The Washington Post

A friend with a terminal illness cut off contact. Here are some ways to cope.

- AMY DICKINSON Amy’s column appears seven days a week at washington­post.com/advice. Write to askamy@amydickins­on.com or Amy Dickinson, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, N.Y. 13068. You can also follow her @askingamy. — Thomas

Dear Readers: Every year during this time I step away from my column to work on other creative projects. I hope you enjoy these “Best Of ” Q&AS from 10 years ago.

Today’s topic is: surviving loss.

I also invite readers to subscribe to my weekly “Asking Amy” newsletter, at Amydickins­on.substack.com, where I post a favorite Q&A, as well as commentary about what I’m reading, watching and listening to.

I’ ll be back with fresh columns in two weeks.

Dear Amy: Last year a good friend was diagnosed with cancer and embarked on chemothera­py treatment.

I let her know I would be there for whatever she needed, and until recently our friendship didn’t seem to change. She had always been very active, and we continued to spend time together. I took my cue from her as to whether she wanted to talk about her illness.

Last month she got the news that her chemo was failing and that her situation seems terminal. She suddenly ceased all communicat­ion with me — no answers to emails or phone messages.

I don’t know her other friends well enough to have contact informatio­n, so I don’t know if she has withdrawn from everyone.

She does have very strong, close family support, so at least I know she’s not alone in this. But I can’t help but feel that she has abandoned me. Not knowing how she is, and not having contact informatio­n for her family (they all seem to be unlisted), I’m in the dark as to whether she’s at home or in hospice or what, and it’s breaking my heart.

I guess all I can do is continue to email, send cards and post encouragin­g messages on her Facebook page. Any other suggestion­s?

— Brokenhear­ted Old Friend

Brokenhear­ted Old Friend: When facing the end of life, some people withdraw from all but a very small circle of people. You are right; this is heartbreak­ing, but this is what this individual wants to do. If you are in touch with your friend on Facebook, you also should be able to contact at least one of her family members through Facebook to see how she is.

Remember that they are also in a crisis moment in their lives.

Hospice care is a great gift to the dying and those who love them. A hospice counselor could speak with you, so at the very least you would understand the process in order not to take this personally, and to ease your own pain and feelings of loss.

Your hospital should be able to connect you with a hospice volunteer.

(April 2011)

Dear Amy: “Brokenhear­ted Old Friend” was devastated when her dying friend withdrew all contact from her. I had a similar experience with a relative. I didn’t understand why this person would choose to distance herself from many near and dear to her as she approached the end of her life, but a hospice volunteer told me that this is common.

— Sad Relative

Sad Relative: Respecting the wishes of a dying person — even as they draw inward — is one of the burdens of being a survivor.

(May 2011)

Dear Amy: You’ve been running letters about what to do for those diagnosed with a terminal illness.

When my wife was given less than two months to live, I was faced with the decision of how to handle those two months.

I threw a major party for her to celebrate her life. More than 125 guests conveyed to her how she had affected their lives. After her funeral, everyone commented on what a wonderful gift they were given when they had the chance to help celebrate the life they had with her.

I knew how it had comforted her during her remaining days.

I can’t take credit for the idea. I can take credit for celebratin­g her life (instead of mourning it) before she died.

Thomas: This celebratio­n was a touching and tender gift for everyone involved.

(June 2011)

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