There is no set recipe for grieving the loss of the living. Some people just can’t be in your life anymore- for one reason or another.
I’ve lost friends more times than I can count, meaning the whole nine yards- complete excommunication from the friend group. Each fall out varied; some I had people by my side after and dissolved with lots of words, other times everyone hated me and there were no words at all. But each one in its uniqueness has helped me appreciate the presence of others even more, as well as my own. They’ve helped me grow independent and understanding. A perfect example of why we have to mess up, occasionally, to learn.
My best friend and I have known each other ever since we were about four or five years old. We always did most things together, closely knit. After eighth grade, I moved away and we tried our best to keep in touch, to see each other as much as we could. But inevitably, we drifted without even noticing. Upon my return for my senior year of high school, we tried to pick up where we left off, but it became quite difficult, as we only recognized each other as people we once knew, not who we were currently. Little riffs started to come between us, but none as bad as what happened over the summer.
We were set to drive up to Northern Maine in mid-July to see our friend perform at a festival. And when we arrived, we set up our tent and went to socialize. As dusk approached, I started to feel uneasy. Perhaps it was a mix of being confused, tired, and introverted, but something was very wrong. I had a gut feeling that I shouldn’t be there, so I returned to the tent, where I spent the remainder of the night. And it was there where an awful feeling, much like anxiety, took over me. I started shaking like I was scared, but in my head, I was frozen- paralyzed. I had never felt this before in my life. Disconnected and distant, I waited for my best friend to retire, sometime long past midnight.
The next day, I woke up conflicted over whether I should leave or not. My best friend didn’t want to leave yet and going meant distressing a lot of people. But despite that, I made the decision to go without her. Selfish of me, and yes, I could’ve stayed. Maybe it would’ve been different the second night around, but in that moment, I had to remove myself completely. We barely discussed it. I waited for her to find a ride home and left.
I remember the expression on her face, betrayed. And the expression on my other friend’s face as I was attempting to say goodbye, cold. None of us exchanged words in the coming days. And to an extent, I was upset too because no one checked up on me that night or asked if I was okay. And I felt that no one left any room for understanding before they got upset, so I failed to reach out or explain myself or apologize. I felt like I didn’t need to.
In the following weeks, I received a text from her, noting all the mistakes I had made since our friendship began. And that too made me feel even further. I had trusted her in knowing most of everything about me. Where was the consideration or sympathy? She had hurt me too…but maybe this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. I chose to dismiss it- the day that ended a decade long friendship.
Although this situation was ultimately something between her and I, it become something between me and everyone. I refrained from contact with almost everyone, even blocked most peoples numbers, fearing nasty texts about how I was the girl who left her best friend behind.
I heard what people were saying about me, I even had one person say it to my face- like in person to my face. But for some reason, I let it all fall off me. It was my time to be alone, to reflect, to let go, to fix whatever was going on personally. I had to stop feeling so guilty. It happened. I did it- time to own it. Sure, if I didn’t leave, maybe I still would’ve had all my friends, maybe even more than I had before. And I probably would’ve felt a little more secure too! But, what if we still would’ve inescapably drifted apart?
I didn’t hold grudges towards her, or towards anyone. And I kept my mouth shut too, because I knew I had hurt (and surprised) a lot of people. I practiced enjoying my own company and doing things that made me happy- little passions. I didn’t dwell too hard on the situation, but I did acknowledge it. And I did grieve.
The hardest part was finding new people to hang around. There was this seemingly missing puzzle piece from my life and it always hung over my head. But I tried to put myself out there to talk to people. Then, I was able to find people I enjoyed. I could see through new perspectives and hear new thoughts. Turns out new souls aren’t so bad.
I had spent sweet seconds letting the scab heal over on this one but…fast forward a few months…to where I receive a text from my now ex-best friend. It seemed that she wanted to understand what happened. She missed me. And I missed her too. It probably took her a lot to message me. I was hesitant to give what she was saying the light of day, but we had matured in something we were both lacking at the time things went down- communication.
We found our way back. Talking about what happened was a kind of therapy. We found closure in doing so. And hopefully we can laugh about it later in life. But it wasn’t easy. It still kind of isn’t. It was time to put extra effort into healing the tear between us- to trusting each other again. And into relearning who each of us are. She tries her best to be there and to comfort me when I’m feeling uneasy about it. I try my best to communicate when something’s off. And right now, that’s all I can ask for. I can’t stress enough that everything takes time.
Being cut off obviously left me no choice but to be alone. It made me look inside myself at who I was. I had to look at my actions, thoughts, and feelings- and recognize their effects. How was I supposed to water other peoples pots if mine was incomplete?
More so, I taught myself to stop judging people; lovers, friends, ex-friends, enemies, everyone. It wasn’t healthy for me. I gave too much of my energy away to that. And after being on both sides of the judging, I realized that you have no idea what that person is going through, or has gone through up to that exact moment. And you also probably don’t realize how strong of an affect your words have. Their situation is theirs and theirs only- respect their space. Think twice before you pass judgement. You’ve probably made a few mistakes here and there too!
Going through something like this alone, with your own perception of all of it, takes a lot of strength. Just hold tight, it’s not as catastrophic as it seems. And like I said, there is no set recipe on how to do it. Do you for as long as you have to. Stand in your truth.
Be as gentle as you can and have compassion- even if you are angry or distraught or betrayed or hurt…