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My best friend cut me off when my parents died. Will I ever get over it? | Annalisa Barbieri


Some years ago, my father died suddenly and unexpectedly. At the same time, my mother was very ill. I called my best friend of two decades, and she was so lovely – listening while I cried and promising to attend the funeral. She sent flowers the next day, but then went quiet.

Three months later, my mother died. I called my friend, but she was short with me and obviously wanted me off the phone; it was upsetting. I have not heard from her since, although I called and sent cards.

My friend had an on-off relationship with a man, X, since they were teenagers. She married someone else, had children, got divorced, got engaged, broke it off. She then got pregnant by X, but they split up; she had the baby alone, but continued to see him occasionally. Throughout this, she would call and tell me everything. I hope I was a loyal friend, helping her through ups and downs.

I married, had my wonderful children and a pretty ordinary life. But when my parents died my world disintegrated. My husband was uncaring and we divorced. After a few bumpy years, I am happy again.

I saw recently on Facebook that my friend is about to celebrate her tenth wedding anniversary with X. I had no idea. The wedding date coincides with the week after my mother died. My friend obviously did not want me to know they were getting married, and I was excluded from her life.

How do I get over feeling angry and betrayed by someone I thought was my best friend, but who let me down at my most vulnerable time?

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I’m really sorry to hear about your parents. Losing them in quick succession must have been extremely tough.

As for your friends – some people can’t handle other people’s grief. I lost a few friends after my father died; one wrote to say she couldn’t deal with it as it reminded her of her own mortality. At least she was honest; we haven’t seen each other since.

In your situation, I suspect a few things were going on. In your longer letter you said that your friend told you both the ups and downs about X. I wonder if, having decided to marry him, she wanted to start anew, maybe with a narrative that didn’t include what you knew about him. Perhaps she didn’t want to risk being too closely questioned about her actions. Traditionally, what was your response to X? Was it neutral or critical?

Sometimes we associate people so strongly with an event or time in our lives that when we want to move on, we have to jettison that friend. This happened to me: a friend told me something seismic about herself then cut me out of her life for no obvious reason. I suspect I reminded her of something she wanted to forget, and maybe she was scared I might say something.

What happened to you wasn’t fair, but your friend may not even have understood her own motives and will certainly have her version of events. Friendships rarely end because of a single incident; rather that one incident is enough of a catalyst to link all past slights – imagined or real – which are then used to justify severing ties. It can be confusing for the person left behind.

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I wonder if your friend is linked into your grief, and that is why you are still thinking about her. From your letter, the wounds seem so fresh, not something that happened a decade ago. Remember that cruse.org.uk is always there for the bereaved, no matter how long ago it was.

What is your ultimate aim? If it’s to get her to acknowledge how much she hurt or betrayed you, she may never do that; not least because she might not see it like that. If this is your motivation, let it lie.

If, however, underneath your hurt and anger, you miss her and want to rekindle the friendship, you could try one last time to contact her and ask to start afresh. If that doesn’t work, then I think this friendship has probably run its course. With the friends I lost, I spent a while hypothesising about the whys and wherefores, but then I put them to bed and got on with my life. We like neat endings, but often have to live with the unfinished.

• Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to ask.annalisa@theguardian.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

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