One blogger experienced lots of different responses from her friends to her grief; both positive and negative. In this blog, she reflects on how her friends reacted over the first year of her grief.

“She didn’t know what to say”

When I arrived home after my bereavement, my housemate (and very good friend) was not there but had left me some chocolate and a card telling me she was sorry for my loss. It was sweet. When she returned, she said to me that she didn’t know what to say, and I appreciated this. Neither did I. We agreed that we had absolutely no idea what to do and carried on as we were, passing as ships in the night.

That week, I spent my free time drinking takeout coffees with friends. I was barely there, and I appreciated the friends who would let me spend time with them with no pressure attached. I sat whilst they talked, occasionally joining in. Someone snapped at me over something small, which made me cry. The tears were nothing to do with what she had said, but they were so readily there that I could have cried at the smallest bit of sarcasm. I noticed that I was most comfortable around people who would just be kind to me, even if they didn’t ever talk about my grief.

My friends didn’t bring the topic up, and I wondered whether they were giving me space out of consideration or fear

The day after the funeral, I went on holiday with a group of friends. It didn’t take me long to get uncharacteristically drunk and sob my heart out. The next morning, my friends told me that everything was fine and then said to each other that I had ‘needed it’. I think they thought that my grief would be diminished by one messy, honest night. I never cried again that holiday, although experiences left me numb. My friends didn’t bring the topic up, and I wondered whether they were giving me space out of consideration or fear.

Friends reaching out

After the holiday, another girl that I knew as an acquaintance invited me out for tea and cake. We talked, went shopping and had a good time. We haven’t seen each other since, but that one day meant a great deal to me.

Someone I barely knew messaged me on Facebook and said that she would always be there for me if I wanted to get together in a bar and talk. We never did, but I was grateful for such a specific offer.

The people who had surfaced very early on with vague promises of always being there for me hadn’t realised that I wasn’t capable of thinking up plans, of asking for help. When I went to dinner with one friend, he asked me how I was and I opened up, saying I felt terrible. I had assumed he was asking about my loss, but it turned out he had forgotten all about it.

She thought that I was doing well with my grief if she didn’t see it, but it was stifling

Tears spilling out 

Occasionally, tears would spill out at home. My housemate would rush to stop me from crying within seconds of seeing me upset, thinking that she was cheering me up. She thought that I was doing well with my grief if she didn’t see it, but it was stifling. Gradually, she started to turn away from me when I spoke, cutting off conversations with short, sharp words.

The day I returned from the burial, holding myself together despite having cried for the whole of my drive home, she picked an argument with me. I started to avoid her, because the way she had been treating me had felt very shaming. It was as though she thought I was making myself worse by deliberately dwelling on things. I discovered that people who were used to seeing me as the strong one did not like the idea of me ever being weak.

Joining Let’s Talk About Loss was a life-saver. We have fun and we’re not scared of dark humour, but we also know how to be honest and vulnerable

Honesty

During the course of the year, only one person said to me that she didn’t think I looked well. We arranged a couple of coffee dates and went for a walk together. I appreciated her honesty. It was refreshing after feeling that the terrible weight on my shoulders was utterly invisible to anyone else. Close friends who live far away have since apologised for not realising how badly I had been affected by the bereavement. They hadn’t seen my grief online, so they hadn’t realised it existed.

Joining Let’s Talk About Loss was a life-saver. We have fun and we’re not scared of dark humour, but we also know how to be honest and vulnerable. I hope, one day, that society will learn to be as open as Let’s Talk About Loss about the topics that people are afraid of.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog where the writer offers advice for friends of people who have bereaved.

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