When going through a massive life change such as a separation or divorce, most of us would like to think that we have a support network – friends – reasonably close by. These are the people we automatically turn to for support – a listening ear, a helping hand or to provide us with a little comfort and hope when we feel that we have neither.
So what happens when the crap hits the fan and the people that we think will be there for us are ummmm… not there for us?
Losing friends after divorce
I was chatting with a newly separated woman recently. She told me that she had been shocked, and slightly hurt, to find that several women she had previously considered friends had not contacted her since she had told them of her separation.
This lady has a wide circle of friends and it was one little group in particular (girls she had known since high school) that had reacted this way. Conversely (and weirdly) some of the people that she had NOT considered herself to be especially close with had been the most supportive!
This scenario got me thinking about change, upheaval and grief and how different people deal and react at such times. Sadly, people who we once called friends may not be there for us in our time of need. If this is the case, it’s vital to remember that this has nothing to do with you, and EVERYTHING to do with them. Who knows why people react as they do?
In all likelihood, these people are struggling with their own demons and our situation has struck a note of FEAR into them. Some people are afraid that divorce is contagious. Some people feel safer hanging around other married people. Some people genuinely don’t know what to say and how to act when faced with such change. And you know what? All of this is OK.
We can let these people be and accept that maybe they just aren’t our people. Maybe they were never our people. Maybe we stayed with them out of habit and convenience and now that the chips are down we realise that actually, we have very little in common with them.
A good way to assess whether or not we consider such people to be our true friends is to evaluate how we feel when faced with the possibility that we may never hear from them again. If we feel deeply saddened, we may want to consider reaching out to them, and talking to them about what is happening.
But if instead of deep sadness we feel ‘hurt’ or ‘shocked’, there’s a good chance that we won’t truly miss them, and that it is time to let them go. I believe that this was the case with my friend. Once she took the time to assess how she really felt about the situation, she realised that she was, in fact, OK with it. That it was probably habit, circumstance and convenience (and, maybe some ego) that had made her want to hold on to these people.
I’ve been there too. I’ve wanted to hold on to people and situations that I’d outgrown, and that had outgrown me. But I’ve come to learn that holding on to people and things that are simply no longer there not only keeps us stuck in an old story and an old life – it seriously delays our healing.
Because in order to move forward and become who we are meant to be, we need to heal from what we’ve been through. In order to heal, we first need to grieve. And to grieve properly, we need to do the inner work. We need to learn to ignore meaningless distractions; we need to learn to give ourselves the love we crave; we need to spend time alone.
As a newly separated woman I was a grieving, crazy mess. Yet I somehow instinctively knew what I had to do. I knew that I had to work on healing myself. I knew that I couldn’t rely on anybody else to do this work for me. This is not to say that I isolated and had no friends or support whatsoever – it is to say that I focused on the people and things that I loved the most.
I learned to spend time alone (one of the greatest things I have ever done for myself). I spent time learning how to become a single mother. I did my best to get up, get dressed and go to work each day. And I spent time with the people that mattered the most – some family and three or four close friends who, again instinctively, I knew would always have my back.
In time I made new friends – something I didn’t do a lot of when married – and formed a new relationship. There are people I was once close to who I now have either very little or no contact with. And I accept this, hard as it was in the early days of my divorce.
I know that similar to my marriage, these friendships have served their time and their purpose. They weren’t deliberately killed; they died a natural death. And there is no shame or regret in that.
Have you lost friends after divorce or other major life change? I'd love to hear your story. Share in the comments.
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