Grief changes your friendships: people you thought would hang beside you in anything turn dismissive, unable to hold their gaze on your pain. People you thought would have no capacity for stillness turn out to be consistent witnesses.
You never know who will come through and who will fade away. The only thing for sure is that grief will rearrange your address book: relationships change.
That oddness of relationship, those bizarre shifts in friendships are what I want to talk about today.
And: I pause every time I post writing from my own early days of grief. The words are raw, and often really angry. I’m not as angry now, years on, as I was in the early days. And still – the present me is not an adequate picture. To speak only of now is unfair to those who have just been thrown into this new life.
To only talk about my now doesn’t give you a reflection, doesn’t give you a foothold, in your landscape of love and grief right now.
Writing without the deeply personal is not the whole story of grief. To give the whole story, to give as many handholds as possible in the steep climb of grief, we need to hear personal stories. Occasionally, I’ll post something from my own experience of grief and love. It’s an inside look at love, at grief, at life.
This week, a post from my own early grief on this very topic: how friendships change, and the irony of going this alone. It’s angry, but that anger was valid and true. Note, this is not my current experience, but was true many years ago:
I want to not do this anymore.
I was reprimanded by someone today for being a non-responsive friend, which is fine, and accurate. The problem is that this person thinks we have been close friends for 15 years, and that is not an idea I share: grabbing tea together a couple times a year is not my definition of “close.”
Clearly, we have very different definitions of “close friendship.”
I’m failing for her in ways that never actually existed before.
I am tired of peoples’ expectations of me that aren’t based in my actual truth. I’m tired of people telling me I’m doing this wrong, a fact they claim simply because who I am right now doesn’t work for them.
My actual life doesn’t match the picture they project.
Which only really blows because the person who would totally get that, who had himself experienced those wayward expectations from others, is fucking dead.
It used to be awesome to be me. I was loved for being exactly me.
Now, being me irritates and wounds people.
All of this has me thinking about leaving this state, getting away from what other people need me to be. I am thinking again of those vows of silence I want to take.
I am tired of the effort of interaction I find exhausting these days, in a million different ways.
I am thinking that, clearly, humans and I are just not well suited to each other, and I should just bow and be on my way.
I had my people. I had my family. I was understood.
Ages ago, my father-in-law’s wife told me, “I know he is staying alive for me. I know he is only trying because I am here beside him and with him.”
My mother-in-law calls to tell me she doesn’t think she would be surviving this if not for her new partner. She says, again and again: no one could survive such a thing without a good partner by their side.
I want to, but do not, say the obvious.
Why is it that I am meant to survive this, the one closest, the one without. If this is not survivable without your partner by your side, how exactly am I meant to survive? If the only way through this is with the ones you love by your side, how exactly am I meant to survive?
That’s rhetorical and ridiculous.
I have no point, and I am just bitching now. Just bitching because this is insane, and I am tired, and I want my love back, and I no longer want to survive this shit at all.
Wait. I never wanted to.
How about you? How has grief rearranged your friendships? This post describes my experience of many years ago, and it’s shifted now – but it was so valid at the time. In the comments, let us know how friendships have been for you, no matter where you are in your grief.