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My Friend Was Widowed - Is It Normal To Abandon Friends?

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Our friend was killed in Afghanistan this past January. We are stationed overseas with the military. He and my husband were closer than brothers. His death was devastating to a lot of people. He was married and had a 4 year old daughter. Our families were very close. We all got along - they even bought land next to us for when we retire. His widow has decided to remain overseas for a few months to take her time to say goodbye to this military lifestyle.

When the notification came, she was at our house. You can imagine - it was devastating. I told her that she was more than welcome to stay at my house. She stayed with us for about 2 weeks until we all went back to the US for the funeral in February. I did everything she asked to relieve her of any stress...helped with the funeral arrangements, opened my home to all of the grieving guests, took care of the kids, etc. I hate to even list things that I did here because I did not do those things for credit. I did them because she's my best friend and they are like family to us. Now we are back and have been trying to get back to normal...although, I know things will never be the same.

Since our friend was killed, there has been A LOT of drinking and partying going on. I know that people all deal with grief and death differently and can understand that this might be a phase and it may soon pass. Not a problem. It seems that lately (the past few weeks), my friend (who I've never ever had any issues with in our 7 years of friendship) is pulling away from me and surrounding herself with the "party people" who just want to have fun and drink. However, she is clinging to friendship with my husband - who is following the "party group" as well. I understand her closeness with my husband and that does not bother me. My husband is an extension of her husband and vice versa. I am by no means a prude and am not judging them for their actions - but, it seems like the "party group" is not living in reality. Drinking, missing work, assuming a "What's the point?" attitude. It seems (to me) that they have chosen to make me the "bad guy" in this scenario. I don't know why. I have not changed. I am the same person I have always been. Maybe it's because I am back to work and getting on with my life? Maybe it's because I'm worried about my husband not getting back in the game and thereby possibly jeopardizing his career? I don't know. Add to this the fact that there is also a small child involved (a 4 year old girl who's lost her Dad). Plus, one of the "party people" also has a small child who's sleeping on various couches while the partying is going on.

So - with that limited background information, I'd like to ask: Is it a normal part of the grieving process for a widow to turn away from the people they (her and her late husband) have been the closest to in the past? My husband is also dealing with Survivor's Guilt as he is not currently deployed. So, I think that he feels responsible for stepping in to fill the (Daddy) shoes of our friend who was killed. All I want is the best for her and her daughter. I need advice because I'm not sure if she is going down a dangerous path and, if she is, is there anything I can do to help? I feel like I'm all alone in this process. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

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I hesitate to call it normal because there is no such thing as normal. Normal is the way it was before her husband died. She has to find a "new normal" and a new identity. Offhand it looks like she is not going about it in the best way, but it's understandable: anesthesia for the pain, and the familiar "military lifestyle" which she probably doesn't want to lose simultaneously with the loss of her spouse. My guess is that her spouse and the military provided about 98% of her identity.

To the extent she is running from her grief she is just postponing it and it will be there waiting for her later. This can create a vicious circle: numb the grief with drinking / partying; wake up sober and the pain is back, prompting an endless "rinse and repeat" cycle.

This is turning into a real (to use a military term) clusterf__k because now you are the odd person out and your husband is drifting into that whole scene and is now sharing an experience with your friend that he's not sharing with you. It has the potential to draw him close to your friend and away from you. There is no sense in avoiding what's between the lines here. Your friend is aching for a man's comfort. Your husband feels responsible to fill some portion of the role of his fallen comrade. It doesn't take a genius to see that this is dynamite looking for a match.

Sadly I don't know that there is much you can do about it, at least not directly. People who are deliberately and deeply avoiding facing things are intent on that and no amount of logic or reason is going to change it until they hit bottom. If you accuse your husband of neglecting you, then you're just nagging and adding to the problem. Since I am completely ignorant of the practical workings of military comraderie I'm short on practical suggestions.

The only thing I can venture with any certainty is that this too shall pass, but the problem is, will it pass before generating more drama and tragedy for all concerned.

