Sunday, February 3, 2013

Friends vs. Family

A friend posted this on facebook.

- She/He has been changed to they/them -

I have heard the horror stories. Of widows feeling forgotten, left out, treated like their widow status is contagious, by friends and family.

It has never happened to me.

Until now.

I have a friend, that I have been friends with since before Seth got sick. They have always been there for me.

Recently I knew their birthday was coming up. I anxiously waited for word on the party.

See, this birthday party is always so fun. I have never missed it. Even after Seth’s death.

As I waited for the invitation to arrive, I didn’t realize the party had been planned, was happening on a certain night, and I was being left out.

I was shocked when I logged on to facebook and saw pictures from the party. Our mutual friends were there. I frantically looked to see if I missed an invitation. Facebook event, email, text, snail mail.. to discover, I didn't miss a invite.

I wasn't invited.

I was hurt. I felt forgotten. I felt like maybe me being a widow was too much for my friends to be around and try to grasp. Maybe they don’t want to ignore the elephant in the room anymore. Maybe they don’t want to catch my disease – widowhood.

I have kicked this hurt around in my head for a while now. Trying to understand.

Through my birthdays, Seth’s birthdays, the death anniversary, I have never forgotten to invite them.

I mean really, how do you forget a friend?

I once forgot to invite a friend to Seth’s yearly memorial. Another friend asked why this certain friend wasn’t invited. I quickly realized I didn't forget my friend, I just didn't include her in the invite. I quickly added her to the invite, and texted her and begged for forgiveness.

She of course forgave me, and came to the memorial.. Phew.

If I forget a friend, another friend will ask me what’s going on, and I will realize I didn't include one of the most important people in my life. I would never forget a friend on purpose.. and I will try to correct my mistake.

So it made me wonder, as they were celebrating, did none of our mutual friends say “Where is Melinda?”

Through trying to understand it all, I feel forgotten.

I have heard all the horror stories of widows going through similar things with their friends and family. Being at 30 months, I thought I was passed the point of when people would excuse themselves from my life.

I guess even 30 months in, people change their mind. They decide to not be a part of my life.

But this far out from my husband’s death?

I expected this in the early days. When I first entered widowhood and my in-laws turned on me. I expected it then.

Being this far out, and it is just barely happening, makes me feel alone.

Very alone.

Makes me realize that the world around me is forever changed. 

And is forever changing with each day.

Who I thought were my friends and family, is still changing.

Makes me realize that people don’t want to be around a 32 year old widow. After all, "this" won’t happen to them.. and you sure as shit don’t want to catch my very contagious disease. You don’t want me to cough, spread my germs to you, and have your spouse drop dead the next day.

One of the very few things I remember from Seth’s funeral is my dad hugging me, my mom, and my brother. 

In a big, bawling, group hug.

Through my dad’s own sobs, he said-
“We will get through this”.
“As a family”.
“We will get through this”.

My dad was so right. As a family we are getting through this. I realize that my friends are not just friends, they are my family. We are getting through it as a family.

I realize I am still learning about the new world around me.

And how nothing ever stays the same.

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you
in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would
do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what. - Unknown


  1. So sorry this has happened to you, Melinda. I am 30 years your senior, and had no idea that friends could do this, until it happened to me. So here I am in my new life, without so very many significant (at least I thought they were) friends, and even some family, who have decided it is just too hard to be reminded that my spouse is dead. They have no other excuse that I can see, just that they don't want to be reminded that death comes when you least expect it, and who wants a widow in their face, at there gatherings?

    I have accepted it gracefully and moved on from them, have found others more accepting of me and my status. I do feel so sorry for them, for someday one of them will be in my shoes. And they could have/should have learned so much from me and where I am at. I will try to remember them when that happens, and remember to be kind to them, even though I feel very ignored and slighted to this day, 3 years later.

  2. Sorry you're having to deal with that. Part of me's hoping it's just an honest misunderstanding, but it doesn't seem likely. I've gotten to learn, from thankfully few bitter experiences, that family doesn't guarantee support and that those who were "just friends" will sometimes surprise the Hell out of you with their patience and generosity and committment. I guess it's true that in hard times like this is when you find out who your _true_ friends and _true_ family are.


  3. This happened to me in the second year, too. I thought is was me-I had changed, or done something to offend. I ignored being phased out at first, then grew a pair and asked. All I got were vague uncomfortable excuses.
    If it is any consolation-some may come back into your life as time goes by. Now at 5 years out I've had a few reestablish...some I took back and some I did not. But of course it is never the same. And the in-law thing-hard to accept but seems universal, too.

