Making Grief Friends

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64 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grief, #57: Grief re-writes your address book.

I lost my dad when I was in college.  I was at an age when it felt like I was the only person who had lost a parent.  I didn’t know how to relate to people, I didn’t know if or how to tell people I met about my loss.  When we lost my sister’s boyfriend to an overdose six years later, the isolation quickly set in again.  I felt like we were the only family that had experienced addiction and knew the pain of a substance loss.

The irony of these feelings of isolation was that I had wonderful friends.  I had friends from childhood who were like family, I had friends from college who I loved dearly.  But as I grieved I felt utterly and completely alone.  It wasn’t that my friends didn’t try – they did, each in their own way.  The problem? They didn’t know what I needed.  Hell, I didn’t know what I needed!  Most of them had never been through a significant loss.  They weren’t sure what to say or do.  I didn’t know what I needed them to say or do, but I did know that it felt impossible to talk to anyone about what I was going through.

Despite this isolation in my grief, I was actually one of the lucky ones.  Though I didn’t feel connected, my friends didn’t shy away from me out of discomfort.  They generally put up with some of the crazy decisions and behaviors that were born from my grief.  Not everyone is so lucky, I know.  Sometimes our friends not only don’t know what to say or do, but they avoid us because they are so uncomfortable.  They are worried they will say or do the wrong thing.  Rather than accepting and tolerating the way grief changes us, sometimes our friends (as wonderful as they are) can’t make sense of the change or tolerate it.  So there we are, feeling like everyone should understand that the worst thing imaginable has happened and we will never be the same, while our friends are there, wanting everything to be back to normal.

Grief re-writes your address book.  Sometimes the people you think will be there for you aren’t.  It can be easy to just hole-up in your house feeling angry and bitter that your friends aren’t there for you the way you thought they’d be.  It can be even easier to feel like you will never connect with people in the same way again, no one will ever understand your loss, and you will live on your own little grief island forever.

So what can you do (other than sulk in your house alone, eat Ben and Jerry’s, and watch Law and Order marathons)?   First and foremost, cut your friends some slack.  Remember that supporting a griever isn’t easy, send them some of our tips for being a good friend to a griever, and recognize that even if they aren’t there for you right now, that doesn’t mean they are objectively a bad friend, or that they won’t be there for you in the future.

Next, open yourself up to making a grief friend.  Yes, a grief friend.  When you lose a loved one you become part of this tragic little club that you never wanted to be a part of.  But, if you can open yourself up to talking to some other members of this club you may just find yourself a grief friend – someone you can connect with, who can support you, who you can support, all without judgement.

Take me and Eleanor, for example.  We were just two gals who worked together.  She’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert.  She has kids, I am not a kid person (to put it mildly).  She had been working at our job for quite a while, I was brand new.  But at some point we started talking about our own losses.  Who knows why, but we did.  We connected on the lack of support we found in our grief.  We had similar experiences, as mental health professionals supporting grievers who had both had significant losses.  We were both (charmingly?) weird and equally obsessed with people using photography to express grief.  We were able to talk about all our grief-craziness, neuroses, and public meltdowns without judgment.  At some point we went from two gals who worked together to grief friends.

Fast forward a year or two and one of the things we bonded about, the lack of online support we could relate to, turned into this blog.  A place to help people understand grief- to take the academic and make it accessible, to accept that sometimes a glass of wine and some ice cream are the only coping skills you can muster, to normalize that grief makes you feel totally insane, to say that an existential crisis every now and again is okay, and to show that coping can be everything from baking a cake to taking a photograph.

I know, when you are grieving the idea of opening yourself up to new anything sounds terrible.  You may be thinking that you don’t make new friends easily, or that you won’t find someone to connect with. But opening yourself to new relationships in grief can do amazing things.  It may not drag you off your isolation island right away, but it may allow you to have someone come and visit you every now and again.  It may be someone at work, at church, at school, online, in a grief support group, or at the dog park.  Grief friends turn up where you least expect them if you can bring yourself to be open to them.  Seriously.

Had Eleanor and I not opened up to each other about something so personal, something so many of our pre-grief friends couldn’t support us through, we never would have found our amazing grief friendship.  Had we not opened up about our grief here on our little corner of the internet, we wouldn’t have found so many new grief friends – all of our amazing readers.  You share your losses with us in the comments here and on social media.  You support us when we open up about our pain and you let us support you when you are having more bad days than good.

