An Open Letter From A Grieving Friend
Dear close friend who disappeared after someone I love died,
Hey there. It’s been a while since we talked, a long while in fact. I have been thinking about it and it seems time we catch up. Let’s start by reviewing the course of events that contributed to the distance between us, as I remember them.
First, this terrible, devastating, tragic thing happened to me and you didn’t know what to do. You made a couple efforts at the beginning but then you just disappeared. I’m not going to lie, I was feeling pretty annoyed by that. You let a lot of time pass without calling or texting or emailing or visiting. Though this was probably because you felt awkward and were trying to figure out what to do or what to say, it doesn’t change the fact that I felt abandoned. And now a bunch of time has passed and you probably feel super awkward reaching out. Me too, it’s awkward-city around here. I see this awkward-cycle continuing and, as much I want you to be the one to break it, I realize it is probably easier if I do it. So here I am, doing it.
Now, friend who disappeared, I have some good news for you. I am declaring an amnesty for all past weird, avoidant, awkward behavior. I am viewing this as a chance to pick our friendship up, dust it off, and see if we might just get back on track. It is an opportunity to collectively acknowledge that grief is hard and society doesn’t make it any easier to know how to navigate all this. So if you can forgive me for some stuff I can forgive you for some stuff.
Here’s where I propose we start: text me, call me, message me, whatever. It will probably take a little work from both of us, but I’m in. And because I hope you’re in, I am going to include in this letter some reasons this friendship may feel hard. I am hoping if we talk about them it may make things just a wee bit easier.
First, you will probably ask me to do things we used to do on three or five or ten different occasions and I will say no every time and get a little annoyed that you keep asking me to do things. You will give up and stop asking and then I’ll be sad you gave up. I realize this seems irrational, but grief-brain can be a little irrational. You may think that when I am finally ready to do something we used to do I’ll just go ahead and call to make plans, and that is a reasonable thing to think. But I probably won’t, because I just don’t have the energy for that and, like I said, grief-brain is a little irrational. This could spiral us back into this same not-talking predicament again, and let’s agree we don’t want that. So if you promise to ask me if it is okay to keep asking me to do stuff, I promise to tell you the truth and to try to find the motivation to text you if the whim to do something hits me.
Sometimes you will feel like you are being a good friend to me in my grief and I won’t be receiving it that way. Frustrating, I know. There is nothing you can say or do that is going to bring back the person I really love who died, so just be there for me, offer support and at least pretend you aren’t scared of my intense grief emotions. I promise that will be a pretty safe place to start. Though often I won’t know what I need or I won’t want to speak up about it when I do, I really will try to open up about that when I can.
One day you might say something that minimizes my grief or makes me feel like I haven’t been heard or supported by you. I will be tempted to silently stew, hold it against you, or think it means you are a bad friend. I promise to try to remember that it is hard for you to know what to say or do. I will be honest with you about how it made me feel if you will be open to hearing it. I promise not to hold it against you if you do your best not to rush me, not to look for silver-linings for me, and not to minimize my grief.
One day something will remind you of the person I really love who died and you won’t be sure if you should tell me because you have no idea if it will make me smile or cry. I have no idea if it will make me smile or cry either, but it is pretty safe to say even if it makes me cry I’ll still be really glad you were thinking about the person I love and wanted to talk about them.
I may get a little aggravated and judgy sometimes when you seem consumed by things that now feel totally unimportant to me. If you promise to bear with me when that happens, I will try to keep it in check and remember that even though my universe stopped, yours didn’t, and that’s okay.
On special days like holidays and birthdays and anniversaries I will probably be feeling especially low. If you could remember that and check in around then, just so I know you haven’t forgotten about me, that would be pretty great. So go ahead, set a reminder in your phone. Right now. I’ll wait.
I may have a hard time letting go of the fact that we had a rocky patch at the beginning of all this, but I promise to work on remembering that it isn’t your fault. You haven’t been through exactly what I have been through and you couldn’t read my mind to know exactly what I needed. Heck, I barely knew what I needed. I also promise to remember that I have been acting a little snippy and entitled and flakey and sad and angry and confused and intense and emotional and that doesn’t make me the easiest person to be friends with. I hope you’ll remember that being there for me goes a really long way, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard, actually.
So here it is- a clean slate. A new day. A fresh start. I hope we’re in it together.
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