I was married 36 years to my soulmate. Our relationship wasn’t perfect but we were perfect for each other. His death was due to very critical health problems that resulted in 100 days in a hospital that ended with a massive heart attack in the hospital. I was with him when he passed. My concern is where are all the people who were there for me prior? Why do friends stop calling, etc. Prior to all this, I had a fairly good social life. However I always seemed to be the one reaching out, making dinner dates, planning get togethers. I do work full time and was my husbands caregiver for awhile, but I always made sure I made time for my friends.
Now that I am alone, nobody ever reaches out, still. You would think they would realize I lost the love of my life and reach out to me. Make sure I am ok, invite me to lunch. I can count on one hand the number of friends who have checked on me. Is losing friends normal during grief? I mean even my husbands old friends, the guy who did the funeral ( a longtime friend), even my husbands family! (out of his 4 siblings, 1 has reached out) I spend a lot of time alone. I work, spend lots of time with my grandkids, but as far as a social life, its almost nothing. Part of me is angry that here I am going thru the worst thing I’ve ever experienced and where are the people who came to the funeral, said they are there for me? Why NOW is it still up to me to be the initiator? I am doing ok with the grieving process and have made great progress in the last 12 months, except for THIS. Even some co-workers ignore the situation, my own boss doesn’t even ask how I am, ever. Not once since the funeral. (I love my job and have been at my job 31 years. This last year has shown me tho, nobody wants to deal with a grieving person) I never imagined friendships would disappear after such a loss.
Part of the problem is that you considered these people friends in the first place. The people who you thought were your friends, were really not. They were friends of convenience, acquaintances.
In other words, they were not actually your friends. Friends don’t act the way they have. They are acquaintances. There’s a big difference between acquaintances and friends.
An acquaintance is someone you know and spend time with on occasion. They usually don’t know many personal details of your life. Acquaintances are often people you work with, see at the gym and even some family members.
A friend is someone with whom you have a strong bond. You often spend a lot of time with your friends. They know intimate details of your life and are people that you can depend on during times of need and distress.
Your true friends are the ones you can count on. The ones who checked on your well being after your husbands’ death. Those are your actual friends. It took this tragedy for you to learn to truth about the people in your life.
That these “friends” abandoned you when you needed them the most is not uncommon. Research on the subject provides a number of different explanations as to why some people behave in this manner.
One explanation is that when someone else is experiencing terror or tragedy in their lives, it hits too close to home. Some people don’t want to be reminded of all the terrible things that can happen in life. By staying away from you and your loss, they don’t have to deal with the fact that bad things happen in life. You might think of it as a denial of sorts.
It’s possible that some people cannot tolerate feeling helplessness. In light of not knowing what to do, some people will avoid the situation altogether.
Survivors guilt could also be an explanation. They may feel grateful that the tragedy didn’t happen to them but feel ashamed about their reaction during your time of need. Avoidance is an easy way to not have to think about or confront their own shame about their poor handling of the situation.
Another explanation involves not knowing what to say or how to react when it comes to death and dying. Some people simply don’t know how to comfort someone else going through a difficult time. They may be concerned about saying something that inadvertently isn’t helpful. For instance, when faced with a tragic situation, it’s typical for people to discuss their own personal situations. They may worry about appearing insensitive, selfish or awkward and thus choose to avoid you.
Understandably, you are disappointed. You thought that certain people would behave in certain ways but now realize that your expectations were unrealistic. Your “friends” were doing what many other “friends” have done in situations just like this. It’s not a stretch to suggest that it’s human nature to do what many of these “friends” did to you.
The silver lining is that you learned who your true friends are. Cherish those relationships. Those are the individuals who are deserving of your time and energy. Obviously, it would have been better to have known who your true friends were from the start and to have never experienced this disappointment, but at least now you know the truth. It’s always good to know the truth.
I’m very sorry for your loss. If you’re struggling, you might consider joining a grief support group. Good luck and please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle