Hello, world. My name is Stephen LaConte, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed, and sometimes I give our readers advice.
So I've invited you to message me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places) with your biggest problems. And I'm solving 'em right here on BuzzFeed, one DM at a time. Let's get right to it.
Today, we've got this woman, who suspects that her friend might be faking grief over her mother's death to get out of plans. Should she call the friend out? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
It sucks to feel like someone you care about is avoiding you, and I think that concern, specifically, is one you can gently bring up with your friend. But I definitely don't think the conversation should include any mention of your suspicions that she sometimes fakes grief over her mother's death.
I'm assuming these are just suspicions, by the way, even though your DM states them as 100% fact. Has she ever outright said, "Sometimes I fake grief to get out of plans"? If she hasn't, and you're basing this solely on your own interpretations of her behavior, then you absolutely must allow for the possibility that your interpretations are wrong.
And honestly, I think it's quite possible you're misjudging here. Grief looks different on everyone, and trying to assess the authenticity of someone else's experience with it is a dangerous game to play. Not to mention that your friend's mom died only three years ago. That's not that much time for a young person to process such a devastating, life-altering loss. It's more than just "believable" that she'd still be grieving — it's certain.
You should also consider the possibility that your friend IS "faking" certain outward signs of grief, like crying, not because her grief itself is fake, but because she is worried about it not being believed. Maybe she's trying to make an invisible grief visible. This is all the more likely to be the case if she has people in her life who would tend to doubt her — which, ironically, seems to be the case now.
And here's one last thing to consider: Frequent canceling of plans and calling out of work can be common signs of depression. Maybe your friend's grief has evolved into something more permanent, and maybe she doesn't yet feel comfortable sharing that information with you. Maybe she doesn't even see it herself yet. Perhaps pointing to her mother's death is an easier, and still truthful, way to explain why she needs to cancel plans tonight.
Look. I assume you want to confront your friend because you don't want to be made into a sucker. That's usually why we confront people when we feel like we're being lied to, right? We want to prove that they won't get the better of us, that we're one step ahead of their schemes. It's a human impulse to have. But in this case, I think you should take the very small risk of being a sucker — because it's so much better to be a sucker than a jerk.
Go all-in on believing your friend, trust that she is doing what she needs to do for herself right now, and be there for her however she's comfortable. In the very unlikely event she's deceiving you and taking advantage of your kindness, well, I guess you'll be a sucker. But you'll sleep better at night knowing that you did the right thing, and that you never asked your friend whether she was really all that sad about her mother dying — a question that would undoubtedly make you look like a jerk.
So, what CAN you talk to your friend about? I'd start with the fact that she cancels on you often, and that you feel like she might be isolating herself. That much is your business, and a genuine worry for a friend to have. But broach the topic with concern, not accusations. Ask if she's okay. Ask what she's going through. Ask if there's anything you can do to help. And whatever she tells you, I think you should believe her. Good luck.
That's all the advice I'm giving today, folks, but if you've got any words of wisdom for our DMer, share them in the comments! I'll be reading...
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