Grief does re-write your address book, but that isn’t always a bad thing.  Sometimes we get to write in new names.  I am so glad I got to add Eleanor’s name to my address book, and together we are so glad we have gotten to add so many of you to our list of grief friends.

Spread the word so we can all expand our grief-friend circle- share this post! Then subscribe to get all our posts right to your inbox. 

March 28, 2017

19 responses on "Making Grief Friends"

  1. Hello to everyone here,

    My name is Nancy and I shared lots of my story here on November 20th 2017
    I’m just finding out that a lovely person by the name of Emilie Tucker replied to me on February 5th 2018, saying she’d like to be my friend. I would love that and to be hers as well. I’ve tried several times unsuccessfully to reply to Emilie. I’m so upset that nothing works and I can’t reply to accept her offer of friendship with open arms for her as well. Can someone help me, please? I see our entries at the top but cannot access to reply no matter what I do.
    Any help would be so much appreciated. Thank you to whomever reads this. I’ve read most all of your stories and that’s why we’re here. Searching for people we relate to, and even though many stories differ, we’re all in this very large group of grieving people who’ve been hurting so long. I sincerely hope this day finds some of you if not all, to be feeling somehow better. If not, I understand because I honestly think it gets worse with time for myself, i can’t lie. If anyone can help me connect with Emilie please do. I don’t know if we’re to leave our emails here or not and don’t want to break any rules so for now I’ll try this and in hopes someone can or will contact me through the site.
    I’m feeling desperate as it’s another lonely weekend like they all are and like the days and nights are but weekends always seem lonlier. Thank you,

  2. I found your way ebsite awhile back through several attempts at finding someone/something, some group, etc., that could help me process what I’ve been feeling for well over 5 years now. I’ve lost my only daughter, to the lies of my now ex spouse of 20 years, (her ex step dad), aka, narcissist extraordinaire. I’m 56. She’s 37. I have three beautiful granddaughters I’ve not seen in well over 5 years now.
    She and I had the closest mother/daughter relationship i was so proud of. (My own mother a narcissist as well).
    My ex managed to somehow brainwash her and my son in law against me long before I had any idea.
    I suffered through years of psychological abuse, etc. not realizing what was happening to me until losing my job due to depression and missing work constantly. I’ve been disabled due to major depression, anxiety since 2006. When separating from my now ex in 10/2011, after catching him cheating, I insisted he leave. After an evening of denying and crying rivers and swearing he’d never do much as touched another woman, the next morning he woke up off the couch and was already half way out the door of our home. I knew then that I had just become his #1 personal and public enemy. I’d seen what he was capable of when someone rubbed him the wrong way. That was an understatement. During our separation and long drawn out divorce, I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. The traumatic events are unimaginable and I still have people tell me that what happened to me could not happen. I’m living to tell you, I was the focus of a judges abuse of power, etc.
    Thats a little of what I’ve been dealing with totally alone now for over 6 long years. My divorce was not final until 8/2013. A living nightmare that didn’t end with that.
    My daughter was my rock. My best friend. My everything. Never in my life did I imagine losing her respect or love. I lost both. Plus my granddaughters.
    I’ve been grieving the loss of person still alive.

