DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is in the middle of an ugly divorce. She has been telling me the details, and it just sounds horrible. I try to be a good listener, which is hard because the stories are just so awful, but I don't know what else to do. She has an attorney, and they are going through the trial right now. I want to do something special for my friend, but I can't figure out what in the world that could be. Meanwhile, I am a little exhausted from listening to her go on and on about everything. What can I do? -- In the Middle, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: Being a good listener is one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who is in turmoil, but you do have to look out for yourself at the same time. If your friend likes to be pampered, perhaps you can give her a gift certificate for a massage. That is a very relaxing activity that can help her to be still for a while.
You can also decide that you are not on call for your friend. You can let her calls go to voicemail when it gets to be too much. You can tell her that you are going through your own stuff right now and need some space. You can also recommend to her that she consider getting a psychologist who can help her navigate this tough period. As a friend, you can only do so much. You should not consider yourself a failure if you cannot be there for every moment of her journey.