Friday, May 25, 2018

Grief & Loneliness

As I've been back and forth between a couple of grief support groups, I'm learning a main theme among everyone who has lost someone dear to them: loneliness and abandonment. I'm not even speaking of feeling abandoned by the deceased loved one -- it's abandonment from friends, family, acquaintances, etc. People seem to just leave your life just. like. that. I couldn't believe all of these people felt the same way I did. When I was caregiving for my mother, my friends would either come over, or sometimes we'd meet them for a drink or two -- nothing major, but they were still in my life. After the funeral, and after all of the "condolences" and "I'm here if you need to talk" kind of gestures, it was as if every single person drove off into the sunset to never return again. It's approaching the one year mark since my mother died and I've only spent a handful of times with my own siblings. I seriously thought that it would be the total opposite. Many other people in the grief support group stated the same thing. Some were actually really upset over the absence of some of their family members -- or even just a call to say, "Hey, how you holding up?" I asked some of them if they made their own attempt to try and get together with them, some did, while others 'expected' an invite or a phone call.

Here's the thing: if all of you lost someone you love dearly, then all of you are going through similar types of grieving. Some immerse themselves in their work, while others focus on their immediate family. For me, I focused on my work, but I also focused on making new friends and cultivating somewhat of a "new normal" for myself. I took on my mother's recipes to comfort my siblings when they did come over for dinner and I also delved into my hobbies, like playing guitar and doing writing projects. Many people who aren't related to you may feel awkward contacting you, or perhaps unsure of how you are. They don't want to upset you so they're on this strange boundary line of, "What if it upsets her if I call?" That's so common. But with relatives, the same baseline of grieving and delving into whatever takes their minds off their deceased loved one is absolutely normal. You have to forgive them, and you also need to seek forgiveness for being absent yourself. But is it all about forgiveness? Because technically, nobody did anything "wrong." Maybe it's just accepting what is, therefore you won't suffer the absence of your friends and family if they need more time coping with their loss.

I hope this doesn't sound bad, but I find it easier to talk to new friends if I need to vent about the loss of my mother. They don't have that look of, "Eeeeeeeeeeeek --- she's going there again!" They listen and then tell me their stories about their losses in life. It's a give and take kind of conversation, without the depressing part of the process. Sometimes, talking to someone who is grieving over the same person as you are, can conjure up a lot of tears and heartache. So give people time to deal with whatever it is they're dealing with. I mean, I would love to see my siblings every single day, but it's just not possible. They know my door is always open --- so without a doubt, if they want a "Sunday gravy" at their ancestral home, I would always welcome that.

And word of advice: if your friends have stopped contacting you, that's because they don't know how you REALLY are. CONTACT THEM. Pick up the phone -- don't text -- ask them to go out for a bite to eat with you. Invite them over. Welcome them. They feel out of sorts and scared to touch upon topics that may bring on the waterworks. They are scared. Forgive them. But don't forget about them.

I will say this... I did have one friend who basically used me as a bed & breakfast or a free dinner whenever she was bored. I was always her last resort for some reason. Both Madelene and I noticed this, but thought, "Eh, maybe we're looking too much into this."  So a few months after my mom passed, this friend called me up and said, "Hey, can I come by and hang out?" Which means, dinner drinks and a sleepover. I was like, "Sure! I would love that!" Then I got to thinking --- how nice it would be for somebody else to cook for me, since I always cook for everyone. So I said, "Hey, will you cook me something pleeeeaaaaase?" She's known to be a great cook. Minutes later she said, "Oh, sorry I forgot, I have plans." *Click*  Then the other day, she texted me and said, "Hi, I'm off tomorrow, can I come over?" This is on a Thursday. I said, "I wish I could, but you know I work that day." So then I suggested for her to come over this Memorial Weekend and BBQ with us. No response whatsoever! So basically, this girl just calls or texts me by the seat of her pants, hoping I have a free spot for her free meal ticket. She does this to a lot of people in her life, and I always wondered why they stuck around. I finally put up boundaries, told her how I felt and to also, lose my number. I haven't done that in years! It takes a lot for me to cast you out of my life for good. But again, people will use you because they think you're lonely and you have nothing better to do but grieve and sit around hoping someone comes over to visit you.

That's been my experience with this whole grieving process and how it affects relationships with your friends and family. Feeling abandoned is very normal, but remember, people are trying to be busy and take a breather from everything around them. Don't take offense to it. Just welcome them when they feel better enough to come around again.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!