Navigating Friendships whilst Navigating Grief

Lately, I’ve been feeling like the inevitable isolation is approaching. The so called ‘secondary losses’ and the main one that involves friendships. It’s not that any one person in particular is letting their side down as such, it’s just that life feels.. Somewhat lonely, as if there is an approaching disappointment from somewhere. I can’t quite put my finger on it other than to express it as: the more the world moves on, and we don’t, you begin to feel even more isolated and disconnected from everything, and everyone, around you. 

I think in part it’s that I’m missing Leo more and more each day. The more “normal” this all becomes, the more I feel distant from him. This whole year has been about him. It’s a year ago now that we ‘booked on’ for Leo’s cycle. And now… He’s not here. When he should be here. He really should be here.

Sometimes missing him actually feels like he’s gone away for a few years and we will get him back, like when a friend goes travelling around the world? I appreciate that sounds crazy – I am fully aware that he is gone, and that a newborn isn’t exploring the depths of South America right now. It’s just… The concept of forever doesn’t really resonate sometimes.

I guess, from the outside, people would fix the feelings of loneliness with suggestions of going back to work. On a practical level, work is where most people get their daily interaction from that prevents the feelings of general loneliness. The problem with that thought process however, is that this isn’t fixable. Missing my son that I carried for 37 weeks and 4 days isn’t fixable. I will always miss him. Maybe its another constant feeling that we have to learn to find a comfortable spot for.

It’s all interwoven with a sense of not really knowing where we stand with people. Now, if we want to make contact with someone, it’s genuinely us that have to make the first move. This is with the exception of family and a few very good, very close friends. I don’t really know how to get around this and ultimately a fair few of our closest friends aren’t ones that we stay in regular contact with anyway, so it’s not abnormal to not hear from people for a month or two. Although it is abnormal to be grieving our son so I’m not too sure what we should expect in terms of contact from people..?

I guess it all boils down to people not knowing what to say, blah blah blah. I’m  afraid I am a bit tired of that one. We haven’t hibernated so the door is essentially open, I just don’t know how to invite people in. Or at least, I don’t want to have to keep inviting people in and keep fearing their refusal or awkward skirting around the big ol’ elephant that is grief and stillbirth. Its not that people who don’t contact us aren’t good friends, its just that we need our handheld through navigating any form of relationship or activity right now. Grief is actually quite debilitating at times. Everything comes with effort and anxiety.

I feel harsh to say all of this, because on the very vast majority, people have been excellent and still are. I just can’t shake this feeling that with each week, comes less support from people, less awareness that this still affects us. Daily.

Essentially, we don’t know what people are thinking and that is in itself, unsettling. Sometimes I wish we could have been there when people got the news, to understand what peoples reactions were, before they polished their thoughts and contacted us.. or didn’t. Maybe thats self-indulgent but we are all polite beings, so how much can we trust what people say to be what they genuinely feel or think? Perhaps we are selling them short by just noting a lack of contact – without being flies on the walls to their living rooms, we can only respond to the events in ours. Are they thinking of us, and don’t know what to say? Or have they stopped thinking of us? Do they expect us to be over it by now? Are they questioning why I am not working? Are they curious by the details of what happened, but afraid to ask? Are they talking to each other about it to feel involved? Do they want to even talk about Leo? Would they rather just talk about the weather? Do they think we are cursed by death and sadness? Is it more awkward for them than us, or the other way round? In essence, it’s like learning to be friends again with some people or just learning how to be a friend overall… And we just don’t have the brain power for it right now. To dance the dance of bullshit and uncertainties.

Yesterday, I posted this on my The Legacy of Leo Instagram page, a place where others going through this journey have met, and a place of safety, free from restrictions, and I very much feel it’s true. I think it sums up how I’m feeling about approaching real life friendships:

I am not alone. None of us on this journey are alone. If anything is left to be able to break in my heart, it is discovering more people on this journey. That little bit left of my heart breaks for them, because the world shatters far beyond just one heart when a baby dies.

These people that we know, mostly by the names of their baby’s, are an incredible support. I don’t recall ever being within a group of women before were I didn’t feel cautious of the impression I was giving. I do not feel judged in any way. I do not feel paranoid in any way. I feel understood. I receive compassion and understanding. There are no two faces. I trust in what others are saying. In their advice. In their expression. People are open about their truth. And ready and welcoming to ours.

There is something so extremely profound about this to me. I am a 29 year old woman. I went to an all girls school. I have moved cities and jobs several times. And yet, I don’t think I have come across a group of people so humbling and endearing, so honest and truthful before. It is like the loss so deep, strips you bare of the image you feel you need to create to the world. The only image you have left is your true self. Pain, tears, anger and fear included.

It’s the difference between feeling like you are back at secondary school, mid-puberty and utterly self conscious… To just being free.

