Friendships wax and wane as each of us grow, learn new things, shed old ideas, age, marry, have children, change jobs, etc. So it stands to reason that friendships can change when one is grieving. Depending on the level of grief it can be a life changing event for a lot of people.
My father died on November 14, 2019 after a battle with lung cancer. He was only 66. By law he was my step father but he was so much more than that to me. He was my hero as his marriage to my mother brought years of abuse from my mother to a tolerable level. He didn’t know the extent of her abuse until after her death as I kept most of it to myself. His infinite patience was something I tried to aspire to. I failed but it still made me a better person.
When my mother died years before him, it was more of a relief so my grieving process was completely different. I appeared strong being there for my sister who had a different relationship (thank goodness) with her. I was able to help my father through a lot and held my daughters in their tender age as they mourned something they could not even comprehend. My husband’s bipolar was triggered as he lost someone he cared about. They were great friends and had a lot of fun together. So my friends watched me grieve a parent and probably thought I was pretty resilient.
When my father died it was completely different. First, I had to watch him die a little every single day. I don’t have the words to describe what kind of hell that is. Watching a strong, funny, wicked smart man waste away, get frail and sometimes forget who you are is at the least heart breaking. It broke me.
When he passed away, I was reeling from the loss. I didn’t realize he was my anchor. I didn’t realize he was the one that had kept me sane and together all this time. It was not my own strength but his that had helped me to be a happier person. When that was gone, I didn’t quite know how to function. Even with all the pain I had experienced in the past I had never fallen into depression. This time, I spiraled into a situational depression that took me into a deep dark pit of self pity, fear and loneliness like I had not felt before. It was sheer despondency. Having watched my husband struggle with Bipolar depression did not even help me any as I could not lift my head long enough to ask for help.
Friends and acquaintances rallied around me during the funeral process, the taking care of the estate and all that. I don’t remember much of it as I was on auto pilot. Looking back I’m glad my friends took over and helped out because I truly can’t even remember what happened to everything. I don’t even have a clear memory of the first Thanksgiving or Christmas of 2019. I think I fed my family and made sure everyone had presents but even if you put a gun to my head I can’t tell you what I bought anyone. It’s all a blur.
I was not NUMB like many people say they felt. I felt everything. I had hypersensitivity and everything hurt. Thinking about him hurt. Any song about Dads pierced my heart. Photos of him brought me to my knees. I have always been able to accept death and move on but when it came to him, I was so angry. I was angry with cancer for making such a good man have to suffer. I was angry with fate for taking away the one person that seemed to love me with absolutely no expectations. I was forlorn and sad beyond words.
Slowly the neighbors and casual friends go on with their lives after bringing food whether you are hungry or not, sending cards, texts and well wishes. All that was very appreciated and I am grateful. However, friendships change when you are grieving. Some friends distance themselves or walk away completely. They don’t get it and want the old you back. Grief is circular, I have learned, and not linear like they used to think. So some people will not understand that on May 25, 2021 you are still crying while writing a blog about grief. They want you to “get over it” and be your happy go lucky self again.
Often, it seems the best friends for the bereaved are people who are also in grief. Not one, not two but three of my friends lost a close parent during my process. One lost one before me. The other two lost their parent 6 months after mine and a year after mine. We were all in different stages of grief and that was good. We gave each other room and we REALLY could understand what the other was going through.
I am thankful for my closest friends who stuck by me. JoAnne, Mike and my husband never wavered and gave me the room I needed but always made sure they were there when I needed them. Bonnie’s grief did not burden me but gave me the ability to tell her how fucking mad I was and had an ally who said it was okay to be that mad. Now that I have pulled myself out of the depression (thank you Western medicine AND homeo-therapy – thank you Michael for the healing massages!) I can clearly say that there comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page or closing the book on friendships. Always love yourself enough to make changes. It’s really okay.