I’ve heard and read, again and again, that when one is grieving, we learn who really cares about us – they are steadfast. Beginning and end of story. No exceptions. But what if relationships end? Does it mean that no one cared?
While some friends remained close, the fact is that I did lose friends after my son died. Some were friends I had been very close to for many years. People that I thought I would be close with forever. But that’s not what happened.
This didn’t happen immediately for me, but over a few months. At first, I was really hurt. Yeesh! I had lost my son, if they cared about me, why didn’t they stay? Clearly I was undeserving. Unlovable. I felt abandoned.
It took a lot of time and reflection and some very painful honesty to consider things from another point of view.
These were people who had known and loved Mike in their own way. It’s entirely possible that their own grief needed to be expressed in ways that I was not offering.
In each of these friendships my role was primarily as the staunch and ever cheerful supporter. This changed dramatically after my son’s suicide. I was not able to offer much support; and I was no longer a cheerleader. Instead, I needed support in ways that I felt difficult to express and may not have aligned with what my friends expected. In truth I needed a lot of alone time and one friend in particular had a problem with that choice.
One of these friendships had been suffering for quite some time. Perhaps this was simply too much.
There are so many reasons why a relationship may end and we don’t always receive clarity or what is generally called closure. It hurts, there’s no doubt about it.
Here are some things that I came to realize.
My pain was 24/7; there was no getting away from it. These people had their own lives and even though they cared, my grief may have simply been too much.
Now that may sound simplistic, but I have come to believe that all relationships have a beginning and an end. Sometimes we don’t recognize or want to acknowledge the endings because they can be very painful.
As I thought about these people, I realized that they still were quite important to me. I don’t believe they ended our relationship because they suddenly decided I was a terrible person. For whatever reason, it was simply time.
This allowed me to think about the relationships in a new way. One that was filled with appreciation, gratitude and yes, love. These people had meant so much to me; I will always hold them in my heart. They were there for some amazing times and some very difficult times. Yes, gratitude and love.
Now while a couple of relationships did come to an end, I want to share something quite wonderful. Some other friendships became much deeper. These were primarily people who had not known my son (one did). Perhaps their lack of personal grief allowed them to lean forward in this way, I don’t know. They became ardent supporters and are now some of my closest friends.
And there are the new friends that I made along my grief journey. Others who had lost people they loved to suicide. As we got to know one another, our relationships went far beyond the connection that first drew us together. My son has been gone for almost 9 years, and these friendships flourish.
And they are all over the globe! Scotland, Australia, Canada, various states in the U.S. I’ve been able to meet many in person and while we always share about the ones we miss so much, the connection is strong and sure.
We all do the best we can. That’s all that we can do. Some relationships, family or friends become deeper and stronger after tragedy. Some come to an end. I encourage you to work through the hurt when you have to say goodbye to some of them. Remember the love, the companionship, all that made the relationship important. It’s okay to be hurt, it’s okay to be angry and it’s okay to grieve this additional loss. And it’s also okay to process those feelings and to heal. As we do, we are left with love.
Beginning, middle and end, the love is always there.