Question:

I've known my best friend, "Hal," since high school. We're in our late 30s now, and I don't have another male friend with whom I have been as close. We considered ourselves as close as brothers. But over the past 5 to 10 years, so much distance has developed between us that I feel like calling him my best friend says more about the void in my social life than our relationship.

When he writes me an increasingly infrequent, brief "update" e-mail, he often cites how busy he is with work and family as an excuse for not writing or calling. And in the past, he has expressed frustration with how he attracts "needy" friends who consume his time and energy. He wasn't specifically referring to me, but it made me self-conscious about contacting him.

In brief, this friendship is done. I know it. My question is about how to address that with him. Do I write him an honest letter stating that I feel like the friendship has run its course? Or do I not address it at all? What would a woman do in this situation, and is that the same thing a man should do?

Answer: You're staring down a problem - well, more of a disappointment - that doesn't discriminate. But what helps, often, sort of, is knowing there's no satisfying end to a relationship you'd rather keep. The sting of rejection is unavoidable, and it's a chromosome-blind sensation.

So too is this one: missing your friend. Or partner, or family member, or former version of yourself. Don't apologize for your grief.

Don't wallow prematurely, either. People at midlife do get swallowed up by immediate, proximity needs - job, family, neighbors, etc. Expect nothing, but stay in loose touch with Hal anyway; see what happens to your friendship, and your hankering for it, when those immediate needs start to ease.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.