Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Pain of Losing a Friend . . .

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”

So says the song from our childhood, and I imagine that most of us would agree with the sentiment. But in spite of our best intentions, we sometimes lose our friendships, and when that happens, it can be devastating.

Relationships are of primary importance to women. Before I began writing fulltime, I worked in women’s ministry. When women came to my office for counseling sessions, nine out of ten times they came to talk about relationships—relationships with husbands, children, parents, siblings, and sometimes, girlfriends. I came to realize that, in many ways, women’s friendships are almost as important to them as their family relationships. When those friendships were broken, the women felt a deep sense of pain and loss. It broke my heart to see the level of grief they experienced in those situations.

A couple of years ago, a dear friend of mine abruptly ended our relationship. After multiple attempts to repair the rift, I finally realized the relationship was dead. My friend was gone forever. In the weeks and months that followed, I went through a process that can only be described as grieving and included disbelief, denial, guilt, anger, a sense of betrayal, and deep sadness. It took a long time, much longer than it should have, until I was finally able to work through my feelings and reach the point where I could forgive, release my old friend, wish her well, and move on to embrace new friendships.

So, how about you? Have you experienced the loss of a dear friend? If so, what advice do you have for people who are going through the same thing? What helpful (or unhelpful!) things did others say to you while were working through your own grieving process? I’d love to hear from you. Perhaps what you’ve gone through will help someone else who is mourning the loss of a dear friend.

Marie Bostwick
Author of On Wings of the Morning
Kensington Books, November 2007

Technorati Tags: Women’s Friendships
Topics and tags: Women’s Friendships


Blogger Rosalie Garde said...

When I moved away contact with old freinds dwindled. They stopped sending return mail and NEVER used email.

Finally, I felt God ask me why I missed them so much? Was it self-serving reasons, or did I really care about them? If I cared about them, had I ever prayed for them something other than, "God please get them to contact me, I need them."

No, I hadn't prayed anything thoughtful for them at all.

Then I felt God say, grieve them and enjoy the new ones I will bring into your life. Shortly thereafter, several friends from other cities appeared on my doorstep as they traveled through town. I thought that was a miracle until this year. Out of the blue one old friend emailed me, another called, both right before a trip home to visit my mom. They lived near mom, so we arranged to meet. Four different old friends - the ones I was grieving over, got together with me. It was great.

There is still one treasured old friend still to hear from and I will pray for her in the meantime.

September 2, 2007 4:49 PM  
Blogger Dena Braves said...

My mother has always been my best friend and we can talk about anything - but I've never had enough women in my life. I don't think I realized how much I'd missed until recently and I am hoping to be a better friend to the few I've had in hopes of rekindling the friendships and filling a huge hole in my life.

September 6, 2007 7:37 AM  
Blogger anne said...

I lost my mother 8 years ago but it still feels like yesterday. When that happended so suddenly I felt a huge void. My sister and I did not speak for 7 years. There were upsetting issues which were never resolved. This summer her 56 year old husband died suddenly and I flew to visit her. We e-mail but she does not confide in me. I guess it is better than nothing. When a friend suddenly dropped me I was shocked but now I am aware of these things that can happen in friendships. More often than not this takes place and the person dropped is devastated to say the least. I read a book this year totally based upon that and it was fascinating since the author had that happen to her as well and had many stories about others who had this exact same occurrence.

September 6, 2007 3:06 PM  
Blogger Marie B said...

Hi Rosalie, Dena, and Ann,

This is Marie Bostwick. It is so painful to lose a dear friend. I'm sorry you had to experience that. Reading your comments, I was interested to see that you're all going through a similar process, though you are at different stages of that process.

What Rosalie described is very similar to my own experience. In order to get to the point where you are ready to find new friends you have to release the friend you've lost. That can be hard, but it really is an important step if you are ready to find new friendships. It took me months to reach that point.

Like Rosalie, I turned to God in this difficult time,prayed for a new friend, and now I have one - a dear woman who lives just down the road from me, who shares similar interests and backgrounds, and who I can talk to about anything. I am so grateful for this new friendship. I don't know where you stand when it comes to personal faith, but I have found prayer to be such a help in this situation. Perhaps you will too.

Also, I think you have to be open to new friendship. I've moved frequently in my life, so frequently that I'm something of an expert at it! I taught a class at church just for women who have recently moved. Grieving old friends and finding new ones was the biggest challenges these women faced in their transition to a new community. One piece of advice that seemed to help them was to put out a "taking applications" sign - as in actively seeking new friends and letting others see they were open to new relationships. That means taking the risk of approaching people first, perhaps inviting someone you don't know well yet out for coffee, or to a movie, or perhaps taking a class on a new craft or activity you've always wanted to try.

Usually, our friends have similar interests to our own so, for example, if you like quilting or have always wanted to try it, take a class so you can meet others who share your interest. Or join a book club, or a hiking club, or whatever activity sparks your interest. Having done that, you'll need to be on the lookout for someone you feel you might connect with. Then you must take the risk of making that first move, inviting her out for coffee, or to lunch so you can get to know each other better.

A note of caution, take your time in the process, don't be over anxious or overwhelming. Also, if you find the person you've approached isn't interested in a deeper friendship, don't be discouraged. We can really only handle so many relationships at one time. Many people already have a full roster of friendships and, unlike you, they simply may not be "taking applications" for friends at that time. If that is the case, don't feel rejected. Their lack of interest in a deeper friendship is probably a reflection of an overly full relationship roster, not a rejection of you personally.

Most importantly, don't give up. It may take some time, but if you keep looking, you'll find that new friend and when you do it will have been worth the effort!


September 8, 2007 6:49 AM  
Blogger rozi said...

I lost a friend very expectantly. He was a childhood friend, someone I had known for 15 years, and someone I really respected. Then out of the blue he just stopped talking to me. I tried contacting him in all sorts of ways, and he never really responded. The one time he did respond, it was a group email, and all my pleas of asking what the issue was went on deaf ears.

I started to feel like a fool, and the next vague email he sent through I asked him not to contact me. I just felt awful, and needed some sort of closure. It was like a game. This all happened 2 years ago and every now and then I feel so sad about the whole thing.

We have a few friends in common so I guess when I hear news of him, that's when I feel the worst. He is getting married soon, and I feel sad that I am missing out sharing that moment with him and our other friends in common.

I don't know how to move on from this. I guess I just miss my friend, and I just don't understand his behaviour.

May 13, 2008 5:29 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Add to Technorati Favorites