Losing Your Best Friend – The Unthinkable loss of Friendship

Losing Your Best Friend – The Unthinkable loss of Friendship

Girlfriendology it is a good thing, friendship quoteThere are some friendship topics that are easy to think about, talk about, write about. And then there are friendship topics that are much more difficult.

Guest blogger DR. KAREN GAIL LEWIS helps us address one of the most difficult–losing a friend.

Best friends are so vital to our lives, yet we rarely talk about what it’s like when we lose them. We can lose them through death, but also through what I refer to as divorce. Divorce is when a good friend just drops you, a permanent falling out.

Losing a lover through death or divorce fits within our society’s understanding of loss and grief. But, unfortunately, we have no recognized guidelines for losing friends—the people who may outlive relationships with spouses and lovers.

“Linda and I have always had a long distance relationship,” explains Carla. “We talk at least once a week, sometimes more often. She’s on the West Coast and I’m here in Cincinnati, so we are always working on the time change. It takes some effort, but we’ve been doing this for the 11 years since she moved to Seattle. We make a point of getting together three or four times a year. I love my husband, but loving Linda is a different kind of love.

“She was the first person I called when Terry asked me to marry him, even before I called my mom and sister. Whenever he and I are at odds, she is always there to listen to me vent about Terry, to help me see the situation more realistically, and to walk me through the mess with him.

“We used to joke what would we do without each other.”

Carla’s voice breaks. She takes a deep breath as if gulping in the air would ease her pain. “I guess I’m finding out. Six months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a quick decline. She was dead within three months.

“What makes me so mad is that if it were Terry who had died, I’d get time off from work; my friends would be calling on me, offering me sympathy. But Linda is ‘just a friend.’ Baloney. She’s my best friend, my soul, my stabilizer, my special another half, in a way Terry – as much as I love him – can’t be. But she’s just my friend, so life expects me to carry on.”

We live in a world with rigid ideas about love and affection. We have worked place rules and social etiquette rules. The inflexibility of these rules, though, ignores some realities. Carla would be able to get time off from work, or a reduced price plane ticket, for the funeral of her sister, even though they haven’t spoken in decades, but not for her best friend Linda.

In many communities, when there’s a death, friends and neighbors come with the proverbial casseroles and pies. The bereaved gets company, food, sympathy. Carla, though, did not have any of that. Most people don’t think about the depth of the loss when it is a non-family member.

“My boss did let me take the day off to go to her funeral, but he sure didn’t understand why I was so unproductive for the next few weeks. If it had been my husband, he certainly would have understood. How do I explain losing a best friend is like losing a part of myself?”

Chances are Carla’s boss has had a similar experience—because losing a best friend is so common; it’s just not often acknowledged, and the pain is rarely discussed.

The same lack of social understanding occurs when best friends have a permanent quarrel—or divorce.

“Mary just dropped me; I don’t know any other way to put it,” bemoans Laurie. “Although this was 10 years ago, I still get teary thinking about it. I have no idea why she just stopped talking to me, stopped returning my calls. We had been such good friends for years. After several months, I wrote her saying she, at least, owed me an explanation. Boy, that was a mistake. She wrote back tearing me to pieces.”

Laurie’s eyes water as she goes back a decade in her memory. “I don’t know what was worse. Hearing all the things she didn’t like about me or having no one to talk to about losing my best friend. You know, if Laurie were a Larry, everyone would understand why I moped around for months, but you don’t get sympathy for breaking up with your best friend.”

Carla and Laurie understand the power of best friends—having them and losing them. There are rituals for dealing with the death of a spouse and a family member, but there are none for the death of a best friend. People know how to respond if a friend gets divorced, but they have no idea how to respond if that friend gets divorced from a best friend – even though the pain can be just as intense and the loss just as big.

Moving the Invisible Elephant in your Life

With Barbara Baxter, ventriloquist, as we are doing a presentation at the zoo, on “Moving Your Invisible Elephant: Overcoming Obstacles in your life.” I’m the short one in the front row; my girlfriend, Barbara, is the one with the Ant (a direct descendent of the Ant who moved a Rubber Tree plant– speaking of overcoming obstacles!

