I have, these past several silent weeks, been searching for a way to process grief. Most of what I’m finding follows a back-and-forth formula of the dehumanizing expectations of emotionally stunted and immature Western culture and the reality of those who have lost a loved one. The bit about our culture being emotionally damaging and even abusive is validating, but the large majority of articles I’ve found on grief are not helpful. No one has died recently in my life. I am mourning the loss of three core friendships. And our society has so discarded or misused the word “friend” that, if you find it a struggle to get over the ending of a friendship, you’re weak, “too” sensitive, codependent and just need to get new friends.
I had a friend who talked about being best friends for life, pursuing our callings together, was convinced I was to move to her state, affirmed the changes and growth she saw in me regularly – all for varying lengths of time, but none of them were one-offs. Neither were her expressions to me of how much she is struggling with lack of closure in another relationship. Our last conversation was almost two months ago wherein she likely believes she was accused of “everything under the sun” and informed me that, basically, everything she had said for the past ten years was void because she finally saw all the red flags in our friendship and that her new boundaries required me and only me to change. She reversed or took back almost everything she had ever said to me and, though she asked permission to share the conversation (it was over text) with her counselor and suggested I do the same, there has been no follow-up. No closure. No “generous patience for the rift between the [ideal self and the real self.] [No lovingly holding me] accountable to [my] own ideals; [no more forgiving], over and over, the ways in which [I] fall short of them and [no more assuring me] that [I am] more than my stumbles, that [I am] shaped by them but not defined by them, that [I] will survive them with [my] personhood and the friendship intact.” I have still been struggling with lack of closure – healing means a restoration to community – from the way my husband and I had to leave our church almost four years ago; how am I to simply slough off a ten-year friendship? What am I supposed to do with how easy such shedding of dead weight seemed to be for her, especially the part where she, while abruptly dismissing me as not healthy enough to be in her life, professed how Christ-like everyone (else) thinks she is? With the fact that she will likely use this post as proof?
Another friend is leaving town, and I’m pretty sure she would have done so without saying goodbye if I hadn’t pursued her. This one was a gem, this one put forth more effort than most people I’d encountered in my life. I worried the whole three+ years I’d known her that I wasn’t good enough for her. Given the sudden radio silence and the somewhat shallow (what feels like final) conversation we had that did not address any of my expressed anxieties about our friendship, it feels like I was right once again. How does one resolve the fear that one is not good enough for human compassion? What does one do when what one’s culture says – just move on! find new friends! – is not only emotionally ableist and hideously devaluing of all the work it takes to build friendships (yes, not just relationships) but ridiculously insufficient advice for such a wound as this?
Another friend, father figure, mentor, strong presence of love, compassion and encouragement for the last seven years, abandoned me when things got hard for him and I expressed clear, obvious emotional need. He apparently didn’t mean he would, as he said on multiple occasions, tell me “as many times as it takes” me to really hear that he loves me. He also broke his word that he would talk to me if something I did or was doing was bothering him, “I love you too much to let you annoy me”is the way he said it, another sentiment void of the power of actions (and actions when they matter/are needed most). How does one heal? Why do it if the point is just to get into other relationships that will end, maybe in this excruciating and isolating way as well?
Relationships do not seem made to last. What to do when you’re the only one around you who seems to want them to? How to handle that your willingness, your bend-over-backward-ness for others seems pretty consistently disproportional to what you receive? How to grieve the loss of friendships in a culture where a “friend” could be someone you just met, a business partner, someone you don’t like very much but need to get in the good graces of (no wonder we think it’s okay to just flippantly advise someone to “get new friends,” as if we can write off entire people we cared for and
deeply loved)? How to mourn not just the loss of deep, bedrock people but also the fact that you are blamed not only for the dissolution of these relationships (having too-high of standards, expecting too much – as in, beyond the occasional coffee date wherein good gossip is exchanged and the masks of optimism and five-year-plans stay on – but also for being really, persistently sad about it.