I have been out of touch with an old friend for some time. No drama, just lives got busy and we have not seen each other in several months. I recently heard that he and his wife have gone through a rough time (not their relationship but other sad events) and I would like to reach out to them. I don't want it to appear that I learned this through third hand gossip (although I kind of did--it wasn't malicious, just "have you heard...."). How do I approach them without making this worse?
It is always Gracious to reach out to Friends In Need. If your heart is in the right place, which it obviously is, you won't likely make it worse. Common sense will prevail, of course. Don't invite someone who recently lost a loved one to Cancer for a viewing of Terms of Endearment; don't shove baby pics under the nose of a couple struggling with fertility, don't discuss your fabulous new promotion with someone who has just been laid off--but no Grace would ever do such things.
Choose which of the following suits you and your relationship..whether via email, FB, phone, snail mail or smoke signal and say....
"Bob, I happened to speak to Bill the other day and your name came up. He mentioned that you and Sue had been through a rough time and I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you and wishing you well. If there is anything at all I can do--visit, drop off a meal, take Sue out for coffee, meet you for a drink--really anything, please let me know."
Depending on how "Bob" responds to this overture, further Graciousness may kick in.
Plan to be there for your friend, whatever that may mean. Some people crave company and need to be surrounded by loved ones throughout their ordeals. Others find solitude more restful. If your unsure, ask. I just read an article on Cancer survivors, and all of the subjects reported that what they craved most from their friends and family was to be treated normally--not to dwell on their chemo, their cell counts, and their symptoms. They wanted to chat about their hairdresser's latest romantic disaster, the book you're currently reading, a neighbor's unfortunate liposuction operation, politics and current events, Lindsey Lohan's latest indiscretion, or the new fall shades of lipstick.