There are other ways of losing a close friend. You can grow in different directions; after a marital divorce, friends may drift away, not wanting to choose sides. You can move and get so caught up in your new life, or work so much your friendships get left behind. And, too many women slip away from friends after an argument, rather than insist the friendship deserves their “fighting it out.”

No matter how you lose a best friend, it always hurts and leaves a hole in your life. The loss needs to be respected and given the same credence as the loss of any loved one.

So, if you know a friend who has had such a loss, reach out, speak up. Allow her to talk about the pain. Encourage her to share with you. You might even ask her boss to cut her some slack.

And if you are the one who has experienced the loss, don’t be shy. While there is no way to avoid the pain, there is something you can do that is a major step in healing. Talk to others about your friend; share your memories, look back over pictures, tell stories. Tell others what you need. If you don’t, they won’t know how much you hurt, regardless how the friendship ended. And, in the sharing, you may begin to forge a new friendship.

A final note: Some women are afraid to acknowledge how angry they are at their friend for leaving them. Don’t be. She may have had no control over dying, but she has left you. Your love for her demands you be angry at her not being there for you. That is an expression of your love.Losing Your Best Friend, Girlfriend Advice

DR. KAREN GAIL LEWIS has 42 years’ experience as a family therapy, with a specialization in friendships, single women, and adult siblings. She is the author of numerous books on relationships, including Why Don’t You Understand? A Gender Relationship Dictionary. In addition, for 17 years, she has run Unique Retreats For Women – with specific retreats for single women and adult siblings. She has offices in Cincinnati and Washington, DC, and provides telephone consultations.

Thanks for the great advice, Karen!

 

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For more on how to be a friend when a friend is going through a Tough Situation …

That’s why we’re here – to inspire you to BE A BETTER FRIEND – even, and especially, when life hands you or a girlfriend tough situations.

COMFORTING GIFTS FOR FRIENDS: HEALING BASKETS provides gifts to comfort and support the broken hearted. From sympathy, and loss to cancer, get well, divorce and caregiving. These gifts encourage, comfort and inspire.

What other tough situations would you like us to cover on Girlfriendology? PLEASE SHARE below!

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A Gratitude Garden? Thankful for Spring and Friends | #ThankfulThurs

Gratitude-Garden-Thankful-ThursdayA garden requires patient labor & attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.

Liberty Hyde Bailey

I made a trip to the local big box home and garden store last weekend. So did about a million other people.

It would seem that everyone knew that April is National Gardening Month – no coincidence its timing in regards to spring. Where I live the daffodils are already up, the hastas are breaking through and the tulips can’t be far behind. Time to get to work.

I love perennials. Returning faithfully each year, they are the surest sign of spring I know, other than spotting the first robin in my yard. They’re always there for me. Something I can depend upon. I also love annuals; one trip – well, several – to the home and garden store and my home’s springtime wardrobe is complete.

I read somewhere that research shows that nurturing plants has a healthful benefit for us, mind, spirit and body. You can see it throughout your neighborhood, your town, your city. I’m sure the figures for the money we spend on this springtime rebirth are enormous, and in my opinion it is money well spent.

It’s no surprise that many, many literary parallels have been drawn between gardening and personal relationships. Especially in this season of rebirth and growth and blooming, it becomes an especially good time to tend to our own friendship gardens.

There are the perennials – long time, steady friends that you know will always be there, even if they are out of sight for long periods of time.

Then there are the shorter-term friendships you make through book clubs and kids events and other activities. These are the friendships that can brighten your day on a day to day basis. And while these friendship may not be as deeply rooted as those of your perennials, there is no question that they need to be nurtured and cared for as much, if not more than the long time friendships.

In any event, good friendships, like good gardens, take time and effort on your part to grow into something that you can truly enjoy. When you work at cultivating your friendships through a kind word, a helping hand (perhaps working with them in their garden) you are working toward a time when you can just sit in your garden, relax, and enjoy your surroundings.

Think of your friendships as a garden that you are solely responsible for. At some point, you planted the seeds and did the things you needed to do to make things grow. Planning and organizing is important, doing things in a timely fashion with a purpose in mind always yields a more attractive relationship both with plants and girlfriends.

Still, even the very best and visually beautiful garden may have some weeds. Weeding is simply part of the process, and that which does not make your garden healthier, more vital and more attractive should be directly addressed.

So where does the idea of “thanks” come into all of this? I’d say the easiest thanks of all would be to thank nature for each year, without fail, reminding us of the importance intending to our growth and the growth of our friendships. And thanks for having a store where we can get the plants we need already well on their way.

Sometime this week, spend a few minutes with your gratitude journal and write down the friendships you are thankful for, both old and new. Maybe describe your friends and your friendships in gardening terms. Give them nicknames like Rose, and Fern and Daisy. Remind yourself to cultivate and if necessary, pull a few weeds from your garden. It all goes toward making your friendship garden stronger and more beautiful, something that you and your girlfriends can find joy in.

So dig into your friendships. Get your hands dirty girlfriends. It will all be well worth the effort.

 

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Nine Ways to Help Girlfriends Develop Positive Body Image

Nine Ways to Help Girlfriends Develop Positive Body Image

Help a friend with negative body imageHow’s your BFF’s self-esteem? Is her body image positive or negative?

We women are notorious for our lack of self-esteem and negative body image. We’re so tough on ourselves!

“Step Away from the Mean Girls & say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks.” Oprah Winfrey

Some of us wish we were taller, others shorter. The list goes on and on. Girlfriend and guest blogger CRISTINA FAHRBACH-CONNORS shares her wisdom about helping us all have a more positive body image.

We all love our girlfriends, so what do you do when you have a friend who doesn’t realize how great she is? I’m talking about positive body image. We’re all uniquely beautiful, but sometimes we just can’t see it. Girlfriends don’t let girlfriends hate their bodies! Here are nine ways you can help a friend if she’s been getting down on her appearance:

  1. Be Willing To Listen. Sometimes we just need to be heard and understood. Show your girlfriend that you’re there for her and care about what she has to say. Don’t take over the conversation though; you want this to be about her.
  2. Find Out What The “Real” Problem Is. Often, body image issues are linked to low self-esteem due to other personal problems that need to be worked on. Ask your girlfriend questions to find out what’s really bothering her.
  3. Boost Her Self-Esteem. We compliment each other a lot on how we look, but when was the last time you told your girlfriend what makes her so special? Tell her what’s so great about her—other than her appearance. Helping your girlfriend feel good about herself as a whole can completely change her outlook on things.
  4. Avoid Fat Talk. Fat talk is repeating the same conversation over and over about our body insecurities. You might tell each other how you think you look terrible in a pair of jeans, or need to lose ten pounds before the summer. We ask each other “do I look terrible?” and reassure each other that we look good. But by obsessing over our insecurities about our bodies, studies have shown that we’re actually making them worse. Besides, there are so many more fun and interesting things for you and your girlfriend to talk about!healthy afternoon, positive self image
  5. Have Body-Nurturing Girlfriend Dates. You only get one body—take care of and pamper it together. Have girlfriend dates where you get your nails done or a massage (or even a nice spa day at home that’s more affordable!). Or you could get outside for a walk, breathe in the fresh air, talk, and get some exercise.
  6. Be A Positive Body Image Role Model. Lead by example! Show that you love and feel good about yourself and your attitude might be contagious. You’ll find that both you and your girlfriends will feel better.
  7. Realize Body Image Issues Come In All Shapes and Sizes. You might wonder how your girlfriend can be insecure, thinking to yourself, “But she’s so pretty/thin/etc.” But we all see ourselves in different ways, and what’s comfortable for one person may not be for another. Remember that your girlfriend’s concerns are important and meaningful to her and that’s what matters. Be supportive, not judging.
  8. Find And Share Inspiration. We’re bombarded by so many negative and harmful images and messages about our bodies in the media. Seek out body positive blogs, books, movies, etc. to counteract what your girlfriends are seeing. Share these inspirational sources with them. On my positive body image blog, I share lots of resources that can help.
  9. Educate Yourself and Your Girlfriend. Learn as much as you can about eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and disordered eating. Sometimes the problem is too big for you to solve on your own. If you think your friend might have a problem, encourage her to get professional help. Enlist the support of other friends and family members if you can.

Our girlfriends are to be cherished—help them to appreciate themselves the way we do. As women, we are so much more than our image in a mirror, clothing size, or number on a scale. Help your girlfriends recognize how gorgeous they are, inside and out.positive body image,feel better about yourself

CRISTINA FAHRBACH-CONNORS is a New York based freelance writer and attorney. She started her positive women’s body image blog, Size and Substance, because she feels it’s time for women to stop hating our bodies and tearing ourselves down. You can also follow her blog on facebook or on Twitter @cristinafconn.

