When your partner is your best friend, it can be all too easy to loose touch with others. Especially when everyone begins to pair off and settle down. So when you lose your best friend you can find yourself very alone.
I was as guilty as the next person of not keeping up with friends – letting things go a bit. What with working full time and living with your partner, doing things with family, friends often fall by the wayside. When times are good and everything is right in your world you feel like you don’t need anyone else. Having a loving partner who listens to your problems and shares in your happiness seems to be all you need. But it’s a false economy because if you don’t look after the people who care about you in good times, you can hardly expect them to be there through the bad.
We all know that people come and go in our lives. That’s fine – it has a natural rhythm to it. In ages past you would probably know the same small group of people all your life, but these days we tend to spread out a lot more, whether for the best jobs or lifestyle, we all scatter and so a pattern of coming together and moving apart develops. At every stage of life there are whole new groups of people to meet and friends to make. But you can’t keep up with everyone on a personal level – in spite of facebook and twitter, email and facetime. So the people closest to you changes and evolves. When you have a partner you maybe share some friends, but also have your own and so widen your group further. It’s all part of life and what keeps it interesting.
When hit with the loss of your closest friend – your partner, husband or wife – is when you will most need those other friendships you have developed, but it’s also a time when many of those friends seem to drift away. You have changed. Like it or not, you are no longer the person you were – not entirely. Grief changes a person – and it’s not just the partner and family that is affected – it’s the friends too. Some friends may simply find it too difficult to keep in touch. That’s fine. Again – it’s just how things are. But when facing the darkness of losing a partner you do need friends around you – to help pull you through.
I have been very lucky. I had a few good friends who helped me through. Came to visit and kept in touch. Not all the time, but they did think of me and that meant so much. But no one really lived close to me, so I did still feel very alone.
About three months after losing Robin I started post natal classes at my local health centre. That was such a lifeline, because suddenly there were these lovely ladies who lived near me and who were all dealing with having a new baby – although at that stage they all had partners. We would go out after the classes, and when they stopped we would still make a point of meeting up for walks, lunches and even the odd night out. Leaving them was perhaps the hardest part of leaving Raynes Park.
When I arrived in Bournemouth I had a few old friends visit me, but because life (and distance) gets in the way, that dwindled. I found it quite hard to make new friends at first. Taking Sophie to play groups helped, but those mums had already formed groups and I felt like an intruder. However, over time I got closer to some of the mums and started to feel more settled. I then was introduced to a creative group and that opened a whole new world to me. This was another lifeline as it was time for just me, away from Sophie – out in the real world!
I’ve been in Bournemouth for 7 years and 8 months now and Sophie has been at school 3.5 years too. She’s been going to clubs and lessons – and all the while I’ve been meeting new people and making friends – some closer than others. The street I live in has many lovely families and we have become friends – our children play together and go to school together and we see each other most days at least briefly on the school run.
More recently, since starting open water swimming, I have met yet another group of lovely people and this time we share something else in common – we are all at different stages of life and many have children whilst others are single, some are older and some younger, but all are friendly as we share a passion for the sea. Now some of my closest friends come from this group of special nutters.
Friendship has been so important to me, and such a light in times of darkness – whether related to my loss or just to other problems. Friends have been counsellors, comedians, cinema buddies, creative sounding boards, advisors, babysitters and so much more. And I have to say, for each and every one of them I am truly very grateful.
So my advice is to cherish those friendships, remember to get together and laugh (possibly with a glass of wine) because those friends will be with you when men leave, or jobs fail, or children are ill or just to share in some celebration. Don’t judge those that fall by the wayside, just relish in how rich those people in it make your life.
I should also mention another very special group of friends I have met through WAY – the organization for people widowed young. There are a surprising amount of us across the country and we all stay in touch online and at gatherings. It’s a huge support network where you know there’s a good chance someone else is going through exactly what you are – whatever stage that is. If you know someone who has been widowed young – please put them in touch this group because at some stage or other of their grief it will be an immense help. (http://www.widowedandyoung.org.uk/)
Now go hug a friend ;)