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Maintaining Friendships While Grieving


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While I was getting obligatory "Happy Birthday" messages on Facebook, I got one from the one old school friend in town that still has any interest in being my friend. Not wanting to be rude, I responded that we should get together sometime, as I haven't seen him and really lost touch with him after losing my father-in-law in August. Of course, he responded that he would like that, and now I'm terrified. 

I don't know how to have a healthy normal relationship with a friend anymore- certainly not one that hasn't had the losses I have. He wants to just "hang" and talk and keep it light, and I worry that my baggage shows- that I radiate depression even if I don't talk about what I'm going through. At the same time, I know that I can't lose this friend- I'm lucky that he hasn't given up on me. It would have been easy. I know that I can't really rely on anybody, and I am not going to put all my "friend eggs" in one basket. There's a very real chance of being let down by being so open and vulnerable but I'm just not wanting to end up friendless and alone- which could very easily happen if I let it. 

I know a lot of you here have had trouble maintaining friendships- so many fall away. I'm just scared of the inevitable "moving forward" as only one member of the team of me and Annette. 

James

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James, I think you might be hindering a friendship if you withhold your true self.  I don’t mean emotionally spilling everything at once.  But you can start letting him know about your situation as it’s a natural thing to do.  You did move home for a reason and Annette was your life up til then and still is.  There’s still part of you that is you.  It may be tough to find a balance.  It depends on them too.  How much are they receptive to, have understanding for, etc.  I didn’t even know my friend had lost her partner to death for quite awhile.  There’s risk always getting close to people.  It’s hard,I know.  You can only do the best you feel.  Be honest. That is the best foundation.

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James:  I, too, agree with everyone's comments about meeting with your friend.  You won't know how it will work out unless you try.  Just take baby steps in the first "hanging out" meeting.  Being an introvert as I am, I understand how you might be feeling.  Dee

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18 hours ago, nashreed said:

I am not going to put all my "friend eggs" in one basket.

Try not to over think this or expect too much from it but don't discount anything either...just go into it light heartedly and do a meet and greet, casual, see how it goes.  For a first time reacquainting I would probably keep it light, not delve too deeply into things, see how it goes.

 

17 hours ago, Gwenivere said:

I don’t mean emotionally spilling everything at once.  But you can start letting him know about your situation as it’s a natural thing to do.

Yes, this.  Try to go into this with a positive attitude, expecting a bit of enjoyment, find out what's going on with him in his life.  Renew acquaintance.

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20 hours ago, nashreed said:

While I was getting obligatory "Happy Birthday" messages on Facebook, I got one from the one old school friend in town that still has any interest in being my friend. Not wanting to be rude, I responded that we should get together sometime, as I haven't seen him and really lost touch with him after losing my father-in-law in August. Of course, he responded that he would like that, and now I'm terrified. 

I don't know how to have a healthy normal relationship with a friend anymore- certainly not one that hasn't had the losses I have. He wants to just "hang" and talk and keep it light, and I worry that my baggage shows- that I radiate depression even if I don't talk about what I'm going through. At the same time, I know that I can't lose this friend- I'm lucky that he hasn't given up on me. It would have been easy. I know that I can't really rely on anybody, and I am not going to put all my "friend eggs" in one basket. There's a very real chance of being let down by being so open and vulnerable but I'm just not wanting to end up friendless and alone- which could very easily happen if I let it. 

I know a lot of you here have had trouble maintaining friendships- so many fall away. I'm just scared of the inevitable "moving forward" as only one member of the team of me and Annette. 

James

Yes, James, I totally agree with all the advice everyone's giving you. You know, I feel the same way when you say you don't know how to have a normal relationship with a friend anymore, and also all alone, without 'the other half' of your team. 

Way back in September, I met a neighbor of mine (unfortunately on a visit to a house in our  neighbourhood where a 55yr-old  man had died suddenly just like my loved one -he was only 57), and she confessed to me that during her daily walks (always passes by my house) she often thought about stopping by to see me but felt a bit uncertain  as to whether it would please me or not, because I'm very reserved and perhaps I just wanted to be alone in my sorrow and didn't want to be 'disturbed'. I told her not to worry and that she could visit anytime she liked. Hasn't come yet! 

