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It’s a normal part of the grief process. You are still grieving openly, and maybe always will. You still desire the care and compassion of your loved ones as you learn to live with the grief. But your friends aren’t calling or texting all the time like they used to. To them the loss is not an ever-present part of their lives. Your loss is not theirs. They are able to move on with their lives while still caring about you.
Your Friends and Family Are Able to Move On
So while they are still thinking of you, that the initial immediacy of action gives way to their focus on their own daily life. In essence, their focus is on their own world now. Is it their fault? No. It’s just the natural progression. They weren’t touched by loss the way that you were. Their life isn’t forever changed by a grief that you will always feel.
And that’s OK. They don’t have to be on the same journey with you and don’t have to understand. The job of your friends and your family is to show compassion and love. To check in with you every once in a while and let you know that you are still on their mind and in their hearts.
Some of them may hurt your feelings by not reaching out. Or they may not show you the level of care you expected. More likely than not, no offense is intended. They may not know what to say. Or they may think you don’t want to talk about it anymore. The best way to deal with it is to show people how you want to handle grief. I talk openly about my son. I want to talk about him. He’s a huge part of my life.
But What Is Your Job Now?
Because it happened to you, you may feel a little like the victim. You may feel like people owe you something. You may feel like it’s their number one job to take care of you. But that mindset isn’t healthy or realistic.
Yes, idealistically you will have friends and family who can continually show you love and compassion without making you feel pitied. However, as time goes by and they get busy, it’s sometimes hard to remember to just check in with you and make you feel loved. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a couple of people who just know when you need a little pick me up.
So what can you do?
You can pout, cry, complain, withdraw, and try to do it all by yourself. You can become bitter or resentful when people don’t make an effort to be the strength and outlet you need.
But let me offer you a different take on this.
My whole life I spent giving everything I had to other people. You need the shirt off of my back? Here, take it. I will go to the moon for you even if we’ve just met. It’s just me, the way I am. I love to give and show compassion and hospitality.
However, that was rarely ever returned. I found that most people I gave to were thoughtless and didn’t care to return the love and compassion I was showing them. And I used to think it was because there was something wrong with me. That there was some reason people didn’t treat me the way I treated them. Now I know, I’m just not their cup of tea and that’s OK!
During my pregnancy, birth, and NICU journey, I figured out who my “ride or die” friends were. I figured out who the people were that would be there when I needed them the most. And some of them weren’t who I expected. They knew what I needed or to ask for what I needed. But as time has gone on, they have their own lives to lead and get busy. And I’m mature enough to understand that process and not be upset.
Does that mean I’m forgotten and unloved? No, not at all! They aren’t ignoring me or trying to hurt my feelings. It just means that it’s time for me to go to them. I have to make an effort back. Even if I’m hurting, I can show compassion and reach out to those who need it. Or just reach out to those busy friends who I know love me.
So instead of isolating myself, like my first instinct would tell me, I instead take time to send messages to friends and other people I know who are struggling in one way or another. I let them know I am thinking about them or I ask if they’d like to meet up for a lunch date.
Just because I’m hurting doesn’t mean I can’t initiate meetings with caring friends. It doesn’t mean I can’t go out of my way to check on a new mom with a newborn. Sometimes I find it tough, but I want her to see my love and compassion. It doesn’t mean I can’t send notes to women I know are struggling with infertility. Parts of grief are universal, and caring for someone going through divorce has commonality in grief.
So instead of feeling like I have been left alone and no one is calling and reaching out anymore, I do it. What does it matter who reaches out and set the appointment, lunch date, etc? As long as you’re both there caring for each other, then it’s a win-win.
I still have days where I like to be completely alone, holed up in my house with no one but my dogs to bother me. And that’s OK. I need to have days like that. I still struggle occasionally with anxiety like I talked about in The Unexpected and Unpleasant Side of Grief. But it’s getting a little bit better with both time and medication. And I also need to get out of my own way and meet with people and socialize, whether it’s on my terms or not. It’s a big part of my healing process.