Grief, loss and death are not uncommon subjects in the blogging world, far from it. I feel hopeful that as a nation we are beginning to talk more openly about the unknown emotions these things bring. Sadly, until we have experienced grief for ourselves it is an unknown quantity. All the reading in the world cannot prepare you for the loss of a loved one, the raw, gut-wrenching feeling when someone is so unexpectedly, or at least suddenly, removed from your life. But what if it is not death that removes this person from our life, but more a decision that we make ourselves? Or that someone makes for us? Are we still allowed to grieve?
I am extremely used to people coming and going in my life. I am what is commonly referred to as an 'expat brat'. As a child we moved around a lot, depending on where the work was, and so it was not uncommon to be in a country a year or two before moving on. Travelling so often has mixed blessings. Needless to say I was able to experience first hand different cultures, beliefs and climates. When I left the UK for the first time many of my friends struggled to locate Wales on a map, and I was moving to a country only heard about in news reports. Post Gulf War Kuwait, where the beaches were still off limits due to land mines, and my dad was offered camels in exchange for his daughters (fortunately he favoured us more!) While I made good friends no matter where we were, when the time came to up sticks again we said our goodbyes and, despite efforts to keep in touch, our best friends found new friends and while not forgotten we were not at the forefront of people's minds.
Aside from one family wedding, I don't get asked to be bridesmaid when a friend gets married. Likewise I am not Godmother to any of my friend's children. They all have longer more established friendships that better fit the criteria. While I'm not a loner, without a doubt my best friends in the world are my siblings, and in later life, my husband. Through the moves, the travelling, months living with grandparents, or terms out of school, my siblings have been the constant. Yes we fought like hell on occasions, but we always had each other. None of this bothers me. It is the way my life has always been and I wouldn't change it for the world. I may not have the best friend so many others do, but I do have friends in every continent in the world. Should I decide to go travelling, I would not have to pay for accommodation too regularly. Facebook has been a godsend, despite it's obvious flaws, I can communicate with old friends almost daily, I can watch their children grow from afar and send messages of congratulations or condolence when the needs arise.
Despite the moving and fairly regular upheaval I never felt unsettled , not until a new type of distance began to form. There are of course other events which may cause a friendship to drift: a new job, new spouse, marriage, children. There are often events which feel out of our control, and then there are some that just feel unjustified. A good friend blocks your phone calls perhaps, or no longer replies to texts or emails or maybe declines all invitations? Should you just try harder? Should you accept it? My elder brother enjoys handing out advice which tells one in this situation to simply 'Fuck them'. Should you?
When I found myself in a situation like this recently, drifting away from an old friend, not through lack of trying on my part, I was disturbed by the range of emotions I experienced. Looking back I feel it can only be related to a kind of grieving process. Grieving for the loss of this friend, who is very much alive, just not in my life. Some say there are five stages of grief, while many would not agree, in this case I found it fairly spot on. Denial- The first, and I certainly started by refusing to believe the friendship could be over, just like that. I gladly made excuses, 'She must be ever so busy' I would say to my husband, secretly hoping this was all it was. A blip, which would be rectified when life settled down. But as life continued without a word it was the anger that set in, and for quite a while. I pondered over what I had done wrong, why I was not worth keeping in touch with, why my children were not worth knowing about.
Life is short, for many it is too short. As the final stages of grief transpired, a brief bargaining phase, where I told my husband she could have one last chance, if I received a response we would remain friends (none came), a phase of depressive self doubt, and finally the acceptance, I have decided it is not worth dwelling over. The acceptance bought about realisations, it may well not be anything to do with me. They may be having a particularly bad time of it at the moment and simply do not feel up to talking about it. If that is the case I feel bad that I can't be there to help them through this difficult time. While I have grieved the loss of our friendship, I am grateful to be in a situation so many grieving people are not, there has been no death. I am still here, and I will never forget what we had in the past. The saying goes, 'it is better to have loved and lost than to never have had loved at all,' And I am blessed that we did get to have some real fun together, and made many happy memories. At the end of the day should they ever decide they want me back, then I will gladly take up where we left off, and if not? Well I have grieved, and I am moving on, and I have plenty more friends to make memories with.