This is an open letter to anyone who falls into the specified category. Even if that’s not you, I urge you to read it through the end. Consider writing one of your own to those friends and relatives who’ve vanished out of your life. (The actual blog post begins below the image.)
Dear Friend Who Vanished After My Husband Died and My Disability Worsened,
We haven’t talked in a really long time. Maybe there’s been an occasional holiday greeting group text or a Facebook comment, but that’s basically been it. But you’ve been on my mind, and it seems it might be time to catch up just a little.
You know, I realize that my husband was probably also your friend. When he was killed, the devastation was immense. Many people were shocked by the tragedy. I’m sure that in the beginning you tried to be supportive, despite your own grief. Maybe you called or visited. Sent flowers or a mass card. Dropped off dinner for me and the kids. Then you just kind of disappeared. I won’t mince words; it hurt.
I realize that you may have been trying to figure out what to do or say because these situations aren’t easy. I get it. I really do. It doesn’t change the fact that I felt completely abandoned after almost everybody who promised to be there for me and for us had disappeared after just a few weeks. I know that life goes on, and everybody has things they are dealing with. I get it. Still, it hurt.
At this point, a lot of time has gone by and if you ever think about reaching out, I’m sure it feels really uncomfortable. Ditto for me, too. But I tell my kids you have to do the right thing even when it’s uncomfortable, so here I am trying to do the right thing.
I am not less devastated now about his death than I was when it happened, I function just fine as I always have done. I was never at risk of wallowing in my grief because our children needed me to be here right now. My physical disability is hard enough for us all to have to deal with without me becoming emotionally unavailable to them.
If something reminds you of the guy I loved so much who died, please tell me about it. You’re not going to upset me; I’m going to be happy to know that you remember him. On special days like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, I’ll probably be feeling especially low. If you could remember that and check in around then, I promise I’ll try to do the same for you.
I know my disability is another big issue. It’s something else I really can’t do anything about. Unfortunately, it means I really can’t go places with you and meet you when you get together with other people. That’s OK. It’s my reality and I’ve had to come to terms with it by the way, if you want to make suggestions about things to do with my health and multiple sclerosis, I will be patient and try to hear you out but please don’t be offended if I tell you that I’m already aware whatever it is you suggest. I do stay on top of the research although I appreciate your well-meaning input. The most helpful thing thou is knowing that just because I can’t get together with people in person or go out to lunch, my existence isn’t forgotten like some old, outdated tech.
I’m still here, and I’m still me.
I hope you’ll join me in declaring an amnesty for all past weird and awkward behavior. Maybe we can dust off our friendship and try to get it back on some type of track. Maybe not. At least we can acknowledge that dealing with difficult life issues like death and disability is something we aren’t ever really prepared for before they happen.
Feel free to call me, text me, email me, DM me, messenger me, dispatch a carrier pigeon, whatever works for you. (If you no longer have my email or phone number, use firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the personal contact information.)
We may communicate once or twice, get closure, and move on from that old friendship we had. We might find a new normal between us and maintain a level of friendship that suits us both currently. Or once we get past the initial awkwardness, we may discover that the core of our connection is intact and move forward as good friends again. Each of those options is a positive one.
Maybe you’re not interested in reestablishing a connection with me. That’s OK. But consider doing the same with somebody else you may have lost touch with. Life is short. Fresh starts and clean slates are precious. Don’t let your relationships wither away because of simple neglect, miscommunication, or something forgivable.
1 thought on “Open Letter to Vanished Friends”
Such a helpful article, Denise. I am guilty of being fully engaged with friends when tragedy struck them and then gradually letting them adjust to their new normal. Thank you for encouraging us to reconnect and get over the awkwardness of the long separation.