Grieving the Loss of A Friendship
It is hard, down-right painful to say good-bye to a friendship. Grieving the loss of a friendship is not something that is talked about. Last week, I talked about when to say good-bye to certain friendships. Not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime. Some friendships are here for a season of life.
Just because you choose to end a friendship - for whatever reason - does not mean that it was an easy decision. You are allowed to grieve the loss of a friendship. You are allowed to mourn the dreams and plans that you had.
It is okay to cry. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to wonder what happened.
I had a friend that I had known since I was in 5th grade. She was a little older than me, but we were close growing up and into young adulthood. However, she would float in and out of my life as she saw convenient.
My friendship with her was dependent on how she felt. When she felt rebellious and too cool for commitment and stability she was out of my life - living this Vegas lifestyle of parties, hook ups and poor decisions. She would come back to our friendship when she needed grounding, a safe place to land. A place to feel welcomed.
I was okay with the ebb and flow for most of our friendship. After all, people pride them selves on saying, "No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship," (Robert Southey). I am sure, I am not alone in saying something similar to this. No stretch of time, no physical distance could change our friendship.
As my life settled into a more predictable schedule: marriage, graduate school and full time employment, I had less time (and money) for spontaneous and lavish girl's days. I offered a solution - warm meals, board games and a bottle of wine. I tried to accommodate her life style, while living within the boundaries of my own.
The moment everything shifted:
It was one week after my dad passed away. The first day returning to work. I had a two hour gap in my day. I asked her if we could meet for coffee and then stroll through Barnes and Noble. I didn't want to talk about losing my dad or how I was coping with it. I just wanted something to feel normal. Books were a shared love interest for her and I.
We set a time and place. As I sat in the Starbucks parking lot, I watched the clock tick later and later. She knew the time and the place. She knew I only had two hours. Yet, 5 minutes passed, 10 minutes passed. I called her. 30 minutes passed. I texted her. An hour into our scheduled time together, I get a text: I just woke up. I didn't feel like setting an alarm this morning. Let's reschedule.
In 15 words, a friendship that I loved dearly ended. You see this wasn't the first time she failed to show up for plans we had made. It wasn't the first time she had chosen to sleep until the middle of the day only to tell me way after that we needed to reschedule. This was a pattern. A pattern, that in my grief, I could not handle.
I grieved the loss of this friendship in a similar way to the way I grieved my dad.
Losing someone because they have died is a tangible concept your mind can grasp. I know longer have a relationship with my dad because he died. I have a definitive time and place. My mind can comprehend what happened - even while my heart is whirling through grief.
But losing someone who is still alive is different. Your mind can still wonder to the what ifs. What if I reach out and try to mend things? What if they change? What are they up to now?
My friend and I have not spoken since that last text. I often wonder why she didn't reach out to reschedule or check in on me when I didn't respond. There were a lot of questions I wanted answered. I went through each of the five stages of grief over this friendship. I was denied what was happening. I was angry at her for standing me up - when I felt I needed her most. I would bargain with myself, "Maybe I overreacted. Maybe I should reach out to her and find out if she is okay. Maybe I should apologize for not responding. Maybe the loss of friendship was my fault?" I felt depressed. I lost one of my best friends in a matter of days after losing my dad. Then, I finally realized that maybe, just maybe it was okay to end this friendship and move forward. I shifted my attention from the friend I had lost to the friends who stood by me.
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. That sounds so neat and put together. Looking at the last paragraph I wrote, it almost looks like I went through the five stages in order, neatly and moved forward, but the truth is it is a messy tangled ball of yarn.
I bounced from one stage of grief to the other. Some days, I was so angry that this was all I could focus on. Losing a friendship whether by choice or necessity sucks. Being reminded of them can be painful, it can make you angry. It is okay to say good-bye to a friendship and feel sad about it - even when you know that it is the best decision for you.
Saying good-bye to the friendship I shared about above, was not an easy decision. I had to delete her number to keep myself from reaching out. I had to make a conscious decision to remove myself from the situation. I asked for help. I reconnected with friends who were life-giving, who stepped up in my time of grief and were my support system.
My hope as you read this is that you feel some camaraderie. I hope that you know you are not weird and that something is not wrong with you if you do feel or have felt sad or guilty for leaving a friendship that was not healthy for you to be in. My hope is that you know it is okay to leave a friendship if you want too. There is nothing in the Bible that says you have to be friends with everyone. You are allowed to set boundaries and say good-bye. And, you are allowed to grieve over that.
I want to continue this series on friendship. Next week, I will share ways to deepen your friendships and how having a core group of women (or if your a man, men) in your life is vital to surviving and enjoying life.