Need advice on helping my wife cope with her best friend moving away
May 5, 2016 8:49 AM   Subscribe

My wife just learned her best friend is moving to a different city and is now very sad. How can I help?

My wife, 3 young kids and I relocated for my job 3 years ago. 1000 miles away from my wife's home town. No family near by.

She was lonely at first. She eventually made some good friends, mostly through our kids' schools. The placed we moved to is Florida. And she now likes this city better than her home town in the Midwest.

But in January, one of her good friends with kids similar ages to ours moved 1100 miles away. Husband relocated for work. This wasn't great, but my wife still had other friends, including a best friend she had made.

This best friend is in the same situation as us. She and her husband and kids moved to this city the same time our family did. We're all in our mid-30s. Kids the same age and in the same schools. No other family in town just like us. They live one neighborhood away from us now.

Yesterday, she found out this best friend is moving a 4-hour drive away. Husband is relocating for work. New job starts in June.

Now, it's close enough and our families have grown close enough that I believe this relationship will live on. Phone, Facebook and a few weekend trips per year presumably.

But this drastically alters things.

My wife and her friend see each other nearly every day at preschool drop-off and pick-up. They watch each other's kids while the other run errands. They organize book clubs together. They get drinks on girls nights. They bail each other out. They are each other's support systems.

My wife is devastated.

How best can I help my wife through this difficult time?

I don't want to simply be a source of empty platitudes that end up bugging her, e.g. telling her you made friends before, you will continue to make more. I don't want to be dismissive the loss she is experiencing. How to acknowledge her loss without piling on and making it worse?

I really feel terrible for what she is going through and don't know how best to help her.
posted by glenngulia to Human Relations (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Give her space to be sad and let it be okay. Sometimes when someone is grieving, the people around them are so sad for them and also uncomfortable with grief that they consciously or unconsciously shame or mock them for being in pain to make them hide it better. "I'm sorry," if you mean it, can be said a thousand times, as can simple plain acknowledgements like, "I know this hurts." It's not on you to make the pain go away, and she's probably a smart lady who knows things will be different one day.

So definitely don't with the platitudes. A time will come where it's okay to be positive, especially about new adventures that are going to put you all in contact with new people who might turn out to be new friends. It takes a lot of bravery to put yourself out there again - especially as a mother, when mother-shaming is a competitive sport - and there will be anxiety.

For now, let her grieve. You may already be pulling a full and fair 50% of the work (thinking-work as well as doing-work) around the house, but maybe go to 55 for a while? Losing a trusted short-notice source of childcare is, in and of itself, a tough blow, and her day-to-day life will be harder without it. Make sure she's getting some quantifiable amount of alone-time where nobody's touching/wanting/waiting/talking or needing physical or emotional labor from her so she's got brainspace to just be.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:04 AM on May 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

Seconding Lyn Never's advice for the short-medium term.

Longer-term: Your wife's life is being constantly churned because of traditional gender roles. While every family is free to make their own choices, seeing "husband's career" as the reason for so many major life changing decisions is actually kind of jarring to me.

I trust that your life, as currently structured (where the family moves to follow your work, she is responsible for pre-school pickups and drop-offs, etc), got to be the way it is because of choices that you and your wife made together. Is it possible that she's beginning to regret that structure now? Does she have the freedom to choose to work (even just part time?) Could you reorganize your schedule/job so that you do some of the child-logistics so that she could work or volunteer or do something else besides "mom things with other moms"?

I'm not saying that your wife wants any of that stuff (or that there's anything wrong if she doesn't), I am just suggesting that you keep in mind the ways that her life is currently limited and you be open to letting her do/be more if that's what she wants. To the point where maybe you should consider suggesting some of these changes, because she may not feel comfortable asking for them for herself.

If your wife had more of a life outside of kids and mom-friends, the loss of this mom-connection might not be hitting her quite so hard.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:20 AM on May 5, 2016 [21 favorites]

Moving sucks. Friends moving away sucks. Mostly, I'd be prepared to empathize: "What a bummer Sharon isn't here." You're right that platitudes won't help. Maybe just brush up on your empathic listening skills.

