When we lost our first two children, I anticipated the grief that would come from missing them so very deeply but what I didn’t anticipate was the grief that would come when good friends moved. It’s the grief of watching friends who stood by our side in those dark years of grief move to other cities and no longer being a part of our daily life. And it has stirred grief over the loss of my daughters in fresh ways.
Today, I sat in our church as we said a formal goodbye to our Pastor and his wife as they prepare to move to another city and Pastor another church. I could hardly contain my emotion sitting in my chair and thinking of how much they had meant to our little family over the years. But what made the tears flow harder was thinking of the reality of how many close friends had moved since we lost our first daughter and then our second daughter. So many that today, most of our friendships are new friends who were not a part of the life and death of our first two daughters. That is both beautiful and hard.
It is beautiful to see new friendships form, to have new people to tell the story of our girls too and to continue to have a community around us. It is hard in that there is a sacred connection you experience with someone who has met the child you have lost and someone who has journeyed intimately with you through the darkest season (yet) of your life.
It is almost 4 years since we lost our second daughter and I’m still taken off guard by the grief that can well up in me when good friends move. So how do we navigate these changes in friendship after a loss?
Take the time to remember.
As I sat in church today I remembered. I allowed my mind to go to places I hadn’t gone in a while and think of the sacred moments I had spent with my friends moving away and the ways they had played such a significant role in our journey with our daughters.
When my best friend moved away a few months ago I took the time to remember. To remember parts of our journey together in this season of living in the same place and simply be thankful for such a gift.
Remembering no doubt surfaces emotions that we may or may not want to have surfaced. But, in the face of what we will miss and what we feel we will lose it helps us to remember all that we have gained.
Take the time to say “Thank you.”
I can thank my friends who have moved away at any point. I could call them up today, or when they arrive at their new house. And sometimes I have thanked friends who have moved for their presence in our lives in the hardest season years later. But there is something about thanking a person in the place where you have been grateful for their life that brings about closure to this season of your friendship and welcomes you into a new season of friendship.
Take the time to say goodbye.
When my best friend moved a few months ago we made a point to have coffee in the midst of our now quite full lives and say goodbye. I tried not to think about how it would be our last time together in person for an indefinite amount of time. I didn’t want to close that chapter. I wanted to pretend it would continue on as is. That I could randomly call her and her husband up last-minute and we’d go grill at their house, that she would be a staple at our celebrations of life for our two daughters and our parties and get-togethers for our living children.
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I miss getting to make these memories with her. But in saying goodbye, sharing what each of us has meant to the other person in this season of both of our lives it was like closing a chapter so another one could begin. And I have been surprised by the sweetness of the new memories we’ve been able to make in this new chapter of living nearly a thousand miles away from one another.
Take the time to grieve.
Sometimes this means simply acknowledging the sadness welling up inside of you. In this day and age when someone moves, we know it doesn’t mean we will never see them or talk to them. But the reality is that living in a different place than those you have experienced deep life with affects us. Whether it is you who have moved or your friends it is important to take the time to acknowledge the losses that exist.
Over the last five years, many of our closest friends who were intimately a part of our journey with the life and loss of my daughters have moved. That has been painful for me. I felt known by them, I felt seen and I felt connected in a way I had never experienced before in community. But choosing to step into the grief of those losses has enabled me to have more rich relationships with some of them and allowed there to be greater room in my heart to welcome new people.
It is certainly not easy to navigate these additional losses in the midst of grief but it is important to recognize as a part of the journey of the one who grieves. And as we acknowledge those losses there are new opportunities for continued healing to happen in our hearts.
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