Anyway, this episode made me reflect. If you haven't gone through the same grief, it's really hard to understand for others and they end up feeling awkward, embarrassed, not knowing what to say. In fact, on certain occasions, I have felt a bit disappointed and annoyed at certain people's attitudes, reactions, etc. On the other hand, at least for now, I just don't have any interest in visiting friends. Of course, they're welcome if they call me. I 've always been a very reserved person anyway, and I am grateful that I can share this dark, heartbreaking life I'm going through with all of you on this forum. 

Enza

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It seems I wasn't entirely clear, though your advice and responses are still valid- I have seen my friend Paul twice since moving back here, but I "ghosted" him after my father-in-law's passing (seriously, a fly was distracting me when I was writing yesterday). I wrote him today and we made a tentative plan to meet up after the holidays. It's intimidating, because he has a wife and son and is going to have a ton of family over this year. A life that I envy, and that (I worry) might color my interactions with him. We went to grade school together, and I promised him that I would bring over my yearbooks and we'd reminisce. That's all fine and good, but Annette was such a huge part of my life, and I had no contact with Paul except as a Facebook Friend when we were together. I can't really talk to him and relate to him as "two married guys" and, y'know, I can't really bring her up. It's just sad and he can't relate. 

Enza, we are lucky to have here to share and commiserate with people who understand- especially when in a neverending pandemic. I'm as shy as can be, and I certainly am not going to ever make new friends easily in the real world, especially this current world. 

I'm scared, because friends flake out, lose interest, perceived slights lead to friendships ending out of nowhere. It happened to me as a kid and I have never trusted friends since. I am so very lucky I had Annette as my best friend for so long- she never let me down and was always there for me. Now I'm at the mercy of whims and time constraints and being low on the list of someone's priorities. I don't really have a choice though- it's like stepping into a storm with wind and rain howling into your face, with a hoodie on and you can't see, and you just hope you make it to where you're heading. 

James

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I don’t know what ghosting is.  I also don’t know why you can’t bring Annette up.  I do understand being nervous about getting together after such a long time.  Not being a Facebook person, it seems it would feel like meeting someone from the beginning all over.  Plus his having a family.  I feel that with the very few people I know.  Only two lost their love partners too.  Pretty much my exchanges are email, phone or Zoom.  But there is always talk of their families and what’s going on.  Always hard to hear.  I don’t know how long I can keep doing it, but I try and reach out.  Even briefly.  It’s just getting too easy to succumb to that stepping into a storm.  Or feeling so cocooned.  I hate it.

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1 hour ago, Gwenivere said:

I don’t know what ghosting is.  I also don’t know why you can’t bring Annette up.  I do understand being nervous about getting together after such a long time.  Not being a Facebook person, it seems it would feel like meeting someone from the beginning all over.  Plus his having a family.  I feel that with the very few people I know.  Only one two lost their love partners too.  Pretty much my exchanges are email, phone or Zoom.  But there is always talk of their families and what’s going on.  Always hard to hear.  I don’t know how long I can keep doing it, but I try and reach out.  Even briefly.  It’s just getting too easy to succumb to that steeping into a storm.  Or feeling so cocooned.  I hate it.

"Ghosting" is hip lingo that the kids use- it means I stopped writing, went dark, disappeared.... He didn't know Annette other than from the posts that he "liked" on Facebook, so talking about her is just weird, and I could tell it was weird when I did bring her up when we first met up. He has a wife and I think my loss is a reminder that life is precious, that he could lose his wife. We actually met up for pizza several months ago, and when we were eating, his wife called and I needed to rush him back home- she had fallen and broken her wrist. So that was kind of a weird situation for both of us. 

I hate that you feel you might succumb to the darkness. Please don't. I feel it too- all the time: the hopelessness, feeling like "Why bother". You have Dee. I have to have hope because I have to believe there's something to look forward to still, in this life. Annette would not want me to succumb. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/10/2021 at 7:37 PM, nashreed said:

It seems I wasn't entirely clear, though your advice and responses are still valid- I have seen my friend Paul twice since moving back here, but I "ghosted" him after my father-in-law's passing (seriously, a fly was distracting me when I was writing yesterday). I wrote him today and we made a tentative plan to meet up after the holidays. It's intimidating, because he has a wife and son and is going to have a ton of family over this year. A life that I envy, and that (I worry) might color my interactions with him. We went to grade school together, and I promised him that I would bring over my yearbooks and we'd reminisce. That's all fine and good, but Annette was such a huge part of my life, and I had no contact with Paul except as a Facebook Friend when we were together. I can't really talk to him and relate to him as "two married guys" and, y'know, I can't really bring her up. It's just sad and he can't relate. 

