Author Topic: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"  (Read 5379 times)

Adams Brokenhearted Mama

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Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« on: June 28, 2009, 11:21:55 PM »
How do you all manage to sustain friendships with people outside of the bereavement world?
A bereaved Dad told me that he can only socialize with other bereaved parents.
I can understand that because of of our commonality and the depth of understanding and compassion that comes along with it, we "get" one another.
Yet my husband finds this sad common denominator too daunting for socializing.
Therin lies the challenge.
Is it just me and my husband that expect those who know us to keep foremost in their minds, words and actions when they are with us that we are bereaved parents?
We are fortunate that for the most part our circle of friends do.
We had a falling out with one couple who we were really fond of because the woman felt that I was not there for her.
My husband and I feel that all problems pale in comparison to losing a child and I can only surmise that this former friend could not understand that we are changed. We are not the same Craig & Paula of the past.
I rarely find bereaved parents judging one another, it is usually contained to the "civilian" world.
I care enough for this couple to want to make it work and just don't know if it is possible.

XO Love to all my sisters & brothers-in-grief XO
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Rebecca

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2009, 05:38:40 AM »
I truly believe that the non bereaved world is afraid of us.  A friend of mine, her daughter just had a very serious accident, she could have been paralized, or worse.  She told another friend, who told me, that she said that if her daughter died, she did not know what she would do and that she did not want to go on.  Now, this friend sent us a card, every week for a year.  They cannot know.  What I do expect though is respect for the dead.  I don't listen to jokes, etc.  I say save it when I am not here or I walk away.  If they go on incessently about their other children, I sing a song to myself in my head, shake my head occasionally and rarely respond to the stupidity they speak.  Now as for your one friend, you have to decide that if you want to rekindle the friendship that you would have to tell them what they did to hurt you and you forgive them but it cannot happen again.  You value their friendship but if they cannot respect your grief then the years together are over.  Just my opinion
Rebecca Jason's Mom

charlesafather

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2009, 08:17:32 AM »
Rebecca;
  i am not sure, I have only 2 people i call friends,  one is in prison ( long story) the other lives close by, we seldom see each other. howerverr if i need anything or just to talk he is always there. the only thing i know that may help is to talk to her and explain how you have changed, let her know what your frindship means to you, i know that all my life  i have only 2 friends  the rest are aquaintences, i pray you and your friend can understand how you hav changed and she will understand i hope you and she can reunite your frindship.
                            my prayers
                                       charles

WendyRN

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2009, 03:38:50 PM »
Paula, its hard to value friendships in the same light as before.  For myself, I tend to isolate and pull inside myself.  I do have friends that I occasionally see but I don't find myself really seeking them out.  And, as a surprise to me, they have done little to offer support and friendship on a continuing basis.  When we do spend time together, I am careful not to monopolize conversations with what is always on my mind, missing my son  so much I can hardly breathe.  But even the mention of "Keith would have liked that..." is generally met with silence.  I guess I had expected offers of encouragement to talk about him.  The lack of this both saddens and disappoints me.  And so I grieve without them.  And so they think I am "so strong" and "healing".  I can't make them understand what they don't want to hear. 

But I don't really blame them.  Nobody can really understand "enormous" loss until you live it.  "Big" loss may seem enormous in an ordinary world.  And so I listen when they tell of their job worries, cancelled vacation, their mom is ageing and slowing down, fighting with their kids, uncle passed away at 82.

Its hard to maintain friendships when bitterness creeps in and I know that always seems to be lurking beneath the surface for me.  I am ashamed of that.  I am bitter at having to listen to other's life concerns that seem like such small potatoes.  I am bitter at other's success, especially their children's successes (Keith won't have them.)  I am bitter hearing of wonderful holidays (that Keith won't go on and I feel I'll never truly enjoy again.)  I am bitter listening to "big" losses and having to say all the right things while silently thinking "oh please, if you only had a clue".  I am bitter that I allow them to lay burdons on my sagging shoulders and yet don't want to reciprocate.  I am bitter about life right now.  I am bitter that I am bitter.  I hate this about myself and I pray this will ease because it makes my life here feel useless.

