I've had a lot of startling revelations concerning friendship in the last few months. It's been interesting (for lack of a better word) to see those who have been able to step up, and those who have stepped away from me in this grief.
I can't dance around the things I want to say. Because I can't be worried about hurting people's feelings. Not when I've been battling with my own hurt feelings, anyway.
To begin, I guess it's important to say that I can't imagine our loss is an easy one for people to be around -- especially in our circles -- as new families are beginning all the time. No one wants to confront the fact that babies die. I know I didn't. And when you have never experienced it, or been close to someone who has, I can't imagine you'd ever know what's right or okay to say or do. So I don't blame the people who have stepped away from me and our friendships. But I can also say that I'm not in a place where I'm willing to fight for those relationships either. Because I'll never pretend this didn't happen to me. And it's not my job to comfort the people who are uncomfortable or awkward. It's just not.
And I think many people think they're just trying to protect me from things. Protect me from their pregnancies. Protect me from their living children. Protect me from seeing their happiness. But although well intentioned, that is such an insult to me. To be clear, it is not easy to be around babies. And it is not easy to watch growing pregnant bellies. But I am an incredibly strong woman. And I am capable of being happy for other people while confronting my own sadness and demons. You are not protecting me from things by hiding them from me. You are only making me feel weak. As if you think I'm not strong enough to face them. I am 6 months into my healing. And if you are/were my friend, I am happy for you and want to see you in your happiness.
I've read a lot of interesting things on this topic of friendship after loss. Four Ways You Can Support Someone After Loss (from Still Standing Magazine) is one of my favourites. It is short and sweet, simple and so true. It provides details about being there, witnessing the pain, remembering the loved one, and the importance of saying less instead of saying blanket grief statements. I wish 6 months ago I had seen this article. It might have made a difference in some of my relationships.
I also stumbled across a beautiful quote about friendship.
"Good friends help you find important things when you've lost them... things like your smile, your hope, and your courage."
Now, despite discovering some loss of friendships in this grief, I've also deepened some relationships in my life. Friends who have stepped up and done more than I could have imagined. This doesn't mean sending exorbitant gifts or saving me in any great ways. They're friends who have given me all the things the quote says: smiles, hope, courage. They've been there. They're sending messages. Letting me know when they think of Ryan. Dropping in. Calling.
People I haven't spoken with in years have reached out, and reach out frequently, just to see how I'm doing. 6 months may have passed, but they recognize that the pain doesn't just go away. That even though life rolls on, there is so much help in still acknowledging. It doesn't make me more sad. It doesn't make me "go back there." It reminds me that people love me and think of my son. The same way they'd wonder if he's eating solid foods, sitting on his own, or clapping his hands.
These people are easy for me to be around. They're people I know I can talk about him with. People I know I can shed a few tears around and have no big deal made. Because that happens sometimes. I have no problem reaching out to these people for a Saturday night out or midweek conversation. Because no awkwardness exists between us. It's hard enough to cope with this kind of loss without having to worry that I'm making people uncomfortable on top of it all. Even though I know I do.
So if people need to distance themselves from me and my pain, then that's fine. I do get it. But I think I just need them to know that this will always be a part of who I am. I will carry it with me always. So if you're thinking that you can give me time and then come back later when the dust has settled, it won't. I'll always want to talk about him. My future children will talk about him. He won't be going away. We'll carry him forever. The harsh reality is that he is more important to me than any of those relationships.
I don't deny that I need healthy friendships in my life. And I have some. And I'm very focussed on keeping those people around me who make me feel good and who I can make feel good in return. That's the truth I've learned about friendship. That I don't need a lot of friends. I just need some good ones. Even if they're ones I don't get to see all the time.