Help grieving people who have left, but not died
December 5, 2017 11:50 AM   Subscribe

After a really rough year of having major surgery for a stage 4 illness and having a wonderful therapeutic relationship end b/c she moved, I'm left with few people who have stuck around. How do you grieve people who chose to leave and grieve people who did not die (like the therapist)? Personal stories are super helpful, especially stories in which people actually stuck around.

I'm still on very restricted activity following surgery and am alone and after this surgery, almost everyone in my life ghosted. It's so hard not to feel ashamed of my illness and also angry, because I have consistently shown up for others, but my vulnerability and kindness get taken advantage of, moreso in NYC than when I lived elsewhere. Even my two best friends of many years ghosted me. I'm moving back to Oregon in a few months, when I heal enough, but I'm unsure how to get through each day without the huge amounts of emotional pain that I feel. I have a new (meh, but all I can afford) therapist, and am looking for personal stories of how you have moved on after being ghosted, and also how you learned to trust again. Stories of people who actually stuck around for the hard parts would help too. Thanks.
posted by Kombucha3452 to Human Relations (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
To be honest, sometimes people just don't know how to help. And sometimes people just don't know how to ask for help.

When I've had a few rough patches, it was the hardest thing in the world to just ask for simple things. I felt so alone, so isolated, so embarrassed. I texted a few people and it was amazing how many people were thrilled to run errands for me, walk the dog, pick up something at the grocery. A few folks responded with, "I'm so sorry that I didn't know you weren't able to XXXXX. So glad you reached out to me!"

I wish you the best.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:07 PM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think everyone who has been through something really tough has seen this. It's shocking how impossible it is to predict who will stick around and who will vanish. You say that few people are left, which seems to mean there are some. I find it helpful to focus on those people, to be grateful for the people who show up. And to resolve to always be a person who shows up.

I do think that HeyAllie might be right that if you contact some of these people and ask them to help, they will want to. People disappear for a lot of reasons - and it's usually not just because they are terrible human beings. Some people disappear because they don't know what to do. So yes, call friends and ask if they can help you out. Someone you've given up on might surprise you yet.

I've lost some important friendships because people couldn't deal with a tragedy I had no choice about dealing with. When my brother died young, I also lost my best friend. It was hard and terrible and I didn't know how I'd get through it. But I did get through it. Thirty years have passed, and I rarely think of her. But it took a long time - and only time was able to make the pain less.

This is super hard and I'm sorry you're going through it. Good luck.
posted by FencingGal at 12:57 PM on December 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I’m kind of bullshit that this question has gotten so little response. Where are the commenters who seem to have something to say about everything?! Lol. What can ya do.

I have a distinct memory of attempting to share information with someone close to me, and they asked if they could make dinner for their family while we talked. I said sure, and slowly started spilling my guts as they got VERY INVOLVED with their cooking— you know, zero eye contact, whispering recipe steps out loud, and finally choosing to never acknowledge what I was saying. This person, 7 years later, still tries to be close with me but just literally cannot address anything to do with deep suffering in a meaningful way. People are weird.

I’ve been through a thing or 2 (though not personally having a stage 4 illness). And I have had people exit my life in the most bizarre ways— Think: scapegoating. There were times I was too much in the thick of it (and young, inexperienced, and not terribly bright) that I didn’t even notice the lack of support. I was putting out fires and years later would be like, wait a sec. Where was everyone?

Losing a therapist is hard!! Family is almost always a disappointment to everybody [citation needed]. It’s almost like family members are programmed to respond poorly to each other’s needs, er, maybe.

Someone who stuck around in my life... I can think of a couple in particular. The unlikely high school buddy; who knew we would be on the same wavelength in our late 30s despite all our differences in experience and so on!? —And one relative who just weathered stuff with me, and I with him. As kids we were violent to each other. As adults, he’s literally the only person I ever want to be on the phone with for more than 5 minutes. We talk for an hour+ routinely.

How to grieve? It’s hard, right, because we can’t romanticize the qualities of someone who chose to leave. Chooses to not be here. Can’t find the strength to be a support to their loved one.

My approach is to choose my friends and a chosen family more wisely and just feel sorry for people for whom I’m “not worth it.” We can talk about it being their deficit, their unfortunate limitation in life, that they don’t have a soul big enough to act like a decent human. They’ve done the best they could, we say. We all do the best we can! —I say choosing wisely going forward is the empowering move. Grief in these circumstances feels a lot like disappointment and disgust.

I obviously still have work to do.

I wish you well!!
posted by little_dog_laughing at 9:55 PM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

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