2. audrey says:

    you are so brave and full of courage to share your story like this god will supply the right person or maybe a counsellor to help you through the rough days people will judge your son but if he prays for forgiveness he will receive it

  3. Marisa says:

    I would be thankful that any friend stood by me in any capacity if my son committed such a horrendous and senseless crime. His wife was the victim, no matter any mitigating circumstances.

    Do not expect any other human being to support your son. Attempting to explain away his violent act does little to further this ugly situation.

    As a mother I feel very badly for you. Nurture the friendships you have and do not expect anyone to feel badly for, or support your son, in any way.

    I feel terribly bad for the DIL’s family. She, and they, are the true victims.

    • connie says:

      Very well said. If it was a killing because of organic psychiatric disorders, the whole scenario would be different. However this is drug-induced temporary psychosis. Anyone will be mad at your son. Your friend does not want to sugar coat anything so she is keeping mum about that topic, which is the best she can do since she probably can’t say anything good about your son.

      Either way, it’s you, the family who are really the real victims. I hope your son knows how this is killing everyone else in your family.

  4. Kristen says:

    Adriana, I’m so sorry for your loses on so many levels. Irene has offered such good advice–I also appreciated to comments. Maybe you could share this post with your friend?

  5. jacqueline says:

    First of all, my deepest sympathies on the loss of your daughter-in-law, Adriana. I have to agree with Roxanne’s comments about some friends are good in some situations, and others are not. I believe your friend tried to do the right thing. She probably came to the viewing drunk because she was not comfortable about what happened, but wanted to be there for you. I believe she really did her best, but does not know what else to do, so she avoids mentioning the situation/your son, which makes it seem like none of this exists (in her mind). I would let the time pass and see what happens. Don’t write her off just yet.

  6. merr says:

    If it’s not a pattern, then I’d wonder what was going on with the friend. If it is a pattern, then I’d wonder what the friendship was providing.

  7. Living Large says:

    I was going to make the same comment as Brette. You have such great advice on friendship for people.

  8. Sheryl says:

    This is such a sad situation, made worse by so many heightened feelings. Sometimes, I think, you need to let things settle down and rethink a situation when emotions are so raw and tender.

  9. Alexandra says:

    Losing a long-time friend is so hard, but sometimes it is what life calls for. Your letter to Adriana was so compassionate. I hope she takes your advice.

  10. Janice says:

    Dear Adriana, I’m so sorry this happened to you and your family. I can’t even imagine what that must be like for you.

    As far as your friend is concerned, perhaps she simply can’t discuss your son with you because she’s afraid she’ll be judgmental and she recognizes that that’s the last thing you need. As this is your son, not hers, she doesn’t have the benefit of parental love to temper whatever negative feelings she might be harboring towards him.

    Obviously, I don’t know for sure that this is the case, I’m just offering you the possibility that because she’s been involved in all other ways other than discussing your son with you, that this could be a reason.

    I know it has been for me at times when I’ve harbored really negative opinions about situations that affected my friends, and I’m a very empathetic person and am not normally too judgmental. But when I can’t help myself, I find it’s impossible to discuss that subject with the person involved because it affects my relationship with them. So, I just don’t. Perhaps that’s what she’s doing.

    As others have mentioned, let time take its course and just let things be without closing a door that might be hard to reopen.

  11. Bronwyn says:

    This woman is not responsible for what her son did and she and her husband took appropriated actions so their son would be held accountable.

    Her, “friend”, probably knowing that the son had a substance abuse problem, came to his family’s house drunk. Th son is now paying his debt to society and his parents continue to recover from this terrible tragedy. The last thing this person needs is someone else meting out judgment (especially when it has already been passed by the judicial system). Saying someone needs therapy often comes across as judgmental as well. Perhaps the reason this person thinks the mother needs therapy is because she hasn’t given up on her son. How can she? The parents may or may not benefit from therapy, but it sounds like the friend is doing a lot of projection and could benefit from it herself.

    I had a close friend who lived in the same town as my mother did and she failed to return any of my phone calls when my mother was dying. Over the years, I watched this woman give support to numerous people in numerous situations. She later explained that she wouldn’t have been any good to me at the time. Our friendship never returned to its previous status, and it wasn’t due to a lack of willingness on my part. Unfortunately, sometimes it is situations such as this that show us who are true friends are.

  12. Kerry says:

    there’s pain on all sides here. as Jane Boursaw comments above, though, I’ve also had experience of things and situations I would not have thought of — and healing I’d not have thought of — emerge over time. if I had one word to say to both your questioner and her friend in this situation, it would be forgive. and a second word would be patience, with themselves and with each other.

  13. Oh, boy. This is a tough situation. I can see both sides. I’ve learned over time that some friends are good in some situations and some are not. Sometimes, the people you least expect come to your side, while others you assumed would do not.

  14. Jane Boursaw says:

    Great advice for a complex situation. The older I get, the less apt I am to make any rash decisions (like ending a longstanding friendship), and instead tend to let things simmer. Sometimes the answers just occur to me over time.

  15. Amy says:

    I’m so sorry your family has gone through such turmoil. I’d be surprised if you didn’t need therapy to cope with the stress, disappointment, anger, and other feelings your son created. I totally understand that you continue to love your son and support him.
    I think expecting your friends to support your son might be asking too much. He’s not the victim, your DIL was, her family is, and everyone who loved her is. You are also a victim because you loved her and you continue to love him, but are powerless to do much to help him. I’m quite sure therapy would be helpful to anyone on this situation.
    If I was your friend, and I loved you but harbored anger and hatred toward your son for his actions, I wouldn’t ask about him in order to preserve our relationship. If I was working through these feelings, you would not be the person I’d process those feelings with, because that would be hurtful to you.
    I think you have to allow your friend her own journey and comfort level and respect that some of your friends might avoid discussing your son to save your feelings.
    I get that substance abuse is hard to overcome and relapse is common, but in the end, he made choices that created the situation and he’s responsible for them, even if he feels horrible about what he did in a drug induced state. That’s another reason by having a therapist, a neutral third party who has no personal feelings for or against your son, would be helpful.
    Your friend has set boundaries around discussing your son. Those boundaries might loosen as she works through her own feelings, and I think you have to respect them.
    I wish you healing and I hope your son is able to heal and be productive in his life.

  16. Irene, your advice is always so thoughtful and compassionate. This site is a great resource!

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