“I can’t believe it, my friends don’t understand my grief?!?”
“There were a few friends I THOUGHT I meant a lot to, but I didn’t get a call, a card and not even an email. What the heck?”
Trust me, I have been through all that and have figured out why things turned out this way. But before I begin answering the questions on your mind, here’s my own story – to give you some background and context.
My Grief Story (When Friends Don’t Understand My Grief)
I lost my husband, George, on April 16th 2018. He was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in 2015. After months of chemo and a major surgery, it was considered to be a success by the doctors. However, in the spring of 2017 the pancreatic cancer returned and it became terminal. I went through two full courses of grief – one when he was still alive, and the other after he passed on.
Based on my own experience, it is actually very common for friends to ignore you (or suddenly disappear) following the death of your loved one. This happened to me when my husband died. My best friend, Kathy, didn’t even bother attending his funeral.
Can you imagine that? We used to study together when we were younger, send our daughters to the same school when we became parents and meet for lunch every weekend? She just disappeared like that – vanished into thin air!
What’s worse was my pastor went on vacation the morning after he died. He was suppose to be at the funeral to help speak about George and what he meant to the people who loved/knew him or perhaps read meaningful homily related to the resurrection of Jesus and his promise to life everlasting – but all that never happened.
When Friends Don’t Acknowledge Your Grief, You Feel Abandoned
When friends don’t acknowledge your grief or when they start to ignore/avoid you, you start to feel abandoned. You begin to wonder why are they running away from you, like as if grief is contagious.
When they say “call me if you need anything” and when you do just that, they say that they’re busy and never call back.
It literally feels like you need to rebuild your life from scratch when you’re in grief, this will take time to adjust to your “new normal”.
The truth is, that we may become a little more sensitive, self-centered and entitled during our period of grief.
You see, friends tend to fear the emotional intensity and tension that grief may bring.
They are probably also unsure about their own feelings.
Which is why many are uncertain about what to say and what to do. To the point that they avoid you completely or refrain from speaking to you about your recent loss.
My advise is to be honest and to tell your friends that you’re grieving and that you need some help and moral support.
This helps take the guess work out from them and it gives them a clear understanding of what you really need.
But be prepared, not all your friends are going to reciprocate or respond to your request. If they don’t, you shouldn’t be forcing anything.
The last thing you want is to behave like a self entitled brat – which could potentially lose you a friend.
How Do You Tell Your Friends You’re Grieving?
Not having any expectations on yourself and on your friends is the first step to telling your friends that you’re grieving.
Bear in mind: Your friends will never completely understand grief that they have never experienced before.
To them, they might feel awkward or uncomfortable so they avoid such conversations. While this is no excuse for their absence, what we can do is to help them understand where we are coming from.
Be clear and specific about what you’re comfortable sharing. Some ideas would be to:
- Tell them you need a hug if you need one
- Be courageous and open enough to take on conversations with you
- Let them know you need emotional support and sometimes just being available and present is sufficient enough
- If you feel that it’s easier to share your grief with a group of friends, it maybe a good idea to appoint one of your friends to mobilize the rest of the clique
- On the contrary, if big groups are intimidating, then perhaps consider appointing one of your friends to coordinate the visitations of your friends
- Be honest about your feelings and let them know you need their patience during this period of grief.
- Tell them that its okay to ask you questions: What can they do to help you? How often would you like then to drop by? etc.
- Let them know that at times, all you need is just a hand written letter, a flower or some food (cakes, desserts etc. basically comfort food) to help you through this period
- Share with them how your loved one died. If you’re not ready for that, then it may be a good idea to wait till a few days later
- Let them know that once the funeral is over, you’re okay with social activities (gathering and events). The last thing you want to do is to isolate yourself and let your mind drift aimlessly
The list goes on. What I have observed is that continual attentiveness and interest from your friends will help you through this period of grief.
Remember, when your friends don’t understand your grief, it is your job to help them understand the kind of support you truly need. Ask and you’ll receive!
Read more: How To Heal A Grieving Heart? (6 Easy Steps)
This post is written by Anna Wong.