  4. I think this happens to us, because mosy of my friends now do things with other couples. They move on and replace you as a couple with another couple and have things for couples. When I heard how some very close friends had dinner with a new couple that sounding interesting. I thought Why could they not invite me! I enjoy meeting new people and actually need this more now than ever! I feel as you do. I have to a;ways make the effort to keep the friendship going, even though I am the one alone and overwhelmed by stuff to get done! I think why bother are they really my friends? Not sure at this point. I do not think they are even aware of what they are doing, although that is no excuse!

  5. Thank you so much for writing this. Been there done that but it still hurts. I am 15 months and basically have one person I can count on and I don't like to bother her too much because she has her own family. I feel so isolated.

  6. For me, the loss of relationships has just made the loss of my Marty all that much huger....there is so much loss in so many areas, I never thought friends would be yet another place of pain. I have given up trying to figure out why. I have stopped self blaming. Even if it was my error someway, I'd hope that having gone through such a tragedy that grace would be extended time and time again. Sometimes I just want to shout "I LOST MY HUSBAND FOR GOSH SAKES". I think others think I should be "bounced back" by now (23 months) but grief isn't on anybodys timeline, not even my own! It is a beast that runs its own miserable life. Those who are still close in my life are the people who have figured it out, how to stay connected, they have chosen to stay in, in spite of what I may be feeling on any given day and I am thankful for them! Relationships are yet another place of hurt and that makes me sad. Life is hard enough.

  7. Yep. I have a friend who was there with me when I made the funeral plans for my husband who has now stopped inviting me to things or even calling to say hello. Not sure how to handle that but am thankful I have a ton of folks around to support me through these mini-losses.

  8. Melinda, I too ma sorry that you are experiencing this. I am 32 months out and all the posts here seem to be in agreement that this is part of our experience. It is a very hard pill to swallow, but I found a quote that I carry with me and it has been a great source of comfort and thought provoking as well. It says:

    " Sometimes we need to forget some people from our past because of one simple reason, they just don't belong in our future"
    I hope this is helpful in letting go of those that maybe don't need to be in your life anymore.

  9. Melinda, I share your confusion and pain. It has been almost 7 years for me and I am still astounded by the lack of compassion and understanding from "friends" Most of it I have just shrugged off. But last year, my very good friend, whose husband was like a brother to my husband, told me that "no one wanted to be with me and that she used to think I was funny, but I'm not funny anymore". She actually did me a favor, because I no longer wonder why I am being excluded. The problem is she was part of my close circle of friends and if I do get invited out,(rarely) she is there making for a very uncomfortable situation.

  10. Melinda, I share the sense of isolation, confusion and pain. I noticed people disappeared by the 3rd month after my husband's death. It has been 15 months since my husband died and I am raising our son alone. My sisters are not supportive, but two friends who call long distance have done so weekly without fail. People assume that at the 12 month mark, something magical is supposed to happen and you just get over it. The longer the relationship has endured, or the deeper the bond, the more time healing takes, but so few understand that.

  11. Apparently, there is a statute of limitations on grief and people move on with their lives and naturally seek out people like themselves. I've been widowed 4 years now (and am raising 2 young children on my own). My grandmother was also widowed young. I watched her support group fall away from her and watched the women in her life fall away and watched some treat her as if she was an outsider. I see that same thing happening to me now. Knowing most of us will experience this someday, I have accepted. But it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

  12. I have been widowed for just under 3 years and had the same experiences with family, in-laws (nightmare, as though I had murdered my husband) and friends. I live alone since he died. You'd think at least family would be a little concerned. But no, they couldn't be bothered. Even my own daughter who used to be more supportive doesn't seem to be as interested as before. So we widows are in a place that none of us wanted and it's very difficult to try to make new friends because for years it was just my husband and myself for companionship. I don't think there is enough out there for widows in terms of education and what to expect. Maybe if there was people would understand things better and wouldn't treat us all like we were lepers or insane. Being shunned and ignored is the worst thing that could happen at a time like this. However, I have to be brutally honest and admit that I might have given off the wrong impression or maybe it's just what I wanted and that was to be left the hell alone. So maybe I have been behaving like an insane leper, but that's the way it makes you feel. And yeah, everything hurts and I'm overly sensitive now. I hate this. When does it get any better?

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  14. Your comments help me realize I'm not the only odd one out. But being left out still hurts -- it hurts a lot!!!

  15. Our Widow's Voice blogs have moved over to our new web site. You'll find them here:

  16. I have also been rejected by friends.
    One is all sweetness and light in public, but goes out of her way to ignore me, when I text her, or invite her for tea etc.
    When my darling husband was sick, I was caring for him, so was unable to attend many social events.
    I now feel rejected and very lost and lonely, at a time when I desperately need companionship and support more than ever.
    I really cannot understand, why this happens, but sadly it does. :(

    1. Anonymous - Our Widow's Voice blogs have moved to the Soaring Spirits web site. You can find them here: