search discussions

glow in the woods

front page
the archives
what is this place?
the contributors
comment policy

Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.

Thanks to photographer Xin Li and to artist Stephanie Sicore for their respective illustrations and photos.

for one and all > Losing Friends

Lately, I've been struck by the distinct lessening of support amongst my friends. When Evelyn first passed away in August 2016, people rallied in truly amazing form. A GoFundMe was established, unbeknownst to us, by a friend to raise funds for a memorial bench to be placed in the space where we got married in 2006. We received a vast number of cards and several floral arrangements, a group of friends set up a long-distance meal chain where they'd take turns calling in our food at local restaurants for two weeks, and we got checked in on daily by some person or another nearly the first two months straight. We live across the country from the vast majority of our support system but people called, wrote emails, sent texts, and a few people (our parents and close friends) even flew out to be with us those first 3 weeks after Evelyn's death. People sent thoughtful gifts and trinkets, a family member even had a star named after Evie and sent us the official records; we truly felt as supported as we could, considering the distance and the fact that none of our friends had ever lost a child. So maybe it's just the comparison of how it was once in terms of support to what it is now. Perhaps the contrast is just very stark?

The decrease in support began slowly and was quite subtle. People would check in with us a few times a week instead of daily, then once a week, then maybe once every two weeks. Through the holidays, the support ramped up again because it was the month of my due date and Christmas and people understood the emotional challenge as best they could. But now that we're in January, it's like we're on our own. I haven't heard from some people in several months and I sense that people are beginning to tire of my pain. I get the sense that people are ready for me to be "back to my old self" and I don't know how to make people to understand that I'm a different person than I was, that if their child died as our did, they'd be different too and very likely not "back to normal" because there is no going back to what we once were. I knew I'd likely lose friends because relating to my life is impossible and my relating to their lives as parents to living children is also nearly an impossibility. I guess I just hoped it wouldn't happen, as naive as that may sound.

I am so thankful my husband and I remain each other's main source of support as no one understands our loss the way we do, and I do retain a core group of support, inclusive of my parents and a handful of trusted friends (plus our therapist), but others have started to trickle away completely. I have tried to stay connected on FB and Instagram but since social media is a platform to share what is going on in our lives, I talk about Evelyn and how we're coping, and the interaction with those posts has gotten to be less and less over the past month...which only exacerbates my feelings of isolation and "otherness". {As much as I'd like to pull away from social media altogether for my own sanity, as I said before, we live so far away from everyone that it would completely be like cutting myself off from the rest of our world.} I feel like it was okay, in their minds, for us to feel devastated for those first few months but now that we're approaching the half-year mark, our grief is no longer acceptable to the degree that it continues to affect us. I'd like to feel like I can grieve on my own terms, not theirs but I feel myself becoming self conscious of my pain and suffering. I feel like people are pulling away from me because we're the sad cautionary tale, like we're so unrelatable that it's just too much work to retain our friendship. And to some degree, I empathize with how they may be feeling: we've been on this journey for 9 years and in that time, I also had open heart surgery so there has been a LOT to support us through...I guess I just hoped my friends were up to the task. And maybe they are, and I'm just expecting too much. I'm just struggling and feeling abandoned. Any insight or support you all can give would be much appreciated, as I'm sure many of you can relate yourselves.
January 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
Dear Melissa,
You are certainly not alone. I think everyone here can relate to your story, I certainly do. I went trough a really tough time when support dwindled and even in the beginning some of my closest friends seemingly just could not cope with my pain or otherness. I also don't feel I will ever be the same person again, but I think it doesn't mean we can't go back to having a meaningful life again. August is so recent you poor thing. I lost my little boy in April 16 and still hurting like hell.
For me it took to openly approach my friends and talk to them about how THEY felt in this situation. I'm so glad I did. They admitted to feel powerless and unsure of how to help us. They felt by keeping up the support/being in touch they'd remind us of our pain. Some then asked me how they could best help us, and as we know, just being there is all we need. No big words or attempts of comfort because really there is nothing to say us there. I explained to them that a trauma like this profoundly alters our brain and that the grieving process is naturally long, painful, and necessary. That even tho I was trying to fit back into life, and am to done degree, I am still going through this process. I think it helped them and we are now much more comfortable around each other. They don't mistake me laughing again as me being over it now. They now that I still need a lot of healing and that I am now learning to live with what has happened. I really think people cannot possibly imagine just how profoundly changing this experience is. I really felt even the closest family needed gently reminding of where we were at and where they fit in. It's not an easy conversation to have but you clearly have some very dedicated friends. I hope and I am pretty sure, they will only be too happy to have that conversation with you. Xx
January 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

I echo your feelings of abandonment and otherness. I have barely heard from anyone this month, and last week was our due date. Because its 5.5months on, everyone has forgotten. They think that my husband and I are fine again. That the drama is gone. Little do they know how alone I feel, how I cry most lunchtimes and in bed. How I kiss Audrey's urn every night. How I am watching my husband in case his depression and breakdown come back. I feel there is noone there for me, in my corner.

