On Grief and Friendship
The spring sucks for me. The anniversary of my Mother’s death, parents birthdays, functional end of my marriage, all spring up from day to day, like the jonquils, tulips, iris, daffodils, and lilies. Each pops up like a time bomb that may not explode on the day itself, but will lie in wait and with a little time, will have me in a sobbing, keening mess.I learned a few things, however, after now 14 years for my Mom and soon to be 11 for my Dad.
(1). Don’t try and act normal the week of my Mom’s death (which occurred over a period of three days when she disappeared and we had to track her down using bank records). It will be horrible and it’s not clear when it will be horrible. I try to work from home and drown myself in massive projects, but give myself space to lose it. Better to lose it for a few hours writing a brief than in the middle of a depo.
(2) Don’t even acknowledge Mother’s Day (aka the worst f*cking day of the year). This year, I’m seeing my favorite, favorite, favorite band, The Indigo Girls, in my hometown on Friday. Then I’m going to hole up somewhere with a stack of books, movies, and room service.
(3) Try not to drink. A glass (or bottle) of red wine after a long day or a good bourbon after a long week is great. The same when dealing with grief is no bueno. Use benzos sparingly, try to focus on self care, with lots of good tea, essential oils and yoga (all of which can be purchased to excess in May, same with coffee, books, lipstick and anything for my pets). My wife is an amazing supporter when it comes to alcohol-free self-care, which includes lots of book stores and trips to the health food store.
But now I come to the most important thing of all.
(4) Let your friends in. Friendship as a child was all well and good, but let me tell you, as a grownup, my friends are my family. My lifeline. And since my closest friends have been with my since Spring turned awful, they know what it means to me. I think it is easy for people to discount adult friendships, true adult friendships based on shared interests, passions, care, and time spent together. I’m not talking about the friendships that exist once a year at holiday parties with your neighbors. I’m talking about the friends who you carry in your heart, and who you can call when you are at your absolute worst. When you are at your absolute best. When you need work advice, love advice, family advice, what the hell do I watch on TV advice. I’ve been a crap friend this year to my bestie pals, E, T, J, K, A, F, and N. I’ve been focused on my career, which I love, and travel, which I love, and a lot of change, which I hate and makes me want to hide under the covers and eat nutella.
But here is one magic example of what adult friendships can do.
E and I have been friends since the first day of law school orientation. Fall 2019 will be our 16th anniversary. And even though I was so remote and so hyperfocused on everything work and hiding under the covers, when our precious friend H died (you see my thing with death?) this winter, she was THERE. With hugs and champagne and making sure I eat. With her kind heart. I don’t deserve her, but this is why every adult needs best friends. I’m pretty sure she and I will end up living in a condo together like 2 of the Golden Girls. She is my person. As are my other friends.
Yeah, your family is important (obviously, given my reaction to May), but adult friendships add dimension to your life. These people push me. They notice. They demand and expect things of me that my family might not. Their love is unconditional, but it doesn’t mean they have to put up with my sh!t when I hide.Why not allow yourself the luxury of friends, who if you are lucky, become the family you CHOOSE. You get two families, and both are great.
Besides, some friends will take you to a great baseball game, others to the symphony, others will come watch you ride your horse. Some will talk for hours about poems and nerd-law and others will remind you to have grand adventures. Some will spend hours dissecting your (or their) work problem.
My parents both knew this, and even though my Mom would withdraw from her friends from times, when I look at pictures of myself giggling with my bestie-pals, I see myself in her.
May will suck. But along the way, I have some people who will make me laugh and smile and write and get out from under the covers.
Which, after thirteen years and the loss of both parents, the best way I have learned to deal with grief is to get a little help from my friends. I truly believe the magic of adult female friendships, along with my two anchors - my wife and my sister - make the good stuff great and the hard stuff manageable.