In the words of Valley girls everywhere, what a nightmare. If you want to be a supportive friend, you need to find a way to nudge Ashley back in the direction of professional help. If she's still seeing a mental health professional, you should urge her to be more honest about her behavior with the person who's trying to help her. To do this, however, be sure to phrase your concerns so they don't seem to be about your feeling put off—but about your being worried on her behalf. It goes without saying that you should broach the subject while Ashley is sober. If she won't meet you for coffee, invite yourself over to her house.
I'd start with something like, "I can only imagine what you're going through." Go on to say that, while you too might want to go to sleep inebriated every night (if you were in her situation), you're worried that she's self-destructing in the process (of grieving). And that her son wouldn't have wanted it that way.
If you're not getting anywhere and/or she tells you to bug off, I wouldn't give up quite yet. Instead, consider asking her husband to contact the mental health professional that Ashley was or is still seeing to express his own concerns. At some point, however, you may find that you've done everything you can do as a friend. Unfortunately, apart from the passage of time itself, there's no cure for coping with a tragedy on this level.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe, I'm a third-year student in a five-year graduate program. Last year, I was befriended by a professor—"Mary"—who is close to my age and was recently single. (Most people in my program are married with kids, but I'm not). Mary and I became really close and socialized several times a week. Then, over the summer, a man that she was dating assaulted me in her home during a party. This was after I had complained to her several times about his advances, and she did nothing about it. I left the party immediately afterward and refused to be around him again. After he broke up with her, she accused me of coming on to him and refused to listen to my side of the story. Then she stopped calling and blocked me from seeing her status updates on Facebook (but didn't un-friend me). At first I thought, "Good riddance." However, when the new school year started, she befriended many people in my cohort, deliberately leaving me out of social gatherings and telling some of our colleagues that I'm "not to be trusted." This has put me in a very bad situation, as I'm losing friends and collaborative work partners alike. Mary was responsible for getting me funding, and I don't want to put that source in jeopardy by standing up to her. Plus, I miss hanging out with the group! Luckily I have no classes or research ties with her at the moment, but it's awful seeing her every day and knowing she's ruining my reputation. She just won a teaching award for being popular, which makes me want to vomit. How do I handle this? Sincerely,Burned by My Prof
Well, if Mary is going to talk crap about you to your friends, I don't see why you need to keep your own lips sealed. If I were you, I'd disseminate the same story you're telling me—about how her ex-boyfriend assaulted you, yet Mary managed to blame YOU for her subsequent break-up with the guy! Considering that Mary is clearly an educated woman in a position of leadership (who should know better), all I can guess is that you somehow became the face of her own humiliation. This guy was supposed to be her boyfriend. And yet he was coming on to one of her students? And then he assaulted that student?!
You don't say if you pressed charges. But if you haven't already, I suggest doing so. You'll be sparing the next woman what you went through. You'll also be sending a message to Mary and to the world that you're the victim here not the perpetrator. In the meantime, keep your head high and initiate plans with the gang yourself—so you can leave Mary out of them. As for your funding, if Mary has the nerve to get it cut off, prepare to go to the dean and wage a formal complaint. In the meantime, as a safety precaution, I'd work extra hard and solidify relations with other faculty members, including your advisor. In the next two years, however, you'd do well to limit the extracurricular socializing to other lowly graduate students (who have no power over you).
Friend or Foe
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