Over time, all of us lose a good number of friends. It's to be expected. Paths diverge as we graduate, marry, move, become parents, embark on new careers, get divorced, or experience fundamental changes from within. Unlike marriages that have legal ties--or relationships with relatives that are bound by blood--friendships are voluntary relationships that often end unexpectedly and unceremoniously.
The large majority of friendships, even very good ones, simply drift apart as the schism between two people who were once friends grows so wide that neither one has the interest or energy to keep up the relationship. A much smaller number of friendships end acrimoniously, over misunderstandings, disagreements or blowups that never gets resolved.
Should she or shouldn't she?
Once inseparable, ex-best friends Monica and Randi had their last conversation about ten years ago when the two women were only 16 years old. Monica only vaguely recalls the details of what caused their relationship to splinter: They were at war over the same boy. Angry about something Randi told him, Monica called her a "bad friend" and that was the last time they spoke.
Now ten years later, Monica realises it was unfortunate that a silly argument over a guy she can't remember wound up severing such a close friendship. She often thinks about her once-best friend and the memories they shared: They lived in the same neighbourhood, grew up together, were classmates, and kindred spirits.
"After many attempts to reach out to her on Facebook, Randi won't even answer my messages," says Monica. She doesn't know where her once-best friend lives and doesn't have her phone number.
"Should I continue to reach out to her?" asks Monica. "I've tried to get over it but I haven't been able to," she adds.
Deciding when it's worthwhile
I would say to Monica: If you have tried to reach out to an old friend and she doesn't respond, there isn't much you can do. Don't take it personally. You don't know what else may be going on in her life and she may have a host of reasons why she doesn't want to delve into her past--that have nothing to do with you.
Monica's reluctance to let go is understandable. Old friendships are irreplaceable because these friends knew us during a phase of our life that will never be repeated. But friendships require two interested parties. Instead of fixating on an unrequited friendship, Monica has no choice but to focus on nurturing relationships with the people around her now.
Finding long lost friends
If you decide to seek out a lost friend, it's prudent to temper your expectations. You may be rejected at the get-go, as was Monica. And after long separations, it's not unusual for friends to find they don't really have much in common except for their shared history.
"It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then," writes Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.
However, some people are fortunate---and find they're able to connect with an old friend as they did in the past, almost as if the years hadn't passed by. If you are willing to take a chance, here are some tips to help you find old friends you have lost track of:
· Try finding the person using Google by putting her first name and last name in quotes. See what comes up. If you know the city and/or state where she lives or last lived, you can refine the search by putting that after her name in quotes.
· Similarly, you can try Pipl.com. This is a meta-search engine that finds people using numerous public databases.
· Check out groups from your high school or college on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.
· Email or phone the alumni office of your alma mater.
· Let your fingers do the walking--use the white pages directory on switchboard.com.
· No luck finding her in a directory? Are her parents or other relatives findable? Chances are they may still live in the same town she did. Try finding their phone numbers or email addresses.
· If you don't know any relatives, you could try the friend-of-a-friend route. Do you know someone who knew her that you are still in touch with and who may be easier to find?
· Any clue to the kind of work she is doing? Perhaps, you can find her through LinkedIn, a professional association, or the human resources office of her former place of employment.
· Jigsaw.com is a database with 20 million business contacts, including addresses, titles, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. You can either subscribe or pay a $5 charge to find contact information for one individual.
· If your old friend is a female and took her husband's surname, this may pose additional challenges. One idea: Search major newspapers for engagement or wedding announcements that may offer clues to your girlfriend's new married name.
· Finally, even better than digging: If you develop a blog, personal website, or other web presence, your old friends may come out of the woodwork looking for you.
Follow Dr. Irene S. Levine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/moretime2travel