I treasure having friendships that have endured for many years from many different shared experiences: childhood, high school, college, work, neighbors, parenting, and so on.
Some of those relationships seem strained to me now. They feel difficult and challenging and painful to maintain when previously they were easy and natural. Some of them feel like a charade.
I know I can make new friends; TCF has certainly been helpful in that regard. But I also know I can’t make new old friends. I must figure out a way to preserve and protect those more seasoned relationships. But I must also figure out how to differentiate between what relationships should be preserved and what relationships need to be allowed to fade. I don’t know how to do that very well.
I have always been an extrovert. Given my Southern roots, I am aware that I can “talk to a post.” I can talk to a post for a long time. There is also an intense “leadership” thing in my DNA. Some might—with justification I cannot deny—call it “bossy.”
I realize I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I have a “strong personality.” I don’t work to be that way. It is what it is. Like Popeye, the Sailor Man, said, “I am what I am.”
I have been fortunate to have friends (and a sister) who have stuck with me through thick and thin. Friends who emphasize my strengths more than my faults. Friends who listen, friends who are present. Friends who make me feel as though they realize I am doing the best I can.
But I also have friends who are impatient with me or who make me feel they disapprove of how I am handling this “bereaved parent” role. I could be doing it better, or quicker, or with Jesus. Or, certainly, I could be more dignified. When I insist on keeping my grief and share that my faith has evaporated, and when I behave in ways that are far from dignified, they are upset with me. I am not doing it “right.”
So, as they are old friends, shouldn’t I be patient? Tolerant? Shouldn’t I calmly continue my efforts to explain? Well, so far, I have not found the resources to be that person. I’m more the “squeal like a stuck pig” person. It is far from dignified and far from calm.
Since I lost my son, I find myself more involved in quarrels and disputes. I don’t set out to offend or annoy. But more and more, I gather that I do. Apparently, I offend and annoy. I alienate. It doesn’t matter that I strive to avoid doing so.
Is it that I am less socially adept because I am so wounded? I truly don’t know.
My ability to navigate relationships has been compromised since I became a bereaved parent. It must be like trying to hug a porcupine. I am not charitable when I feel misunderstood or mistreated. I am enraged. I am unreasonable. And I am disappointed. Deeply, deeply disappointed. It is more heartbreak for an already broken heart.
One of my bereaved parent friends commented, “How did I ever even like these people?” Good question.
I strive to resist a temptation to isolate. A temptation to close ranks, to have contact with only those I consider safe. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to just cease trying to engage with the world. The hermit lifestyle beckons alluringly. I think of those people who live in remote parts of Alaska and get supplies from airplane drops. But I can’t do that. I don’t have the survival skills to do that.
I am thankful I have a dog. She accepts my wounded, damaged self. I just wish more humans could accept my wounded, damaged self.
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