Losing a loved one has a profound and lasting impact on our lives. When that someone is your precious child, the grief is unparalleled. The journey through grief is a long and arduous one, filled with a roller coaster of emotion, but it's made even more challenging when you start losing friends in the process.
Friends may not fully understand the extent of your grief, or they might not know how best to help you. Your grief can be misunderstood as a withdrawal from the friendship, leaving them feeling confused and hurt. In this blog, we'll explore the complexities of losing friends after the loss of a child and offer insights on how to cope and heal.
The Misunderstanding of Grief
Even though you may believe that your friends will empathize and comprehend your emotional state, the sad truth is that they often don't.
Grief is a deeply personal experience, and unless someone has walked a similar path, it's challenging for them to truly grasp what you're going through. This misunderstanding can lead to distance, confusion, and ultimately, the loss of friends.
Let's dive into some of the reasons this happens and how to navigate this difficult terrain.
Lack of Understanding the Depth of your Grief
Grief is not a phase; it's a lifelong journey.
Unfortunately, many friends expect you to "get over it" and stop being sad after a while. They stop reaching out, frustrated that you haven't moved on. The truth is, they don't realize that your grief will always be a part of you.
Avoidance: Its a Reflection on Others
One common response from friends after the loss of a child is avoidance. They might not know how to approach the situation or be at a loss for words, so they distance themselves. It's essential to understand that this avoidance is a reflection of their inability to cope with your grief, not necessarily a judgment on you. People have their own limits and emotional capabilities, and some are just not equipped to handle the depth of your pain.
The Fear of Catching Grief
One reason friends might avoid you is the fear of "catching" your grief - such a strange thing! The reality is that we are a reminder that bad things can happen to good people and regular families.
Here are some things we can do about this uncomfortable situation:
Friendship is a Two-Way Street
It's important to remember that any relationship is a two-way street. While it's essential for your friends to be understanding and supportive, you also need to be honest with them. Let your friends know that you need them. Lay it out clearly – ask them to sit with you and listen to your story. Don't take it personally if they don't always know what to do. Set boundaries, communicate your needs, and let them know that they might need to take the lead at times.
When faced with the loss of friends due to grief, you have two choices:
Wear the Mask: You can choose to put on a facade and pretend that everything is okay. This might help maintain the appearance of a normal friendship, but it won't provide you with the support and understanding you truly need.
Be Genuine: Being genuine means allowing yourself to express your emotions and share your pain openly. While this can be daunting, it's essential for your own healing. Your true friends will stand by your side.
Embracing the Role of a Teacher
As grieving mothers, we become the educators. When we are feeling up to speaking our truth in a calm way, we can start to change the conversation around grief, death, and loss. Our experiences can serve as a lesson for others. We're the ones who can continue saying our child's name and normalize grief. Encourage your peers, friends, and coworkers to talk about your child and share stories about them.
Making New Connections
If all else fails, it's okay to make new friends who understand your journey. Most of my friends now are bereaved moms and I'm ok with that. Think about where you can meet people who share your experiences. Some options include:
In-person support groups or meet-ups for grieving parents.
Connecting with friends of friends who have also experienced the loss of a child and arranging weekly coffee dates or walks.
Accept that it's normal to have a different circle of friends. Instead of dwelling on the loss of some friendships, acknowledge that it's a part of your evolution and healing process.
In challenging situations like this, it's important to ask yourself, "What can I do about this situation?" Here are some steps to consider:
Prioritize self-care to help you cope with grief.
Consider therapy to process your emotions and gain strategies for dealing with friendship loss.
Make an effort to get out of the house, even if it's just for a short walk or a visit to a local café.
Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and reach out to friends. After all, it is a two-way street, and they may also be struggling with how to support you.
Losing friends after the loss of a child is a painful and challenging aspect of the grief journey.
It's essential to remember that you are not alone in this experience. While some friendships may not withstand the depths of your grief, others will grow stronger and more meaningful. It's okay to make new connections with people who understand your journey, and it's vital to prioritize your own healing and self-care.
As grieving mothers, we have the power to educate and normalize the discussion of grief. We can continue saying our child's name, keeping their memory alive, and, in doing so, help others understand the complexities of our experience. Remember, you have the strength to navigate this journey and build meaningful connections with those who support you through it.
Lisa K. Boehm
Katie's Mom (forever17)
PS: If you are new to this journey or are just feeling lost and overwhelmed, I have created a series of 5 short videos that help explain some of the common parts of child loss that mothers grapple with most. You can request that HERE.