I can very easily point to one event in my life that has forever altered everything I know: the death of my son. In one moment, everything I ever wanted changed. My life became my Before and my After, and with it, came my Before friends, and my After friends.
I have very few Before friends left. In the immediate aftermath of his death it became clear to me those who truly cared for me, and those who did not. Those who truly cared called, texted, showed up, and grieved with me. With time, even many of those have faded out of my life. My Before friends knew a different side of me that I will never fully have back, because that side of me died with my son. My Before friends are few in number, but for those that have helped me build myself back from the brokenness, I am incredibly thankful.
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As I have slowly stitched back together my happiness, my Before friends get bits and pieces of my carefree laugh and free spirit that I once had. They also get the deep sadness that will never go away because they have seen me at my worst.
My After friends are the friends that I have slowly made over the last seven years. Building myself back up from broken has been an incredibly difficult and lonely journey. I can count the Before friends that have stuck around on one hand. And at first, my After friends were only those I met online, and whom have also lost a precious and loved baby. I have even been lucky enough to meet a few of these After friends in person.
During those first few lonely years I remember thinking I may never again have a network of friends I could count on. I thought that because I was so broken my After friends would only be those that have lived through the same thing that I have.
One of the things I pride myself in my journey of grieving is that I have continued to work towards healing. And as I continue to heal and gain pieces of my Before self back, I have gained new friends. I was so scared that telling my new After friends my son had died would scare them away, as it did with so many of my Before friends when he died.
But my children, all four of my children, I love so deeply. And I know that I could never have a friendship with someone who didn’t know, or who didn’t accept, that my son will always be a part of my daily life.
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So, just as I tell new people I meet about my living children, I also tell them about my son whom I miss so deeply. Some people don’t seem to care and I know those people will never turn into an After friend. But some people do care and those I am lucky enough to call my After friends.
My After friends are amazing. They accept me, even the brokenness in me, without judgment. They can see how much the death of my son continues to pain and haunt me. They ask me questions about this short life, and show up at events that help me remember him. My After friends know I am a mother of four, even though they only see three.
There was a long time when I thought I would never have any After friends, at least not any that cared about all of the pieces of me the way they do. I am continually amazed that when I am hurting so much, they still listen. So many assume that after seven years it shouldn’t hurt so bad and I shouldn’t talk about my son so much. While my After friends will never understand, they do so many things right. My After friends have helped me to heal in a way I can never repay them for.
My After friends are able to know my son through me. My Before friends remember my son with me. And all of my friends have helped me get to a where I am today. Now, though, when I struggle (because lately has been rather hard for me), I know I have people I can lean on, no matter if they came Before or After.