    When I found this term, this site, it was as if finally what I’ve been feeling had a term I could relate to 100%. No pill, no counseling, no nothing can help heal this pain I’m in 24/7. Nothing. I’ve lost all of my small family over the years, due to my CHOOSING depression over my family and my narcissist mother is still very much alive at 93. I chose to go no contact with her at the same time my marriage was crumbling and felt the need to tell her about that and the fact that I was losing my home of 24 years to foreclosure. That conversation took place in my counselors office because I was afraid to speak with her because I already knew what her responses would be. I was an embarrassment, a shame, a failure, a disappointment, and couldn’t keep a man. (All her words). Not once did she ask how I was. Rather how I’ve failed her after her and my father had “raised me right”. They raised me without any affection attention or love. I didn’t realize that’s also a form of neglect and abuse until my counselor made me aware of that.
    I am alone 24/7. Thankfully I have my dog that my ex tried to take with him also. She’s the reason I get up each day. The only reason. I’m already worried about the day she’s gone. I’ve been suicidal and think of it every single day and night. I have no way of completing it, and would never chance it being an attempt. I’m that serious of not making a mistake and living if and when the time comes. I’ve lost all of my friends and I’ve been isolating myself to the point that I’m fearful of each day. i love my dog more than anything as she’s who’s gotten me this far. I couldn’t bare to think of her being left alone after I’ve died somehow. No one would know she’s here alone or check on her or me as nobody does. I won’t let that happen to her. So I’m still here.
    Thanksgiving week and I swore I would not flip the calendar when September came along. It’s November 20th, 2017, and I don’t want to see another new year come.
    I’m searching for a grief friend. A friend of some kind at all who gets this as no one else does and so they ignore me and stop responding to me, and I’ve stopped reaching out for help. I see no future for me. My ex successfully robbed me of everything I should have been awarded in our divorce. Financial abuse on top of all the rest.
    Did I mention that he moved within a mile of my daughter (who he’s always hated), after we separate and the first woman tossed him out and a second was waiting in the wings? Yes! Plus she was a friend of ours. Her and her now ex husband we were friends with. Ugh. I could go on forever but I’m exhausted. I’ve been reading these posts and comments from people for so long now, crying as I’ve read so many heartbreaking stories until today, feeling like I had to write my own in hopes of finding a voice to hear me and reach back out to me.
    Thank you for this wonderful blog and website. It’s filled in the areas that had question marks for so long for me.

    • Dear Nancy, Just allow your dog to be a “dog”. Seriously. Take her Doggie-day-camp and the dog park where her paws fling mud, her tail whirling in circles of excitement at the meat thought of sniffing butt. We’ll socialized pooches are much happier and also healthier! The more things a dog can sniff, search and sniff sniff more- the greater the stimulate of her immune system. So, allowing her to be just a dog, is helping her to live longer=more time with her person(You). If she’s the reason you’re able to get out and take more dog walks , great! It’ll give you more exposure to people outside of your bubble. People who are likely dog people too. Be bold, just saying Hi to another dog walker or dog owner opens avenues to possible friendships.
      Depression, suicidal thoughts, abuse, PTSD, crazy-ex nars… Yup I read your post just making a mental checklist of the “traits” I’ve also known. But beyond the reasons why I take my Meds faithfully, I am recently a Widow. My husband and I met a few years after I survived my crazy ex abuser of 10 years. We friended, dated for a year and married. We were total opposites. I, a retired Pageant Queen and Coach turned Canine &Equine Physical Therapist. He, a back woods Tennessee Carpenter skilled guitarist/song writer. Barely Married 2 years to a hopelessly devoted man I was blessed to be loved by. Dec. 3, 2017 at 3 am, his father called to tell me that he was found collapsed I the on the bathroom floor. We were mid-move cross country, he took the first truck all packed and drove back to Nashville ahead of me to get work and a house pinned down. I, still in Seattle, packed up and ready to go. I had to stay awhile longer waiting for my medical insurance to switch to the new address(state). Because I was diagnosed with severe OCD, PTSD being managed, and was medicated for a recent possible manic Bipolar episode. I hadn’t seen my husband since he left WA in October. I was 14weeeks pregnant when he died. I was going to tell when I got to TN for Christmas… surprise! He begged me for babies since day one, I insisted we wait until we were purchasing a home. I never got to tell him. His family in TN had a memorial that I wasn’t able to attend. The police investigation is still ongoing, they told his family that no burial or cremation is allowed until they’ve issued a death cert. and can determine a cause. He wished to be cremated, so I filed papers for it and faxed them off to them so that when they’re ready it’ll get done. It was my only day I was actually all together, on the phone all day it seemed taking care of all related business matters long distance. I’ve slept 20 hrs a day since then. Oh, mustn’t forget that his family, his mother, refuses to speak to me because I wouldn’t allow for a Full Formal Funeral and viewing. -his truck, RV camper, and all of his belongings are at her house now after she took liberty of collecting them. So, I get to sit here waiting, for SOMEONE to tell me that I can pick up my husbands ashes in Nashville, isolating in my mothers guest room, without a single item that is or was his around me. I’m terrified that his mother won’t give a damn thing and I’ll be forced to get an attorney over it. Ahh….
      Other grievences, my favorite black lab passed away last summer, AND I’m trying to push it aside and deal with the emotio n of losing my preganCy the day after Christmas from stress and malnourishment. I understand many many forms of grieving, isolation, depression, ex’s… And a lot more’
      I’m offering my friendship, as Grief pen-pal. I’m not offended if you don’t wish to it. But After reading pages and pages of testimony I felt I needs to connect with you today. I hope this finds you on a good day.
      Sympathies, condolences, and All Good Things,

  3. I lost the best friend I ever had three weeks ago. Today would have been the day we met for lunch, shopping, and lots of conversation, which she was an expert at. She was the most extraordinary person I have ever known. I really miss her just so much.

