Sunday, May 25, 2014

Friends and Our Grief

Author Martha Hickman in her book Healing After Loss said, “We found that our circle of friends shifted. We were surprised and disappointed that people we thought were good friends became distant, uneasy and seemed unable to help us. Others, who were casual acquaintances, became suddenly close, sustainers of life for us. Grief changes the rules, and sometimes rearranges the combinations.”

Oh, so true! I have met very few bereaved parents who don’t agree with this statement. Why would good friends become unable to help us? Is it because they don’t know what to say to us and are afraid to say it wrong? Perhaps.

It happened to me. I lost a very good friend during this period in my life. I think it was just the beginning of complications between our relationship and this was just one more thing added to the problem. We never spoke again, nor have I ever seen him since. At first I was very upset, but then, when I began to find other friends I had more in common with, I realized I was better off. I know other friendships can work it out, but some can not, and I accepted that.

Some said I had changed. Of course I had changed. How could I not have changed after losing a child? I always believed I changed for the better. I became more empathetic to others. I learned what was important in life and what was trivial. I set new goals and new priorities.

Others tell me they get angry at how relatives react. Many stay away. Other relatives tell us to “get over it; that it’s been long enough.” We can not expect others to understand, if they have never gone through it. Some people may be afraid that if they stay close, the same thing will happen to them? How ridiculous! But that is the way some think.

I believe the best way to handle all of these situations is to share how you feel. This becomes part of the new you, and with that, a new level of understanding between you and others can help you down that long, difficult road to recovery. Explain that you want them to reach out, talk to you, hold your hand, if necessary and hug you. Ask if you can cry if you need to. If they are true friends, they will accept the change in you. You need to have a good listener. Ask if they can be patient with you because your grief period may be a very long time. Explain you want to keep in touch. Be appreciative if they remember your child’s birthday or death day and very subtly explain that as those anniversaries draw near, your feelings may become very sensitive, and they should understand. And finally, ask your friends to let you do whatever will make you happy.

If others can do these things for us, our grief journey will become easier and can lead to new paths that enrich our lives in new ways we never dreamed were possible.

1 comment:

  1. One of my best friends for 25 years, one of the first I called after my son's fatal crash, was there for the 1st week and then she was "done" with our grief. We tried talking to her MANY times to let her know what she needed. After I banged my head against the wall for several months, I decided to let her go. It's more about her uncomfortableness around grief than it is me. I've tried to repair it with little success. I think it's a shame that a childhood friend, who has spent so many years in my life, has to just be gone because of my tragedy. I cannot understand her.