11/27/2012 12:03 EST | Updated 01/27/2013 05:12 EST

Take it From a Widow: Friendship and Grief Don't Always Mix


I am a widow. I suffered a tragic loss and my life changed forever. I went from married to widowed in the blink of an eye. My kids went from two parents to one parent in the blink of an eye. I became a widow, a single mom and a woman that lost her way. I joined a sisterhood that no one wants to belong to. I became a statistic that no one wants to be a part of. I lost a huge part of my identity and struggled to face each day. I lost friends that I assumed would be there to help me as I struggled to regain my life.

Friendships, I learned, are not immune to grief. Despite what you may think, some friends will leave you when you need them the most. Perhaps they don't know what to say or how to act. Maybe they are afraid to deal with your sadness and grief. Maybe they're afraid that widowhood is contagious and will happen to them. I do not know the answers. All I know is that I am surprised at how friendships changed when I needed them the most.

I decided to ask some widowed friends about their friendships. Did friendships change after their spouses died? Did people treat them different now that they were widows?

I quickly learned that I am not alone. The other widows faced unique but also similar circumstances with their friends. Following are quotes from a couple widows that I spoke to:

" friend admitted a feeling of guilt after my hubby died."

" cleaning lady lost her husband and now she will not talk to me."

"I've stopped telling people that I am a widow."

"You really find out who your friends are and aren't. Family too. It is quite the eye opener. Breaks a lot of trust."

"You remind your friends of what can happen. Also you are technically single now and they see you are a threat to their husbands."

"It is hurtful how people disappear."

"I have a friend that is afraid that her life will end up like mine."

The following comment came from a woman that lost her son:

"I did lose friends. I was told they 'couldn't handle it' and did not know how to act around me."

After speaking to people in similar situations, I now realize that in many cases, friendship and grief do not mix. Whether you have been friends for six months or 30 years, you do not know how your friendship will hold up during a crisis. Some friends step up and the bond becomes unbreakable while other simply disappear from your life.

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