This blog isn’t all that public and out there for my real life friends, I don’t think anyway. There’s a few who have stumbled upon it and have subscribed. Maybe that’s half the issue? People not knowing how we are and therefore not knowing what to do. But hey, it takes enough of my energy to help myself and The Wife through this, I don’t have much left to help friends too.

I am however, very thankful for the family, friends and even acquaintances who are prepared to dive in to the shit stuff. People tell us we are strong and we don’t really believe it. But in comparison to some less able, those who are prepared to dive, are brave and strong too. They will be forever remembered as walking alongside us at this time, in some way or another.

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10 thoughts on “Navigating Friendships whilst Navigating Grief

  1. Gosh, I’ve found friendships to be so difficult following Matthew’s death. My 8-months-in-jaded-self would say that the secondary loss of at least some friendships is unfortunately inevitable. I’ve tried to cling tightly to those who’ve been there for me most, and there are a good number of them, and for these friends I’m forever grateful. And, generally speaking, with those who’ve avoided me, I’ve just taken the path of least resistance – let my memories of a friendship that once was sail off peacefully into the sunset… It’s certainly sad, but I find the pain I’ve experienced losing Matthew has blunted the devastation I might have otherwise felt over the loss of these friendships. Also, I find the strengthened friendships with those who’ve been there combined with new relationships formed with other bereaved parents is often enough to make up for what’s no longer there friendship wise…

    My blog’s helped navigate some of these things a little bit… I’ve invited almost all in (though this is a personal decision for every blogger), but I find, as a result, I can usually see who’s interested in my journey and who isn’t. Though this isn’t the only barometer for assessing the strength of friendship, it sometimes is interesting to know who seems completely uninterested in how we’re getting along.

    What’s been most disappointing, I think, is that I’ve tried to keep my expectations low, even instructing people as to how to best support us, telling them something to the effect of, “It’s okay to just send a text saying ‘thinking of you.'” And still some are unable to meet even these low expectations for whatever reason.

    I think 90% of the time I’m at peace with our secondary losses, and the other 10% I’m still upset, sad, and angry about them.

    I hope over these next few months you’re wrapped up in so much support by some that it allows you to forget maybe the lack thereof displayed by others.

    Love and hugs to you, sweet mama.

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  2. Sometimes I find that we are somewhat.. Too nice? I’ve found myself looking at my own actions and apportioning some level of blame to us in terms of how things are playing out. I am trying to just let the concern of that float away and be okay with the fact that Leo’s death can cause further loss like this for both of us, because I know that the gains can level it out and in some ways already have. It’s just such a unique situation and we can only do what we can do. I struggled at the time of his funeral as it was then that I intensely needed people to come and I couldn’t help but feel the disappointment when people couldn’t. Some I knew where justified reasons, but still. It’s all just a big mind f–k, isn’t it. Ahh well, if ever there is a time in our lives when being selfish is an acceptable response in life, this is it. Thank you for your continued support, insight and openness! Xx

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    1. Yes one big mind f is a great way to describe it! And yes, we’re often too hard on ourselves, I think. I try to keep my expectations very low, so then if they aren’t met, I’m at least somewhat certain I’m not completely unreasonable. But yes, I’ve found some people will still disappoint no matter what. One big mind f for sure! Hugs. xoxo

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  3. You hit the nail right on the head with this one. I found myself nodding my head in agreement the whole time. I don’t know what my relationships with other people are supposed to look like now, and I am certain they don’t either. At one point, I was really angry that people kept trying to talk to me and socialize, and then when a few days went by and no one reached out, I was heartbroken. It’s incredibly confusing.

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  4. You have this amazing way of writing almost exactly what I’m feeling. It’s comforting to know that it’s normal, although I wish we didn’t have to go through this. I guess some friendships just might not survive this. Sending love & strength xx

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    1. I really struggled on this one, I couldn’t find a way to explain it without me just sounding pissed off at nothing. It’s just really hard to suss it all out when you are struggling. It’s like using an old map in your home town. Xxx

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  5. Yes, it is such a tough balancing act, friendship after this kind of life-altering loss. I lost friends and gained them. I was surprised at the people who became close who had only been on the periphery prior to our daughter dying. I was equally surprised at the people who faded away quickly when we needed them most.

    I hate the whole “they’re doing their best” thing…people say and do some really crap things while attempting to be “supportive” when really all you need is someone to be there, to listen. It is exhausting navigating how to communicate your grief and to manage other people’s emotions when you can hardly manage your own.

    I will say that your feelings of not being able to grasp the permanence of Leo’s absence is not surprising at all to me. I am over 2 years out and there are still moments when my mind is unguarded where my brain thinks that she is still on her way, or that she never left. It is still a bit unsettling to me, but in a way I really like those moments…they remind me that she is and will always be a part of me, of us. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for commenting, it seems this post as resonated with many people which is a comfort.. But just resonates how utterly life changing it all is, even in the smallest details. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the word ‘forever’. Even people like yourself comment on being a few or several years on, that concept of being there doesn’t make sense to me? So surreal. Much love to you xx

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