Even though most of my grief journey was a fog at the beginning, I will always remember the friends that were there for me, the friends that were not there for me and the friends that continue to walk this journey with me. I remember a phone call to a close friend the day my mom passed. I cried for a few minutes and then she quickly informed me she was on a family vacation and would need to call me when she returned. That phone call would never come nor would a mention of my grave loss. Then there was the close friend that sent me text messages a month after my loss telling me what a “selfish person” I was. Informing me that I “always backed out and cancelled plans.” Even months later reminding me that she could “not trust because of all the times I cancelled.” I will never forget that hurt. I suddenly went from grieving the loss of my mother to grieving the loss of friendships.
My grief began when my mom became terminal, it changed me and my priorities. I focused on helping my mom and spending time with family making final memories and that left no time for friends. It was a time in my life when being a friend was the last thing on my mind. My grief caused me to feel like making plans one minute and the next backing out because I wasn’t sure if I could be in public or around anyone without bursting into tears. After my mom passed I still cancelled, backed out and never called not out of selfishness but because my grief had consumed me. I needed them to be there and carry the friendship 100% because I was unable to. I needed them to wait for me until I was ready to be a friend again. I also needed them to understand that I may never be the same friend I was before the loss, it changed me.
Now having been on this grief journey for three years, looking back I realized I encountered several different types of friends on my way. I have put together a list of the different types I had experiences with. Each one even the bad has served a purpose in my grief and I am thankful for each type.
The Fair Weather Friends- I consider this type of friend to be the one that you have a good friendship with before the grief. Then the grief appears and all of a sudden they are nowhere to be found. They do not call to ask how you are, they do not bring a meal and they do not text or come over. This friend is usually the one that is more concerned about the fact that you have neglected them during and after your grief. This will cause the fair weather friends to come and go. When they come around they usually will not bring up your loss, they will only bring up how you have hurt them. In my journey this friend never realizes the amount of grief they brought on by leaving when you needed them most. Forgive them anyways.
The Old Friends-This type of friend is your comrade in the trenches of the valley of grief. They call and you do not feel like you have to hold anything back pertaining to your grief with them. They are there to listen and reassure you that you are in fact normal and your feelings are valid. I find this friend to be the most comforting because they are the ones that typically knew your loved one that passed. The old friend was a vital part of the journey for me. They help you relive memories of your loved one when you are ready and they love you before and after the grief unconditionally. Oprah Winfrey said “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” During grief life isn’t grand, you are in the bus. The old friend gets in the bus right beside you.
The New Friends-This type of friend brings a smile to my face. In the midst of grief they give you hope for the future. They encourage you to do positive things you feel will help you through this journey, they even offer to do it with you! They are the ones that stepped in barely knowing you and possibly not even knowing your loved one. This type of friend will confess they do not know what to say but they remind you that they are there and not leaving your side. Even three years after my loss, I still have new friends that listen to my story of loss and grief because to me three years still feels like yesterday. I had a new friend tell me “I wish I would have known you three years ago, you wouldn't have been as alone as you felt.” Be open to allowing new friends to help you along the way.
The Ex-Friends-In my experience this type of friend tries to step in during a crisis. They typically end up saying the wrong thing. I recall an ex-friend text me the day I lost my mom. The text said “Sorry for your loss. She is in a better place.” I became so angry, not only did this type of friend not text or call when my mom was terminal they also said what I felt to be the worst thing at that very moment. To me a better place would be my mom still with me for one last hug and one last I love you. This type of friend will typically stay no longer than the immediate crisis. They really do not want to deal with the grief and help you through, they simply want to reach out in order to not feel guilt because you were friends at one point.
The Compassionate Friends-This type of friend is the one that you look back to your fog and recall how many little things they did that to you were big things. They cook a meal, offer to watch your children, send you cards even years later, remember the anniversary of your loss and remind you how proud of you your loved one must be. They do things without asking because they know you might feel like a burden. Most importantly this friend hugs and listens. Let them do things for you.