Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking more about grief. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
It started, I suppose, when I sent a group text from the hospital after we welcomed our first baby. The blurry photo was just a smooshie baby face. Everyone wrote back, hers was slower than the others, but just as enthusiastic. He’s so cute! Look at those cheeks! Way to go, mama!
The slow unfolding of our friendship took me by complete surprise, but maybe I should have seen the signs. The long delays in responses for text and email. The deep dive conversations on topics not revolving around family. The discussions about how my legal career would or would not pick back up as I slowly found my footing as a new mom. The signs that she was trying to find common ground where we no longer had much of it.
I look back, ten years later, and wonder, What should I have done differently? What could I have said? How could I have been more sensitive?
A Deeply-Rooted Friendship
This friendship was one deeply rooted in my heart. We endured graduate school together, she was one of the first people I confided in about liking my then-crush, now-husband, she and her husband traveled for our wedding, and I thought we would be friends that rode off together into the sunset.
The baby photos in group texts slowed down from me, but kept kicking up when another of our friends from that group had a baby. And with each photo, her response time grew slower and slower. I began to see that what was happening in our lives wasn’t happening in hers.
She never texted a baby photo.
She was incredible at what she did, and anything else she put her mind to. So as the years went by and my legal career faded, hers exploded. As my house grew more disheveled, she became a proficient DIYer (I totally wanted her to start a blog to teach the rest of us). But she grew farther away from contact with those of us who were moms, I started to see it.
Determined Not to Drift
Her grief at her family’s growth was enmeshed in her separate path from the rest of us. We were all sharing a life of motherhood, a club that couldn’t include her, and the growth of our group relationships simply withered.
The group texts stopped all together, and I stepped up my email game with her. I never shared news about my children (plural at that point). We discussed ideas, opportunities, projects, liturgy, politics. We tried to arrange visits as couples when we traveled nearby without our kids. I loved her grit and determination, her brilliance and wit.
Learn and grow in our Faith and love for the Lord.
After we welcomed our third child, I suffered a number of physical complications. No one received an email back on time. Most relationships in my life were on hold.
Even after I was mostly healed, I now had three children under four with my sights set on homeschool, no preschool, no babysitters, no help beyond family. My days and nights were absorbed and revolved around ABCs, potty training, and nursing a co-sleeping babe for the oldest to the youngest, respectively.
I had nothing to say of any interest to someone not in my small world of tantrums, spit-up, and cloth diapers. News, current events, upper-level thinking did not hold my attention simply because I was too tired most of the time.
She reached out a few times, and I mentioned in an abridged fashion that I had health issues and then was dry-land drowning. It felt like she backed away slowly while smiling, nodding, and waving. And I knew I had nothing to offer in our friendship anymore. So I, too, was nodding and smiling when I wanted to be able to sit and cry out something like, Stick with me even though you can’t engage with this part of my life! There’s still a me under all this baby weight and eye bags!
Grieving the Quiet Loss
Perhaps in losing that friendship in a slow polite drift, I grieved more internally than on the outside. I didn’t have the time to stay immersed in the waters of sadness. I had to swim to the other side, towel off, and resume life. But on the inside, I battled guilt over our different family sizes, over how I could have stayed in touch, over minutia in emails.
Pope Saint John Paul II taught us in Love and Responsibility:
Friendship, as has been said, consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.
When we grieve a loss of a friend, however that loss happens, whether a slow drip or a fast faucet, a part of us may selfishly want to stay behind with the friend. My life had profoundly changed with the advent of kids. I couldn’t pretend it hadn’t or they didn’t exist. I had to be where I was and let pre-kid-Nell go, too.
I also had to accept where she was, and want the “good” for her, which meant allowing her to respond to my life as she saw fit. We’ve touched base sporadically over the past five years or so. More through our husbands than directly. I still miss her friendship.
Hurting or Helping?
But I’ve come to see that friendships do need some common ground to grow on, and if our wounds overlap too much, we only end up hurting each other more than helping one another flourish. So maybe being in each other’s lives isn’t always the best thing for one another.
I hope that your grief over friendships ending has some comfort in knowing, too, that the time you had together was real and formative, and maybe will bridge back together at some point down the way, if only in the afterlife. Take them to prayer and keep them in your heart there!
Have you ever endured a friendship breakup?
If you want more on the Church’s rich teachings on these engaging topics, our best-selling study, “Blessed Conversations: Rooted,” dives into the Catechism’s teachings and now offers a video companion series along with it featuring Theological Editor Susanna Spencer and Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Get it here.
Blessed Chats: Grief // Friendship Breakup #BISblog #blessedchats // Click To Tweet