Losing Friends After Child Loss

You lose a lot of friends after child loss. As if you aren’t facing enough from the death of a child, dealing with relationships along the course of grief can be something unexpected and add to your sorrows. There are various reasons, some of which are due to the bereaved parents, but many are not. For some, I think friends fade away because they just don’t know what to do/what to say/how to act. Perhaps they feel guilty if they have children still living? Perhaps they don’t realize what a help they could be? Perhaps they can’t handle the change in you? One thing is for certain… We aren’t the same. We never will be.   In the chaos of grief, the additional loss of friends stung my already wounded heart. People I expected to “be there” for me weren’t. It disappointed, saddened, and sometimes even angered me. I remembered and evaluated times I’d helped them and wondered why they didn’t come through. At one point in my deepest grief, I recall going through the ledger of attendees at our son’s funeral. I kept a mental list of those who didn’t show. At first, it hurt. Then, I avoided them altogether. {Before I go any further down this path, I should say that we were blessed with many friendships along this journey.  Some from old and dear friends, many from unexpected sources.  There were numerous times we were speechless of the outpouring of love shown to us.  Austin passed nearly six years ago so the rawness is gone and I no longer hold resentment to anyone for anything they did – or didn’t do.  This was just a place I’ve never shared from before.} There are numerous stories I could share of things friends said, who meant well but made a mess of things.  Or of those who used my son’s death almost against me, or to somehow benefit them.  Or of those who were just simply insensitive and uncaring.  Or of all the hurtful moments of missed opportunities, missed comfort, missed healing, because friends just didn’t show, call, or come around.  I’m sure we’d all have stories like this to share. Instead, I thought I’d share from the other side. The “why I said no” from a bereaved mom’s standpoint. The reasons behind my declines, avoidance, or forgetfulness. Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end. Maybe you have reached out to a grieving parent and not understood why it didn’t seem warmly received. This is the story from one momma’s point of view… One of the first things I recall about those who reached out to me was the phone calls. I remember making two calls that horrible night. One was to 9-1-1 –a call no mother should ever have to make. The second was to my Mom, asking her to come to stay with my youngest son, as I was en route to the hospital for what my soul knew would be the worst news of my life. In the ER, someone pulled my cell phone out of my numb hand – I think it was my sister – and began making calls to family.  Honestly, I don’t remember the next time I used a phone.  Instead, I avoided the phone at all costs. It rang nonstop that first couple of days. Our home was busy and full of people and I just it handed over to others. When I was alone, I often turned my cell off to avoid facing this nightmare-now-reality. I can’t explain why, but talking on the phone was the hardest form of communication for me after loss. I felt vulnerable and instantly my voice would crack, failing my attempts to remain strong. So, I gave up. Looking at the caller ID, tears would fall.  Though thankful to see someone’s name scroll across, I was unable to speak to them.  And I never returned those calls. It was too hard. Just because I didn’t answer, did not mean it wasn’t appreciated. I still remember every single call, voicemail, and text. The thought truly mattered. Another difficult phase, for me, was the moving on of time. One of my first Facebook posts after our loss was, “wishing time would just stop.” This short sentence was what I wanted to scream out loud. I hated that life continued for everyone else.  Every second, every ticking of the clock was a reminder of how much longer I was without my son. It seemed others didn’t care that my world had ended. For those that went back to normal quickly, basically choosing to ignore the depth of my grief, it damaged our friendship. For the invitations to birthdays and milestone moments I declined, it was because happiness seemed impossible some days.  Often, it was because Austin was the same age group. I couldn’t imagine celebrating at a sweet 16 party when I couldn’t plan one for my son. It wasn’t jealousy, just reality and the pain was too much. Sometimes I said no because I knew there was no way to hold my emotions together. Sometimes it was because I didn’t want the looks of pity or awkward silence. Sometimes it was because the invite came during a symbolic time, and you didn’t know or remember. Sometimes I said no because one of us in the family was going through a rough patch, harder than an ordinarily painful day. Sometimes I declined or ignored you because it was insensitive – like an invitation to a movie about a dying child. Or the timing was terrible, like the day we got the call from the medical examiner and I had to escape home in a hurry. Or it was always too heavy when we were together because the unsaid spoke too loudly and hovered in the room. Or it involved a trigger you could never imagine or expect – like a bicycle, the time of day, his favorite drink, or any number of things that normally sent me into tears. Or, maybe you came into my life post-child loss and know none of my history or baggage. I can’t begin to … Continue reading Losing Friends After Child Loss