Okay, so I am going to write this from the perspective of my mindset back then, in those awful few weeks and months when the certainty of divorce was painfully concrete. I could write this article from the perspective of where I am now: four years out and feeling pretty much right with the world.
However, if I wrote about the friendship issue from 20/20 hindsight place, then those of you still in the trenches would either want to blow spitballs at me or feel even more miserable because there is NO way to feel totally fine when you first realize that friendships will change, and possibly in ways you never, ever imagined.
First off, everyone has a different social set-up. Let’s review some common types of friends:
- Childhood friends
- College friends
- Work Friends
- Other moms from the world of playgroups, playdates and school functions
- Couple friends
- New friends and acquaintances
Friends from Childhood or from Way Back (like when I was footloose and single):
I was embarrassed to tell this group of friends. I felt like a failure and all those happy Facebook photos of my earliest friends with their happy and complete families just made me feel sad and like a failure.
Therefore, I stalled. Even though I totally understand if you decide to do the same, I don’t whole-heartedly recommend it because I think it only served to heighten my feelings of separateness. People who have known you from knee-high tend to be accepting of your faults and failures. For the most part, if they like you at all, they will merely want to support you in any way they can.
Friends from College:
Oddly, with one exception, this group was least supportive. I will say that in hindsight I now know that these friends had their own crises. But this vacancy of support was unexpected and it hurt.
Friends from Work:
I’d been a stay-at-home mom so this category is not as relevant as it might be for some of you.
This group was, for the most part, highly sympathetic and supportive. Many women in my neighborhood stepped in to help with the kids and to help me personally. At first it was difficult for me to lean on them and feel so vulnerable, but I was truly touched because many of these moms were not my closest friends, but rather friendly acquaintances.
Likewise, women (and men) from the schools my children attended have been invaluable to the recovery of my children during their journey of loss as well as invaluable to my own recovery. They have never made me feel like an outsider and have always gone out of their way to welcome me.
But allow me to give a special medal of commendation to the women I knew from those early playgroup days. These women were soldiers in my personal “war.” They continue to be die-hard, true-blue friends, who live, most of them, 600 miles away but called or wrote to me at frequent intervals and ALWAYS either picked up the phone when I called or called me back immediately, like the best Emergency Response Team ever.
This, by far, was the group that suffered most.
And, just as you may be seeing this now in your life, the pain is severe for them. It registers on their faces when you first tell them. It registers in their voices on the phone.
Still and yet, let’s remember that you are the one in the most pain, here. What matters to you, what mattered to me, is/was a quick indication of whether or not these people will continue to be there for you when the couple version of you gets shattered.
This is where things got tough for me. In almost all cases, our current circle of couple-friends in the state where we lived at the time of separation paid lip service to the fact that they would “be there for me,” but—in all honesty—they were nowhere to be found. They didn’t call to say hello. They didn’t invite me over. Life as I knew it with this crowd, ended abruptly. In this crowd, I felt like I had a disease, the divorce disease.
And this, even though it is an age-old tale, was excruciating at the time. Not only was I losing my intact family and the man I thought to be my life partner, but I was losing the backbone of my local social network. A person cannot begin to describe the devastation of this to someone who has not experienced it. I do not think that all of you out there will undergo something this severe. But I want you to know that if you do, I most definitely feel your pain! You are not alone. Sometimes this is the best that can be said about unpleasant realities.
And, I am here to tell you that you will survive. This brings me to the last category.
New Friends and Acquaintances:
Hear ye, hear ye and listen up! Never underestimate the power of the acquaintance during a tragedy. These people float into your life for a reason. At least, this is what I believe to be true. I think that when the chips are down there is some kind of special force out there in the ether that sends fortuitous people and events your way.
Call them angels, call them spirits, call them God, call them the Universe. However you choose to look at things, I believe it is extremely important to begin to pay attention to the small miracles that occur each day—even in the midst of grief and loss.
It would be too long to relate to you here but, for me, there were the strangest sequences of events that brought new friends my way, often through my loose network of acquaintances. All I had to do was follow up, in my shell-shocked and rumpled state, on the leads and introductions that seemed to come my way all on their own (again, as though being sent to me).
I could barely remember to tie my shoes and brush my hair, but even in my haze, I could see a little glimmer of something—almost like a pathway opening up in front of me. So, I did the best I could to follow it. This path led me to whole groups of people and to some of my closest friends now. In addition to friendship and support, these people have thrown significant employment and opportunity my way. Even housing!
Aside from commiserating with you about the inevitable changes that will take place in your social world after divorce, I want to impress upon you the importance of opening yourself to the “new” that begins do trickle and then flood into your life. I know it is hard at first. I can remember the unrelenting fog in my brain. But when something new or someone new just “shows up” amidst the grief and chaos, pay attention. Let the new happen. It may be the key to your new and fabulous life.