Why do Friends Drift Away?

Unfortunately, about two months after you’ve lost your husband your friends kind of forget about it. They dropped over a lasagna or sent flowers. They may even have taken time off work to attend the funeral. They shed genuine tears for you but soon the demands of day-to-day living set in and their life returns to normal. But, not so for you!

This is when you need the most support – right when most of your friends have moved on and are thinking “she will just have to get used to her new life”. Although this is true to a point time has to pass for grief to heal and soften. Partly, it’s because they want to believe you’re feeling better, but they also feel helpless and uncomfortable, unsure how to help someone navigate their grief. “After the ‘I’m so sorry’, and ‘Here’s a casserole’, people just don’t know what to say.

So they say nothing. In the days after a death, there’s a surprising amount to do. But as days become weeks, the activity subsides and the harder times begin. The initial deep shock has started to wear off and there you are just floating along with no idea how to behave any more. You start to wonder if you are boring people, are you being depressing or a downer to be around.

People desperately want to think that you’re OK, maybe so that you’re no longer on their ‘to do’ list to worry about.” Grief can spring out of drawers and cupboards, off shelves, from photographs and music as it clutches at our heart, and send us to the depths loneliness. They think they are being helpful when they urge someone to “Be strong” or exclaim “You look so well!” to a friend who’s grieving in the hope that it might be true.

So you’re always trying to find this balance between wanting the world to know that you are deep in mourning, but not wanting to inconvenience anyone. It’s worse months later when the support of those first few weeks slowly fades away.

So what can they do to support us in the darkness?

Speak the name of the person we have lost. Then give us a chance to talk, cry and even to laugh. Widows don’t get ‘over it’ as if it were a surmountable obstacle. We get more comfortable with our discomfort, but there’s no set time for grief.

9 Responses

  1. Brenda
    | Reply

    This is so true. I lost my groom a little over two months ago and have never felt so alone and abandoned…

  2. Linda
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    It is so true that friends want to believe that you are fine. This makes everything easier for them and they do not have to confront feelings of vulnerability they feel when they are with you.

  3. Michelle
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    How very true. One of my friends lost her fiancé 3 years ago and she’s been trying to help but has bad health and I feel like I’m bothering her with questions. Even my youngest daughter who adored her step-father (my husband) doesn’t know what to say or do when I start crying. She keeps saying she’s sorry she doesn’t know what to do or say. I tell her there’s nothing she can say or do…I just have to get through it. My friends have even gone so far as to try and get me involved with outside interests but it’s so hard. I do try and I am involved with our local theater group but I didn’t think this would be so hard. I used to do it 30 years ago but now it seems different somehow and he’s been gone 18 months tomorrow. Why do things seem different when you’re a widow instead of a divorcee?

    • Mary Francis
      | Reply

      Michelle – I’m often asked about the differences between being a widow and being a divorcee. In some ways it’s a odd thing to compare but here are some things that I’ve found from being a widow.

      The world has a kinder view towards widows than divorcee. I guess because we have no control over becoming a widow but may have contributed to being a divorcee (not sure that is fair but it is what it is).

      As a widow you may be financial better off than a divorcee because the estate didn’t have to be split up.

      As a widow you never have to see your husband walk down the street with someone else.

      As a widow you still want your husband, love him and miss him. That, I my opinion is the biggest difference between being a widow and being a divorcee.

      Hope this helps but again it’s just my thoughts on it. Take care, Mary Francis

      • Michelle
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        In my case of divorce my ex cheated on me for over 10 years (I was so dumb to not walk away sooner). Financially I walked away from everything for peace of mind. We worked at the same company so I saw him frequently. We had children together so at Christmas we would be together at our son’s home. It didn’t bother me to see him with her. She was an alcoholic so I figured his Karma would come back to him. Unfortunately she got cancer and passed 4 years before John passed. We are friends now and surprisingly he’s very supportive as well. I ask myself where was this years before we divorce lol

  4. Deborah
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    I am experiencing the same feelings.
    Lost my husband 4 months ago.
    Now no one seems to call anymore and we had no children.
    I always feel somehow when I call people they want to avoid the subject so I
    just chat and then hang up. Some days are so dark I just don’t know how
    I will make it through. It is not unusual for me to go for days without
    communicating with anyone. I have an older brother who calls twice a month
    to talk but never asks how “I” am. I have not seen his wife since the funeral
    service and even then it seemed as if everyone there came to have a family
    reunion and not really to be there for me. I have not heard a word from any
    of my nephews, nieces or other brother. The one real friend I have is now in
    CA for the winter and won’t be back until May. My husband had been ill for several
    years and I was his sole care giver which gave me little time to socialize. Now
    I’m trying to figure out how to get out and meet new people. The few I have met so
    far are still married, have children and very busy with their own lives.
    I have always been independent (not by choice) and through the years I have
    gone through the loss of most all my family, but the loss of my husband has been
    harder than I could have ever imagined. This loss is so different. I’ve lost half
    of myself and now I’m trying to figure out who I am and where I fit in with the
    rest of my life. My whole identity was caring for him and keeping him alive as long as
    I could. We were married for 36 years. Life is cruel. He was all I had.
    I just keep praying that the answers will come.

    • Mary Francis
      | Reply

      Hi Deborah Sorry about the loss of your husband. It’s hard to get into a social life after you are a long term care giver. I commend you for taking care of your husband for so long. But now it’s your time and you need to grief but still heal. Keep reading all the supportive material you can find on being positive. Only you can take control of where you want to go from here. You are valued and have a lot to offer the world.

      Take care, Mary Francis

  5. Deborah
    | Reply

    Mary Francis, thank you for your kind words.
    As the sun rises on a brighter new day, I know in my heart my husband would want me to pick up the baton and carry on with the business of life. That’s the way he was. He served in the Military for 10 years.
    His courage, patience and determination during his many years of illness was an inspiration that taught me many times over, what unconditional love truly means. He was my hero by example and will always be the love of my life.
    There are a few groups here locally which offer grief counseling but I don’t know
    if I’m ready for that yet. With One Step and One Day at a time, I hope to get there.
    Thank you for this website.

  6. Nancyann
    | Reply

    This is to Deborah who wrote Dec. 2, 2016. Deborah, my husband died after an extended battle with lung cancer in Aug. 2020. We were married for 38 years, no children, and I was the sole caregiver. His death occurred during the covid pandemic, we could not have a funeral, it was terribly lonely. His only sister and family live 900 miles away and they were not close so his death has not affected her in any way. I’ve experienced exactly what you describe, only a handful of friends keep in touch, everyone else has abandoned me. I hope life has become a little easier for you. I am with you in spirit. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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