Enza, we are lucky to have here to share and commiserate with people who understand- especially when in a neverending pandemic. I'm as shy as can be, and I certainly am not going to ever make new friends easily in the real world, especially this current world. 

I'm scared, because friends flake out, lose interest, perceived slights lead to friendships ending out of nowhere. It happened to me as a kid and I have never trusted friends since. I am so very lucky I had Annette as my best friend for so long- she never let me down and was always there for me. Now I'm at the mercy of whims and time constraints and being low on the list of someone's priorities. I don't really have a choice though- it's like stepping into a storm with wind and rain howling into your face, with a hoodie on and you can't see, and you just hope you make it to where you're heading. 

James

Hi James! I'm not sure if someone has maybe already suggested this. I'm getting lost in all the lovely posts and comments tonight. What I would say is that when you first meet, as with many friendships and acquaintances who haven't seen each other in a while, it is natural for things to be a little 'awkward' at first. He'll probably feel that too, to whatever extent. Things will naturally start to come up, conversation will flow and when the inevitable subject of family arises, you could simply say, "I know you heard/I don't know if you heard, but my Annette passed away a number of months ago. I wish you could have met her, she was wonderful." If he engages with more than just an awkward, "I heard", or "I'm sorry", you'll know you can chat to him a little more about Annette, that is if you're comfortable doing that. If you can tell he feels awkward at the mention or you aren't feeling able in that moment to open up, perhaps just say thank you or whatever is appropriate and ask him a question about himself to move the conversation along. In similar circumstances I've always found that whichever way it goes, I feel a lot better for at least having acknowledged the 'elephant in the room'. You may be surprised though, if he is a good man he will at least try his best to console you and talk to you about your loss, your mental health and how you're coping.

Certainly though, do meet with him as lots of people have already advised! Even when I don't want to see a single soul, I feel a lot better after seeing a friend for a bit. You will feel so proud of yourself for doing it and Annette would also be super proud. If you're not enjoying yourself, you can always make your excuses and head home too. 

Try your absolute best not to overthink the meetup though. If you find yourself spiralling into worry over it, stop the thoughts in their tracks, maybe even say out loud, "No, I won't spend my time at this, thank you!" and do something active or distracting. Make a cup of tea or go for a walk. That doesn't always work, but I believe the more you practise it, the more effective it becomes (in my experience). As someone, somewhere once said... "Not everything we tell ourselves is true." (Forgotten who and am probably also paraphrasing 😅) I'm an introverted person, not by nature but due to anxiety and depression and a growing dislike for humanity... but when I want to do something social and I'm worrying too much, I talk to myself out loud and I remember that there is nothing that makes a single person out there better than me. We are all humans, all flawed and all going through things.

I'm really looking forward to hearing how this goes. If the plans fall through at all, even if you decide it's too much and cancel them yourself, try not to beat yourself up over it or feel too disheartened either. Come here and talk to us about whatever has transpired! Good luck x

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Oh I've just seen your last post James haha. Don't worry about the ghosting, we all do it throughout our lives. Just tell him what happened and it was a lot for a while after Annette passing too and then swiftly move on to yearbooks. It does sound like you have known each other for a very long time though, so perhaps asking him how he is, if he's experienced any difficulties lately, how he coped after his wife broke her wrist and trying to broach the subject of mental health wouldn't be so bad? x

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I appreciate you, Bunflo. I certainly will keep you updated, although COVID may scuttle anything I have in mind for next month, even if it's just a pizza meet-up. He had a kid who's around 10, I think, and I don't know his vaccination status. It's nice that someone gives a darn about my life. It's not something I'm used to anymore. 

I can tell you that when we did get together initially last year, it was really nice and natural- though at the same time so hard to see his life with his wife and child, beautiful home, etc. It was easy to talk to him about his life and superficial stuff- he's very jovial and almost childlike. He's always upbeat, and I don't want to bring him down. He has both his parents....I just don't feel like he has ever experienced a loss and I don't think he would ever want to "go there", and I have to accept the friendship on the terms that it's just nothing but surface. It's fine, but it's hard to put myself in that place. It was easier to do before I lost my father-in-law in August. I still had a connection to Annette, and now he's gone too. He was kinder and showed me more love than my family ever has. 

We'll see where the new year goes. I don't have much hope of anything. I just wish I could be with Annette. I would give anything for that. 

 

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