When Peter died my friends were truly amazing. I have blogged over and over about their kindnesses. I am eminently grateful that my pals not only rallied, but didn't abandon me when the going got tough. When you lose the love of your life, you become another entity. You are 180 degrees different from the person you were before. This change can drastically affect your relationships with your buddies. I had to learn to be honest after Peter died and reveal my most vulnerable self. I had to give my friends time to digest our new relationships. I had to, in essence, train my friends to know the new me. My friends all wanted to help. Many knew how to bring food and show up, but so many needed directions on how to deal with the new me.
We settled into a routine with my friends calling regularly to check in. But after I while, I realized, I was the one who now had to take some initiative. I had to call them and invite them over. I had to reciprocate for the wonderful food and kindnesses they had bestowed on me in my time of need. I actually had to make more of an effort to be a friend than I ever had before. I have learned to be a better friend by the kindnesses bestowed on me during this past year. Why shouldn't we all strive to be the best friend possible no matter what the circumstances?
And then there are the noxious friends. I know that I cannot change the people around me, but I also know that I can change the people I choose to be around. There were a few incidents that started me thinking about the value of friendship. The first was with an egotistical friend who chose to make Peter's death about her. She actually had the audacity to say "Peter's death was so upsetting to me, but I guess it must have been more difficult for you." Ya think? Was she born on the planet Narcissist? The second was with an old friend, who I thought was there for me and bailed so quickly you see the clouds of dust while she was running away. It should be three strikes and you're out for friends who are not loyal, but there are certain people who get 50 strikes and still miss. That's where it is up to me to spring clean my friendships no matter what the season. I have to ignore people who are self-involved to the exclusion of all others. I have to stop stressing out over people who don't have room in their heart to be kind to me. Toxic friends are emotional vampires, sucking the energy out of me and the rest of the room. I visualize toxic friends as the weeds in my garden which need to be plucked out so that I can flourish.
It is indeed a task to weed out people with whom you have had a lifelong relationship. This is not only a task for grievers, but for all of us, who want to rid ourselves of negativity in our life. By weeding out the damaging influences in my life, I believe that I will allow the upbeat parts to blossom and allow me to nurture healthier relationships.
One of the key lessons I have learned through the trauma of loss is to be a genuine and true friend. I have discovered that friendship is a two-way street and I have to reciprocate, cross-pollinate, and make the effort to be kind to the people who have been so loving to me. I am keenly aware that when they have a trauma in their lives, I will know how to comfort and allow them the time they need to adjust to life with loss. Achieving optimism and mental equanimity is not a time for guilt, but a time for constructive purging.
"Friends give you a shoulder to cry on. But best friends are ready with a shovel to hurt the person that made you cry." Unknown.