Paula, I guess only you can decide if your friendship that's gone astray is worth saving.  Sometimes it seems the balance has fallen out of our lives when, if we want to save a friendship, WE have to smooth the feathers.  WE have to do the maintenance.  Your friend will never understand your inability to be there for her if she hasn't yet.  That means you will have to "make amends".  For a real friendship that was truly valued, maybe you can.  Don't know if it could ever be the same.  Its hard to live with "they don't get it" but, in fact, they don't get it.  In the end it is our burdon alone I guess and we still have to forge our way through life both living and hearing of "big" problems, "big" losses. 

Wendy, Keith's mom

Adams Brokenhearted Mama

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2009, 04:53:54 AM »
Wendy you are right when you wrote the balance has fallen out of our lives. I will always be the one balancing this seesaw act of friendship with this woman.
My husband doesn't think it has value and I guess I am finding it hard to sustain any more losses in my life.
XO Love to all my sisters & brothers-in-grief XO
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Paula, Tims Mom

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2009, 10:30:12 AM »
It's interesting that you chose the term "civilians"... being retired military, the term "civliians" means people from the outside world, who never signed up (or were drafted) into a special community that has sacrifice as a common denominator and is known for supporting each other.

I read a very special book by Pearl S. Buck, "The Child Who Never Grew" which was about her learning to live with loss of hopes for her only child, who was diagnosed as profoundly retarded.  Although I got this book to get some insights on dealing with conflicting hopes for my adopted special needs child, I found her description of grief and how she confronted it and learned to live with it, was "right on" for what I experienced in losing Tim. 

She described living with (hiding behind) "the mask" for a long time. But over time, learning to divide the world into two camps of people- those who know inescapable sorrow,  and those who do not.  The "civilians" would be people who have no idea of the grief and "inescapable sorrow" that comes from losing a child and losing hope for the future. 

I have only a few "civilian" friendships and almost all of them developed in recent years and none of them date back to my life with Tim. The only people who I am close to from back to my life with Tim - are those who had sorrow then, or have come to know it by their own losses since mine.

Like Pearl Buck,  I can usually "sense" when someone is living with loss.  So for me, there are diferent kinds of "socializing" and it has taken a long long time to enjoy socializing with "civilians" who usually don't know (or much care) anything about my life except for the recent years.

Now - if I could just turn my sorrow into what Pearl Buck achieved... being the only woman to win both the Nobel and Pulitzer for literature.
Paula, Tims Mom

Paula, Tims Mom

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2009, 10:35:28 AM »
Some passages from Pearl Buck, if anyone is interested in reading her story:

"I can speak of it with detachment now, for it is over. I have learned my lesson. But it is interesting to me and may be of some small importance to some, merely as a process, to speak of learning how to live with sorrow that cannot be removed.."

"The first phase was disastrous and disorganizing..there was no more joy left in anything.. All human relationships were meaningless.  Everything became meaningless.."

"I do not know when the turn came, nor why.  It came somehow out of myself. People were kind enough but no help came from anyone. Perhaps that was my own fault, I made my surface too smooth and natural so no one could see beneath it... people shrink from penetrating surfaces. Only those who know inescapable sorrow know what I mean"

"It was in those days that I learned to distinguish between two kinds of people in the world: those who have known inescapable sorrow, and those who have not. For there are basically two kinds of sorrows; those which can be assuaged, and those which cannot be. The sorrows  which can be assuaged are those which life can cover and heal. Those which cannot be assuaged are those which change life itself and in a way themselves make life. ...Living sorrow is never assuaged.  It is a stone thrown into the stream, as Browning put it,  and the water must divide itself and accommodate itself for it cannot remove  the stone"

"I learned at last to merely by watching faces and listening to voices, to know when I had found someone who knew what it was to live with sorrow that could not be ended. It was surprising and sad to discover how many such persons there were.. It did not comfort me, for I could not rejoice in the knowledge that others had the same burden that I had, but it made me realize that others had learned to live with it, and so could I.."

extracts from "The Child Who Never Grew", by Pearl S. Buck
Paula, Tims Mom

jillsmom

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2009, 06:29:23 PM »
Those quotations from Pearl S Buck sound so true. I think any of us could have written them.

For my own emotional safety, I deal as much as possible only with people who knew my daughter. They feel the loss alongside me, of course in a much softer way, but it gives them a glimmering of what losing her means, and it makes them more careful in what they say.

The people in my church have been my rock and my comfort, so I am lucky to have a community that supports each other in sorrow as well as in joy. I think you have to have some training to know how to act around grief, and being in a community of faith does provide that experience - if you're fortunate to have a compassionate church. I know not all churches are. 

My own thorn is a woman who always wanted children but didn't think the circumstances of her life would allow it. She seems to want to take on my daughter's death as her own sorrow as well as mine. You'd think that would be comforting, but it's not. It is so intrusive. She's been a loyal friend for many decades, so I'm trying to be kind but firm in not talking about my daughter with her.

Paula, as far as the woman who thought you weren't there for her, I wonder if you don't already have the answer in your own mind. How can someone who has criticized you for your actions since Adam died really be a friend? I think she may have chosen to end the relationship by saying that to you. Too bad, but as you say, you and your husband are not the same people, and some of the friendships from the life before will not be worth saving.

with love, Kay
cooking for friends 2008

Adams Brokenhearted Mama

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2009, 06:06:16 AM »
Paula-Tim's Mom
I am not involved with the military. I chose the word simply because it aptly described the dinstiction between us and the blessed ones who do not know the pain.
Thank you for sharing Buck and Browining's words with me. Inescapable sorrow and the accomodations we must make in order to live with our sorrow.
As Buck wrote about finding no comfort in knowing others who live with inescapable sorrow I stopped going to TCF meetings because it provided no comfort to me to share with others our pain. As Buck observed that others live with this pain I was shocked to learn that I was going to be able to do it too.  We each have our own personal reasons for going on. My husband and spouse are my own personal reasons. I don't have the will nor the courage to say at this point in my life that if it wasn't for them then I would do it for me. Maybe if I ever got to the point emotionally where I could feel that I was doing it for me I would be able live within myself a bit more peacefully.
Change is a part of life, whether we create the change or it happens upon us. Relationships change too. If this friendship is ever salvaged it is changed by Adam's demise, by the changes in Craig & myself, the changes that my friend brought upon our relationship. This woman abuptly ended our relationship and I find that difficult. Death is finite; relationships I think are subect to growth. My thoughts are that people should be able to accomodate one another. It might be part of life lessons for the 4 of us in this dynamic and it doesn't have to be negative ones. My hopes are always to take away valuable learning lessons. I would prefer to be grateful for the time we all enjoyed one another. I hope that my husband can look back fondly on all the laughs we had together with them. I hope that my friend and her husband can grow in awareness and not place their expectations upon others as they did upon Craig & myself. You know the saying of things come into our life for a reason.....I will be paraphrasing it completely wrong....it is the one that says that people come into your life... it might be for a hour, a day, a year, a lifetime....but for whatever the time was it was there for a reason and to feel enriched for it. I am saddened by so many things nowadays I don't want to just view this friendship with sadness. if it is not to be anymore then it was good for the time that it was.
XO Love to all my sisters & brothers-in-grief XO
Wishing you all peaceful moments, signs from your Angels & many blessings

Paula, Tims Mom

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2009, 07:18:15 AM »
Paula,
I thnk there is another way to view the world in two camps- there are "givers" and there are "takers"
Some people need to give something, some need to take something.  In relationships we shift between modes depending on our situation - there is not much to "give" to yourself, much less a relationship, after you lose a child.

As long as I've been on this forum, I've sure noticed how posters evolve here- from arriving as shell shocked survivors looking to take some comfort  from posting or just reading - to wounded veterans of this sorrowful journey, who post trying to give comfort,  if no other way than reassuring the newcomers that we're still walking, one day at a time.

Even so, there are so many times I just don't have anything to give, even though I know it hurts some people especailly newcomers to get few responses to their posts. You and the other "greeters" and some of the other posters here do a wonderful service in trying to "give" and respond to everyone- I'm sure it takes a toll

Your civilian friend sounds like a needy person who needs to take from relationships, much more than you are able to give her. So-
Don't beat yourself up if this friendship doesn't continue or devolves into something very distant.  Your family and you are top priority for what energy and emotion you have to give at this stage of your journey.

Thanks for your involvement in this forum!
Paula, Tims Mom

Terry

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2009, 09:59:46 AM »
"......it is the one that says that people come into your life... it might be for a hour, a day, a year, a lifetime....but for whatever the time was it was there for a reason and to feel enriched for it. I am saddened by so many things nowadays I don't want to just view this friendship with sadness. if it is not to be anymore then it was good for the time that it was."

This is a good and positive attitude to hold and I too, agree with this Paula. If I've learned anything, and I've learned a lot, it is that nothing is expected to last forever. This is life and it can become very complicated and 'change' still remains the only constant.

There is a point in our lives that we all reach, hopefully, when we realize that we are not in control, we cannot change another person. WE change and in doing that, others perceive us differently.
The complexity in relationships becomes dysfunctional when we demand or expect others to feel as we do or to be totally understanding and accepting of our feelings. This will never happen.

So, we continue to choose to be involved with those who we are emotionally compatible with and even before we lost our children, we basically did the same thing and made the same choices. The only difference now, after child loss, is again, the complexity of the relationships and it becomes almost like a huge over-grown garden....there are more weeds to pull out in order to see the beautiful flowers, when before, the garden always looked basically the same as was its up-keep, and though there may be less flowers, it's up to us to make sure the flowers that ARE blooming, we remain grateful for, continue to nourish as we would anything we care deeply for.

Life is short. Nothing lasts forever and how we live our lives is entirely up to us. I personally do not choose to stay involved in relationships that are not growing. I move on. I've been hurt also, but I learned that this is the way it is and I do not control how others feel, as it would be futile in every sense.

I lost much in my life but I can still give of myself, the love within, and be very gracious to receive it. I believe it is the reason we are here, on this Earth, and if we cease to give love or receive it, we become just an empty shell. There can be nothing worse than that, in my opinion.

You, Craig, Kate and Josh remain in my thoughts and prayers.

With Love,
Terry




Adams Brokenhearted Mama

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2009, 08:03:08 PM »
Thank you all for your kinds posts and insights. What I love about this website is the fact that I learn so much for all my Brothers-&-Sisters-In-Grief. We are on this journey together and while many times I feel so blue and alone I know that with you I have nutured and do not have to feel so lonely.
XO Love to all my sisters & brothers-in-grief XO
Wishing you all peaceful moments, signs from your Angels & many blessings

Brenda Taylors Mom

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2009, 10:51:34 AM »
Paula, there is so much to say about this, but the one thing that I know for sure is that are "different" and always will be. I've heard it said that those who live  with inescapable sorrow will either be the most bitter people in the world or they ( most often) have the softest hearts of any humans on earth. I had to "drop" my very best friend I'd ever had because she totally expected the "old" me to come back (she  was getting extremely critical and judgmental of me too) and I couldn't no matter how I tried, I couldn't. It was a hard decision but I have cut her out of my life and I feel more at peace.
Sending you my love Paula
Brenda

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Re: Sustaining friendships with 'civilians"
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2009, 05:42:22 AM »
I imagine it could be very easy to fall into living with bitterness.
My coping mechanism is to seek comfort and soothing.
I want to live a loving life, it's the only gift that I feel that I can give Adam to honor his brief years with me.
I want to live a life without regrets. My life has been filled with them and it feels like a disease gnawing at my soul.
If I didn't extend my heart in friendship to this woman again and try to understand her issues there is a chance that I would regret not having done so.
My one hope that the experience of losing my son has opened my eyes and taught me lessons that will help me become a better human being and that I can help others for the remainder of my days here on Earth.
I do not know any other reason for justifying what has happened to me & mine as we watched Adam's struggles and passing.
If I was to think that it was just some random act with no heavenly compassion why would I want to go on?
I extended  my hand in friendship to this woman again. It doesn't appear that she is accepting it.
I've learned that even with the best of intentions things don't always go the way you hope it will.
XO Love to all my sisters & brothers-in-grief XO
Wishing you all peaceful moments, signs from your Angels & many blessings