Someone in my group therapy meeting last week said that she was glad she found our group. "It's hard to make friends in your adulthood." But it's worse than that. Because as you age and mature, as you go out and forge a place for yourself in the world, your friendships drop like flies.
First, you meet "the one." Poof! The friends that don't like him--gone. Then, you move. Whoosh! More friends disappear. As you walk down the aisle you can almost feel the change in your relationships. "She's so different now that she's married." So, a few more fall off the list. When I had my first daughter, everything changed. No more work, so no more work friends. Almost impossible to go out late or travel. So suddenly it's me, my husband, our daughter, close family and a few friends who stuck by us. I guess we thought that would sustain us pretty much until the end. We'd make some friends through our kids and school, but we were pretty set with what we had. And then we had Carpenter.
Nothing weeds out your friends faster than the death of a child. Almost every couple in our group has had some story of a friend that was close before, made it through all the other tests of friendship, and then disappeared just when we needed them the most. When the going got tough, I guess they made a run for the door. And I suppose it begs the question, can we blame them? It's a lot to ask of a person to stand by you in a situation even you can barely handle. The world is completely different now. "Normal" has been chucked out the window and replaced. I am no longer the same woman. So, I understand if friends choose to break it off. I can take that and appreciate their friendship as a wonderful thing I had for a while. But my gripe here is with those that can't make the clean break. The friends who keep in touch--sort of. Those who never call except to ask for something. Those who never visit but expect us to. Those friends who never say my son's name but talk relentlessly about themselves. And it is with this anger that I draw my line in the sand.
From here on out there will be those who support us and call and hang out. These people will be called "friends." We will make every effort to support them as well and keep that friendship strong. And the rest... they shall be called "acquaintances." Because it's not kind to use a harsher word. Now, I'm a good person. I'm not going to stop helping people just because they weren't there for me after Carpenter's death. But I will stop belittling the kindness and support of my true "friends" by giving the acquaintances the same designation. No longer will I lump together the people who stayed by my bedside, those that traveled to see us, those who wrote letters with the ones who don't consider my son's death a loss.
I am making a promise here and now. I am promising to thank my real friends. I will show them that their kindness was what kept our family going. I will be there for them whenever I can. And I will show them how much they mean to me.
And the others? Well, I think we angel-moms lose enough sleep. Don't you?