DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that another friend of mine has cancer. I am going crazy. It feels like every day I learn about somebody else who is battling this hateful disease. I really don't have the fortitude to be there for all of my friends who are suffering right now. It literally feels like it is crippling me -- and I am not sick, at least not to my knowledge. How can I balance being a good friend and carving out space to not be bogged down by disease and sadness? -- Gotta Go, Detroit
DEAR GOTTA GO: Years ago, one of my mother's friends was taking care of her husband, who was enduring an extremely long and painful illness. I'll never forget that she took a trip once a year to various ports of call. At first I thought it was strange, but then I realized this was how she kept her sanity. She needed to fill her proverbial cup, not just cater to him -- even though he was her spouse.
You must do things for yourself through this dark period. Sadly, people do pass away in our lives, and sometimes the illnesses that take them out can be devastating to observe and support them through.
Do not feel guilty for not being God. Manage your time with your friends. Do your best to let each of them know that you care about them and that you will do whatever you can to be of support. But put limits on that support. Let them know when you have to go away or when you need downtime. Stop being on call 24 hours a day. You can do that in sprints, but not long-term. The clearer you are about your schedule and your abilities, the easier it will be for everyone around you -- sick and healthy -- to manage their expectations of you.