One friend I have not heard from at all since loosing Audrey. Despite al the effort I put into our friendship.

Both my husband and I are very changed by this experience. I doubt we will ever go back to that pre loosing Audrey lightness. I know we will always be changed and accept that. I hope in time, we are able to find a new balance, a new lightness, a new sense of hope.

Heidi, I had never thought to talk to our friends. I have just assumed their lives were too busy. But maybe you are right. Maybe they are unsure what t do.

Sending you both love
January 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEmma
I'm sorry that you face such isolation. The curse of social media is that you have a way to measure the level of drop off in interactions. It's frustrating that grief myths are so powerful that they seem impervious to annoying facts and research.

For those that might listen:

“…60-70% of grieving mothers in HICs reported grief-related depressive symptoms they regarded as clinically significant 1 year after their baby’s death. These symptoms endured for at least 4 years after the loss in about half of the cases”

“The concept of ‘perinatal bereavement’ encapsulating the unique experiences of parents immediately after loss or the death of an infant, was only recently recognised by professionals.

This phenomenon describes a complex emotional response, most commonly expressed through grief, with no specified timeframe”

I get what you are saying about feeling like friends have dealt with a lot but at the same time isn't that part of what friends do? My experience has been that one of my closest relatives now effectively shuts me down because my life is stressful and therefore stresses her. Our relationship was most profoundly altered not after the death of my sons but by a subsequent pregnancy. It's part of the reason we moved away and my wife still hasn't forgiven her.

Like many I sought solace on message boards and then started writing my own blog to help others in similar circumstances and help educate those that hadn't.
January 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRich
Hi Melissa,

We lost our daughters at the same time and I understand everything you are saying because it's happening to me too..
Everything your saying is similar, I feel abandoned and alienated too. 5 weeks after we buried our daughter my brother and his wife (his wife has not spoken to me since I lost Tilly) conceived, my sister is doing IFV again (both already have 2 small children), my fiancé's brothers have since had babies.. and no one seems to get how we are affected, claiming we're the ones pushing people away.

I think at the beginning it's so raw.. "their baby JUST died" sounds a lot worse than "their baby died 5 months ago".. no one really checks in on us anymore like they promised they would. And again most family members and friends have since had babies or are having babies and I guess like you said relating to my life is impossible and me relating to their lives as parents to living children is also nearly an impossibility... although I know what I would be doing if Tilly were here but that's a physical reminder.I am so sorry you were ttc for so long too.. that in itself is isolating.

"I really think people cannot possibly imagine just how profoundly changing this experience is" - that is so true, they can't imagine sitting up all night crying in your dead baby's empty nursery because they are sitting up all night with a crying baby, or dragging yourself out of bed to face another day of bleak misery and unhappiness because they wake up to the chit chat of their joyful baby in their cot.

It just fucking sucks. I don't have any advice to post but I wanted to tell you what's going on in my neck of the woods to let you know you are not alone.
January 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTilly's mum

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, you are not alone in feeling like you're losing friends after your loss. It's one of those cruel secondary losses that people probably don't even realize happens after already suffering the worst loss imaginable... then to watch so many other aspects of your life crumble to the ground, too. I had a lot of support for a while as well (although no amount of support seemed to really take an edge off of my grief), and then it has steadily lessened over time. I know this is the natural pattern after any kind of loss or big event - the huge uproar and call to action at first and then a slow lessening until eventually it's not discussed much anymore. But when it comes to your own flesh and blood, your own extension of yourself, your child - it really burns, doesn't it?

Amen to "relating to my life is impossible" - and it does mean that friendships are put on hold until, someday, somehow, the chasms between friends will begin to soften even a tad. Yes also to the feelings of isolation, otherness, and abandonment. It sounds depressing, and it is, but in my lonely moments, I spend a lot of time online and here on Glow. I need some way to feel understood, and I know that my existing social circle cannot do that. They cannot possibly fathom what I am feeling. And knowing that to be the case, it sort of makes me even more upset to imagine their feeble, although well-intended, attempts to possibly imagine what this is like. Sometimes I almost do better when I don't even try to rally others around me for something that they can in no way understand anyway. It sometimes makes me only feel more isolated and alone. For those who do show effort and care, I tell them the real deal, what it's honestly like to be me right now. I do not censor it, and I do not feel I should. If they can't handle it, either they won't ask again or I might not tell them anyway. But for at least the first times I'm asked, I do tell the raw, hard truth.

I don't take anyone up on offers like "If you need anything, let me know." I feel like if someone honestly cares about me, he/she will approach me instead of putting the burden back on me to come crawling with a request in a moment of desperation. I also don't consider "So-and-so asks about you all the time" or even "I think about you all the time" to count for very much in terms of support.

Hang in there; that's the best anyone can do. It's unfair, and it sucks so much. xoxo
January 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNM