Friday, January 8, 2010

The Bad Friend

Make no mistake about it. I have been a terrible friend this past year too.

When Lucy first died, I used to visit a mothering board. In the loss section, someone posed a question about which loss and grief books were helpful and which weren't. I remember vaguely reading a review about one, I cannot even remember which one now, that someone said was more geared to counselors and therapists. And I do remember the review said, "It was upsetting to read things about the 'narcissism of grief,' especially because I am in the midst of it." That is when it first occurred to me that this grief was going to make everything about me. No matter how compassionate I wanted to be, I was going to see the world through my own lens of loss.

I think my last post sort of proves that researcher right, no? Everyone has their own shit with which to deal. I expected more at times. I expected people to do what I simply couldn't. So, here is a list of all the ways in which I have been a terrible friend this past year. I am hoping to purge my guilt a bit. And to acknowledge that I have not been perfect either. Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

I never sent out the memo that I had adopted Victorian mourning rituals.
I wore black crepe dresses and covered the mirrors.
I stopped my clocks at 5:40 pm.
I declined your invitation.
I didn't go to your party, shower or wedding.
I skipped joining the hundreds of people on to wish you a happy birthday.
I didn't want to make chit chat.
I forgot to ask you how you are doing.
I didn't call you back.
I wanted to go for a walk, but couldn't stop crying that day.
I know you would have understood if I had told you that, but I ignored you instead.
I didn't throw our annual Open House.
I didn't forget what happened between us in the past just because my daughter died.
I wasn't polite.
I knew what you meant, but I still was impatient with the way you said it.
I was grumpy when you asked me how I was doing.
I avoided you at the market.
I disagreed with you and never said anything.
I stopped waving when I drove down the street near your home.
I became too wrapped up in writing my blog and reading blogs that I didn't email you back.
I told you off, because you defended the people who never said "I'm sorry."
I wasn't there for you when you needed me.
I rejected your overtures to me, because we have never been close.
I waited for you to call me again.
I resented your pity and prayers.
I didn't make you a meal when your baby was born.
I hid all your activities on because they revolved around your pregnancy.
I missed your child's first birthday.
I punched a pillow when you said that your friend also had a miscarriage.
I forgot to send you a thank you card.
I made you feel like your problems weren't as big as mine.
I didn't go to your art opening.
I resented you saying you understood my loss.
I haven't looked at your children's pictures in a year.
I thought we were better friends than we were.

PS. Last night, I was sort of wracked with the guilt of leaving out the good friends. And there have been good friends. I have some left. I hope they know who they are. xo.


  1. I'm sure they do know who they are. The good friends. And they will still be there. x

  2. Your list is a lot like mine over the past 5 1/2 months.

  3. I haven't been to see your plays
    I don't pretend to like your partner
    I didn't send any Christmas cards
    It's my turn to buy dinner... since 2008

  4. I've got three to contribute and probably hundreds and hundreds more!

    I didn't say anything when you told me your wife was pregnant.

    I wanted to cry when you told me that the doctors had told you that your son would be brain damaged too. But he wasn't. And he lived. Glad it worked out better for you than it did for me but it hurt when you told me that.

    I'm sorry that I wasn't more sympathetic when you told me about your miscarriage. I didn't understand. It was before I lost my daughter.

    Oh Angie. I think this post and the previous one are two sides of the same coin. I tend to swing back and forth between feeling cross with my friends and feeling cross with myself.

    I can understand the reviewer who didn't like the phrase 'narcissism of grief.' But it is hard not to turn inwards, hard not to see every single action, person and word refracted back through that 'lens of loss.' I think it would take more than human strength to continue being a good friend and deal with all this at the same time. Please don't be wracked with guilt. xo

  5. Luckily (or unluckily, as the case may be), by the time the twins died, I had already cut myself off from my friends -- in fact, from the whole concept of friendship. I didn't expect anything from them and they didn't expect anything from me.

  6. I didn't comprehend the sudden and unexpected loss of your sister and how that must impact your family, your life, until I grieved a loss of my own.
    I don't pretend to like your partner (oh yes, after iris, yes)
    I don't try to not roll my eyes.
    I avoid. I don't explain. Even when you invite me out over and over again.
    I don't tell you that I love you.
    I get angry when its not obvious to me that you understand my grief is omnipresent, yet I am the first to change the subject.
    I am not rejoicing in your pregnancy ecstasy that began the day you saw two blue lines. And why shouldn't it?

  7. I've really learned so much in my self preservation grief mode. I have lost some friends, but the ones that mattered are still there, waiting.

    Lovely post, Ang

  8. I have typed and re-typed five different responses, but they all bothered me. Too honest or too sarcastic. I'll have to think about this one.
    I think many of us need to shed this guilt we carry. I also think it's impossible for a woman not to feel some sort of guilt when our babies die. Though typically most of us could not have done anything differently to prevent what happened to our babies, we still feel this impossible guilt. I feel guilty every day and pregnancy has made it worse.

  9. I have too many that may offend people that believe in God...


  10. Your words are so much like my feelings....

  11. After reading your post yesterday, I had some of these thoughts myself so it is interesting to read this post here today - seems we're on the same wave length.
    I do flip between feeling angry at friends and angry at myself, as Catherine said, but then I remind myself MY daughter died. MY life went to shit. MY world got turned upsidedown. So I cut myself some slack for not returning those calls or emails, for throwing my phone at a wall when another birth annoucement text came through (yes, I did that), for walking out of a restaurant crying when I got a call to say my (ex) best friend's baby was born, for hiding from people at shopping centres, for being jealous of anyone who gets to take their baby home from hospital, for not asking questions about how a friend's pregnancy is going, for not pretending to be excited when I find out someone is having a girl, for taking myself off Facebook because I didn't want to have anything to do with anyone anymore and the list really goes on and on.
    I too have been a bad friend, but thankfully the few good friends left have been able to put up with it. All the others - too bad for them. I'm clearly better off without them.

  12. I didn't return your phone calls.

    I couldn't pretend to care about how your new relationship was going.

    I stopped buying gifts for your kids and going to their birthday parties.

    I didn't accept your apology.

    And so on, and so forth... Definitely two sides of the same coin. Thanks for the food for thought.

  13. This and the previous post, I will be re-reading several times, mumbling "word" over and over. THANKS! Sending love & wishing I could invite you over for tea tonight. xx

  14. I love this post. Sounds crazy saying I love a post like this but in our situation those words slipped out thru my fingertips. This must have felt good to release this & dare I say a little healing. I think this would be good for everyone to do. I know how much frustration & emotions it would release if I did this. I may do just that...when I'm ready. Thank you.

  15. I didnt answer the phone.
    I didnt hug you back.
    I didnt laugh at your stupid jokes.
    I didnt pretend to like you.
    I was selfish and let myself grieve as I needed to and not as you wished.

  16. My list is pretty much the same.

  17. ya know, some of those sorta things apply to people who were my friends at one point and for whatever reason they couldn't bother either. And I don't think they had grief to deal with.

    It's just part of life i guess.

  18. I didn't reach out to you so that we could grieve together for the loss of my boys and your father when they died at the same time. Because of that, you didn't feel close enough to me to tell me of your pregnancy until you were 6 months along. Now I'm hurt and I can't get over myself long enough to let it go.


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