Is the military providing any effective support or counseling that any of the players are open to? Is there a stable, wise military person who has been through this kind of loss that is respected by your husband and/or friend, who can step in and be present for them and try to talk them down from the rafters?


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Thanks so much for taking the time to answer. It seems to me that you are spot on in understanding where I am coming from. I hate to be in this position because, as you said, if I say anything then it's like I'm nagging or being insensitive. I am not. I just see my husband and my best friend in a downward spiral - add the 2 other friends to the mix and they all seem to feed off of their negative energy. I don't know what to do.

As far as my husband is concerned...thankfully, he has been away on a training exercise for almost 4 weeks now. So, I am hoping that him not being here and also being away from alcohol has given his brain a chance to dry out and maybe give him some clarity. He is a good man. He's just stuck in a bad place right now. Yes, there is someone (military - respected by my husband) that would talk to him. I've been considering that option. It's just scary because it would only work if he did not know I was involved in prompting that conversation. You know, he's a tough guy, who can deal with things on his own.

One good thing (I think) is that of the "party people" (a group of 4)- one is leaving for good this Sunday. The widow is planning on leaving sooner rather than later. That just leaves the other instigator in the situation here by herself. She's married to a deployed Soldier. She's just young and naive and I think that when the toxic group dynamic is broken up - she will be left standing alone.

So...I guess my main thing is just needing support. I feel like I am all alone because the one person I could usually talk to about anything is not really himself and the one friend I trusted with everything has turned her back on me.

Thanks for listening.

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Sounds like some good things are happening that will defuse that little party group. With luck that is all that's needed. However, if your husband is grieving the loss of his friend, merely being distracted by being on assignment won't help once the assignment is over. If he won't confide to you about it, or process his grief in some other way, do give some thought to discretely approaching this military friend you mention.

Best to you,


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For myself, when I lost my wife I turned to drinking for awhile. I didn't do the party scene much but there were one or two and I knew before hand that I was goig to set out to get plastered. I always made sure that my son who was six at the time was going to be taken care of. I drank every night when I came home from work and was late to work every morning for awhile. As time went on I suddenly realized that it had been a couple of weeks since I had a drink. I no longer needed it to ease my pain. Hopefully that will be the case for you husband as well. Things like this like Bob said can lead into an endless cycle, hopefully in your case it doesn't. Like Bob siad people deal with grief in different ways, all of it just takes time for the pain to heal. Just know that we are here for you and will listen and help in any way we can.

Love always


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Although my Dad did not turn to partying after the sudden death of my Mom....things have changed drastically! Within 18 months of my Mom's death he remarried a woman from the other side of the country (got engaged after only seeing her 2 times).....turned against his in-laws (my Mom's family), no longer associates with his friends he had when my Mom was alive after his marriage last summer.......and the worst.....he's no longer speaking to my 2 brothers and myself.

There's nothing more I can do. I truly believe he has not dealt with the grief associated with my Mom's sudden death in 2005. It's almost as if, anyone that had anything to do with his 'old' life that included my Mom of course is too painful for him to be reminded of. It's confusing...it's hurtful.....it's frustrating and it makes me angry. So, in a way I know how you feel.

I just hope with time....he will deal with all of his grief and realize that those he has pushed away are still here waiting for him to come back....just like you are with your dear friend.



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La Dolce Vita,

My dad was in the Air Force, so I know the close bond that people in the service develope. I know how badly you feel that you are being made the "bad guy" and feel so helpless to do anything about it. But, you are not the bad guy and remember this. I'm in a similar situation (but not involving a death) right now, where my best friend of 40 years has suddenly decided I'm the "bad guy" because I am trying to help her (she has some memory problems) and she doesn't seem to appreciate my attempts. It is very hurtful and I feel for you. Luckily, the group seems to be breaking up and that should help your problems some. I'm hoping that your husband will maybe find a friend to talk to while he's on his assignment. That might help him to see things more clearly and get some of his feelings out. It's usually harder for men and especially military men. Just hang in there and know that you are being the rational person here. Good luck with this mess, it's a hard situation to be in.



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