I love being with other parents who’ve lost a child. No one understands my pain more than other members of the club no one wants to be in. But I also want to be with my old friends, too.
The thing is, after Charles died, I was in fear of losing my old friends–friends who had not weathered a tragedy like this. I was afraid if I let on how sad I still was or how much I missed Charles, or talked too much about my loss that those friends would label me as Debbie downer and no longer want to be with me.
It was an irrational fear and I realized it was. But I had a hard time shaking it.
It’s true that some friends cannot handle it and drift away. But do you really need friends like that? I had to realize this was not personal. If someone couldn’t handle it, that really was not my problem.
My core group is still my core group. Add to that, this most splendid new set of friends I would never had had the pleasure of getting to know if Charles addiction and suicide had never happened. It’s not the way any of us would have ever chosen to meet up but that group of people is one of the gifts of this grief journey.
Sometimes your friends who have not lost a child feel inadequate. Like they are not enough and can’t give you what you need. Often when friends tried to express that, I wondered if they were telling me I could only find what I needed with other parents who’d lost a child. My mind would drift to rejection and I had to push it back to rational thought, “That’s ridiculous. My friends do not think that!” The truth is, our friends and family feel utterly lost on what to do. And they also feel that any problems they are experiencing are trivial compared to this big thing you are dealing with. It’s very overwhelming.
I had forgotten how foreign all of this was to me before all this happened. And let’s face it, not all grieving parents want the same thing. Some, like me, want that big crowd of friends and family in our home right after the death. Others don’t.
I wanted to go out with friends. I was melancholy and hardly my usual self but I appreciated being asked because I needed the distraction. The point is, your friends are looking for clues from you. They want to comply with your wishes and they are not always sure what those are because they don’t read minds and not all grieving parents want the same thing.
I had to remember back before all this happened to me. How I may have felt or reacted to someone who had lost a child. It was so hard to put on those “before” shoes again and remember how I was before. But I had to try and look at things from the point of view of those on the other side so I didn’t make rash conclusions which I tend to do in an emotional frame of mind. So I could understand what family and friends were struggling with in terms of how to navigate being my friend in my new normal.
So I take a different tact now and try to be proactive. Whenever possible, I introduce my new friends and my old friends. I don’t wait to be asked and I do some inviting and asking myself so they know what I want. I enjoy hosting, too, because I want conversation and laughter in my home. I know Charles would want me to have that.