One thing I'd listen for is if there is any logistical support she needs to find friends. Make sure she knows she has your support for any solution she'd like to explore. Watch the kids while she goes to yoga class or volunteers at the civic society. See what ideas she has about meeting people and what it would take to make that possible. (... a housekeeper so that she doesn't feel she should be at home vacuuming?)

The stay-at-home lifestyle can be isolating because you don't have as many adults in your daily life. Maybe you can take on some social planning work, if your wife is up for it. E.g., plan a happy hour with a few couples from the neighborhood. It won't fill the gap, but it could reduce the sense of isolation.

I agree it's worth checking in on her overall satisfaction. Maybe now that the kids are a little older, she wants to attend grad school and get back into her own career? Also, given that there's no other family in town like yours, is this really a good place for you guys to live in the long run? Now could be a good time to make another move. Maybe you could move one town over, to a town that's a better fit, and do a mix of commuting more and working from home?
posted by salvia at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you feel you must try to cheer her up, look on the bright side - 4 hours away isn't so bad. You can day-trip that if you're desperate, better as an overnight visit, best for planning family weekends together in advance, which you should be totally game for. Summer is coming up - camping somewhere mid-way between the two cities would be a cost-friendly way to spend the weekend with their family at least a few times this summer. You love camping.
posted by lizbunny at 11:25 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can say from first hand experience, it really will all be OK in the end.

I moved to Canada and it took me a really long time to make good friends. When I met my bestie it literally was "friend love" at first sight - I've NEVER had that connection with anyone else my entire life.
I got her a job at my office and we saw each other every day. Coffee in the morning, coffee in the afternoon, phone calls all throughout the day, drinks after work.... she was my entire life from Monday to Sunday and life was good.

Her marriage, however, was not good and when she and her husband split up, she moved back to her Native America. I was crushed, absolutely crushed, even though I knew she had no choice but to go back to her family (Oh I tried to convince her to stay, trust me).

Anyway, I haven't cried that much or grieved so hard for a friendship my whole life. It was awful to lose her....... but I haven't lost her! We talk all the time, she was my Maid of Honour at my wedding, I'm planning trips to the States to see her, We're also planning a vacation together at the end of this year.

I went from seeing her all day every day to seeing her once a year, but TRUE friendships will be true forever, your wife will just have to adapt and she will, I promise you.

Now, how can YOU support her? Bring her wine. There will be times when you will try to fill that "best friend" gap, but you just can't. Be OK with the knowledge that you'll never be the same kind of confidante or have the same kind of relationship that your wife had with her friend. Listen to her when she is sad, and let her BE sad. Everything really will be OK in the end, you just have to focus on the things she can look forward to (i.e. weekend trips, vacations, special occasions where they can see each other).
Good luck to you and your wife, and well done for asking this question!
posted by JenThePro at 12:02 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a person who has been a sahm and moved a lot, I feel for your wife! I think you're being very sensitive to her. I'd appreciate knowing my husband was thinking of me like this. In this transition time, it might help her to have scheduled visits with her friend on the calendar. Something to look forward to and a concrete reminder that she's working to keep the friendship together. You could help plan and manage the logistics of these trips (Help her find dates. Will you watch some or all the kids, or does she want to bring them? Research hotels, restaurants, spas with her and book them for her, if she's interested). The other thing that's helped me maintain long-distance friendships is having a regular tv show that I watch with a friend. We watch it together while we're skyping or we text during it. This is a weekly or bi-weekly way to hang out. Scheduled Skype or FaceTime calls can also really help. And I agree with the above posters that if she's unhappy or lonely it might be time for her to reconsider her work situation, but I think if that's true she will come to that consideration on her own time. I bristled when I used to hear (from very well-meaning people), "just go back to school" or "get a part time job" because I took that as minimizing both the work I was doing and how difficult it is to find the right jobs or schooling.
Let her know you want to help, but you also respect what she's doing as a sahm.
posted by areaperson at 12:11 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used to work for a company that sent its staff abroad constantly on overseas assignments. In 99.9% of the cases, the 'trailing' spouse was the wife who had to leave everything behind to follow her husband. That sacrifice had a price.

A discussion you need to have at some point is how your wife can have a life on her own.
posted by Kwadeng at 12:49 AM on May 6, 2016

« Older How to be supportive, when I can't be there in...   |   Tales on a Plane Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.