  4. Well, in the past 4 years of my fucking life my husband and I lost 4 people. I hate my life and I don’t care. This Sunday, I lost my father in law at 70. zI’m so fucked up right now that Monday I wanted to hurt myself or kill myself.

  5. Lost husband December 27, 2017. Still crying a lot and just lost after careing for him for 2 years with dementia. Best hubby ever. Got to move on as too painful but cannot. Help!

  6. I am in the Uk and I have just come across this website. I am in a constant dreamlike state. My mum , my best friend died suddenly after an operation that was supposed to make her better.I am heartbroken , bereft and everything goes on the same around me but my world has changed forever.It does seem that no one offers up anything …I am not sure what I want but as your site says there are so many untruths.
    I do not know what to do with myself , not sure how I have found myself typing this ………

  7. I lost my mom 4 months ago and sometimes feel very alone in my grief. This page has helped me clarify and process a lot of things! I’m still working on finding my grief friends, but websites like this make me understand what I’m going through better. Thank you for creating this website! 😀

  8. Loved this, although it made me cry. The grief and rebuilding has been so much more difficult than I ever imagined. I lost my job of seven years six months before my love was diagnosed (second angel day coming up 3/10) and I’ve had many job challenges since then. I’ve been at my current job for a month and I’m working with a former colleague, and although we are a satellite office, which makes it a bit tough, and I am not making the money I need to make yet, I have strong hope and belief that I will mold this job into what I need it to be and I’m so grateful to be working with someone supportive.

  9. Marie, to say this comment is late is the understatement of the century. Our alerts for comments bad and somehow we totally missed your comment and some others on this post. Surely you have long since made this decision, but for other who may stumble on this and be in the same place, what you describe is such a tough decision. There are no easy answer, mostly because there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in this case. Though this is a luxury depending on the circumstances, that old rule of waiting at least 6 months (maybe even a year) before making any big decisions is not a bad idea. It isn’t the only option, but our brains do make decisions differently in stress/crisis and immediately following a loss we can definitely make decisions that we wouldn’t have made otherwise. The very act of saying goodbye to a home, even when we are ready to leave, can itself be tough. We have a post about it that may be worth checking out.

  10. I lost my 46 yr old daughter to breast cancer, that eventually went to her brain, lungs & bones. I was her primary caregiver & held her as she died. It will be 1 yr on the 13th & I still can’t handle the grief. I cry anytime I try to talk about it or even think about it. She was more than my first born but also my best friend, confidante & soul mate. It’s like the best part of me is gone.

  11. I am a grieving mother. i lost my son to addiction in March of this year. I feel very isolated from my friends. Many things you said in your blog, hit home. Thank you.

  12. I facilitate grief groups for HOPE Connection. I am a licensed MFT
    I love many of the articles that you post and the comments that follow. Is there any way to print them out ?

    Thank you,

    Susan Rowen, LMFT #18567

  13. Thank you, this was right on point.

  14. One of the things that we did was to make a blog in honor of my mom. It was a place that everyone could go to get times and places of meetings, see photos, read poems that were written,…

  15. I just discovered your blog and have shed some tears reading. I am struggling with moving from my very large home to something easier to manage and don’t know if I am doing it too soon. Not sure I want to be in this house for another winter and of course, I am very concerned about leaving the love of my life behind. I still imagine him walking through the door after work and hugging him on our kitchen step. Any words of wisdom are appreciated. Marie

  16. My grief friends are among the best I’ve ever known! Outstanding, Litsa ~ thank you! ?

  17. I feel so grateful that I already knew a group of (amazing) bereaved parents through the Child Cancer Foundation and an online support group for families dealing with childhood cancer.
    I didn’t need to tell my story to join because they already knew me. Some of the parents have been supporting other bereaved parents for more than a decade, and for many of us newbies, it is hard to imagine we could have survived without them.

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