What are your tips for helping your friends feel great about themselves?

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Library Love Notes | Gather a Few Girlfriends and Spread Love!

Library Love Notes | Gather a Few Girlfriends and Spread Love!

playground artist guru love letters, prayer All that you hold in your heart, all that you wish and dream and long for, it is all beautiful. I believe in you.

Rachel Awes

Unexpected surprises. Random acts of kindness. Things that brighten someone’s day.

All wonderful blessings. Especially when you needed just that. Girlfriend Guru (and fabulous artist) RACHEL AWES and her friends shared this surprise blessing with book lovers in their home town. (Maybe you and your friends could do something like this …)

I recently gathered a few girlfriends and met at our local library. We came armed with various sizes of paper and lots of different colors of crayons and markers and scissors. With our secret mission in mind, we huddled together in the back and began writing our love on to little notes to place in books. Once ready, we found various books and left our anonymous girlfriend love mark. It was fun to choose which book. My favorite was leaving one in Judy Blume’s book “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret”. Then we hugged good-bye and went on with the rest of our day.

This was both a joyful and meaningful way to be with girlfriends! Spreading love, like sending out notes in a bottle to an ocean. The big blue awaiting our hearts.

If you might ever do this, there are so many things you could put on paper! Here are just a few ideas:library notes, girlfriend get together

  • You Are Beautiful
  • You Are Loved
  • Your Life Has Deep Purpose
  • Your Dreams Matter
  • (A longer note): Dear Reader, All that you hold in your heart, all that you wish and dream and long for, it is all beautiful. I believe in you. Take that next step. Even if a little one. Anything of depth is made of little steps. That’s how we swim into an ocean. Harps and guitars play for you. Your heart beat plays for you. I am so glad you are here. Peace and love always to you.smiley faces, sharing friendship

Or maybe you’d prefer to meet your girlfriends at a bookstore and do this. Or a coffee shop. A magazine rack at the grocery store or Target or the place of anywhere.

Pretty soon, maybe we’ll find that we and our girlfriends can spread our love to the whole wide world.

RACHEL AWES is a psychologist, art playgroundist, writer, wife, mother & friend, who loves listening to the beauty in people. You can see more of her art or her artistic thoughts on Pinterest. You can also read more of her work on her blog

What are your tips for sharing joy, girlfriend?friendship,girlfriends

And check out Rachel’s other FABULOUS blogs(and her gorgeous art):

Girlfriendology believe in you, rachel awes, friendship quote

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How to Make & Keep True, Lifetime Friends

How to Make & Keep True, Lifetime Friends

true friendshipA True Friend reaches for your hand & touches your heart.

Unknown

True Friends who are THERE FOR YOU. Could anything be better?

We’re celebrating those friends today in this great guest blog by KAREN ROCHESTER, author of ‘BE BRAVE – for those hurt by another.’ (Share her story with your friends who might need some inspiration and a reminder that you’re THERE FOR THEM!)

It is completely normal to share your life with your friends, but what if you want to share something that has been a secret for a long time and you are afraid how your friends will react? What if after you tell them this secret they won’t want to be your friends anymore? Do you take the risk?

This happened to me. There was a time in my life when things were not going so well, not well at all actually. I was an emotional mess to be honest. I still had friends and tried to make my life look normal and together. This in itself took a lot of effort. As time went on I realized I needed to get professional help and I did.

Girlfriend trust, friendshipAfter some years of therapy, I trusted my psychologist enough to tell her that I had been sexually abused as a child and we started to work through that as well as the PTSD issues and physical impairments I has sustained from a major motor vehicle accident I had been involved in while serving in the military. With a lot of love and support from my husband and psychologist, I put in place many and various strategies to get my life back on track. However, it became clear that from the time of my disclosure about my childhood trauma I started to get better, a lot better, both physically and emotionally.

All my friends knew that I had had a serious motor vehicle accident and they were very supportive, but how was I going to tell them what happened to me as a child? The shame, guilt, and pain were enormous and at times, unbearable. But, as time went on and I became emotionally stronger I was more determined than ever to improve my life and that meant sharing all of it, including my past, with my friends. But how would they react to the secret I had kept from them for nearly 25 years in some cases?

Eventually I plucked up the courage to tell my friends what had happened to me. What I discovered was:

Karen Rochester, frienship trust

  • Every single one of them was pleased that I trusted them enough to tell them.
  • Every single one of them was supportive.
  • Every single one of them hugged me.
  • Every single one of them asked if there was any more they could do to help.
  • Every single one of them wanted to know why I had not told them sooner.
  • Every single one of them expressed sadness and empathy to my situation.
  • Some of them opened up to me and told me things I didn’t know about them!
  • EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM IS STILL MY FRIEND!

Now I feel as though there are no secrets between us. My disclosure made our friendships stronger and definitely more open and honest. It created an environment where we actually understood each other even better. Nothing bad came out of my disclosure and now I know that the friends I have are truly lifetime friends. I am so happy and grateful to have them in my life.

Trust your friends enough to tell them how you are feeling and why… if they are real friends, they will want to help you – they will not abandon you. There is an old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and I have found this to be so true.

be brave, honesty with friendsKAREN ROCHESTER was an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) before a major car accident saw her medically discharged. Needing a full facial reconstruction so she could breathe (meaning 6 plates and 31 screws) and still suffering some residual physical disabilities, Karen transformed her life by working very hard to recover both physically and emotionally. She is the author of BE BRAVE – for those hurt by another. She loves scuba diving (soon to be an instructor) and underwater photography. Completely adores her husband and Tenterfield terriers. See: www.bebravebook.com

Thanks, Karen – and that for being brave with your true friends. Lovely reminder!

For more girlfriend inspiration on TRUE FRIENDSHIP:Girlfriendology a true friend, friendship quote

 

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Ten Tips for Helping a Friend with Breast Cancer | Advice from Stacy Randall

Ten Tips for Helping a Friend with Breast Cancer | Advice from Stacy Randall

Helping Friends with Breast CancerCancer is a word, not a sentence.  ~John Diamond

Girlfriendology was founded partly because of two girlfriends dealing with cancer. I needed to be around my friends – not just them but my other female friends. I needed them for comfort and support. I knew that women do that – and we should celebrate girlfriendship.

Cancer is way too common. It happens to ourselves and our friends and family, WAY too frequently. As women, we want to take care of others and sometimes aren’t sure what to do. Guest blogger STACY RANDALL shares her insight into Ten Tips for Helping a Friend with Breast Cancer:

Finding out that a friend has breast cancer can be one of the hardest things in life. After the initial feelings of fear, confusion, and anger, you’re probably going to wonder how you can help. And although there’s no formula for how to act or what to do when you find out a friend has cancer, here are a few suggestions:

1. Don’t Compare
Although you might think it’s comforting to tell your friend about someone else you know who survived cancer, you might come across as insensitive. Your friend’s situation is very unique so don’t take that away from her.

2. Keep the Gossip on the DL (Down Low)
This one may sound obvious but if your friend is telling you about what she’s going through, don’t automatically think she’s telling everyone that information.

3. Say Anything
Sometimes when you are at a complete loss for words a simple, “I’m praying for you,” or “I’m thinking about you,” goes a long way.

4. Bring Flowers
Flowers can brighten your friend’s day. And sometimes cancer patients can lose their apatite so food isn’t always the best option.

5. Make Crafts
Depending on what stage of cancer your friend is in, making crafts together is a low key activity you can both enjoy. If she’s not up for it, making her something special will help you get your mind off what’s going on and make you feel better that you’re small gesture will brighten her day (because it will).

6. Water her Plants and Feed her Fish
Simply saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help,” is too vague and winds up being unhelpful. Take the initiative by mowing her lawn, doing her laundry, watering her plans, and even feeding her goldfish.

7. Make her Laugh
Your friend will look to you to give her the funny details of life outside the hospital. If you’re not much of story teller, show her a funny e-mail, YouTube video, or card.

8. Give Distance
When your friend says she needs time to be alone, respect her. It’s nothing personal and it’s not a cry for attention either. She simply needs alone time, like we all do.

9. Take Care of yourself
Dealing with your own emotions and feelings in a healthy way will help you be the rock that she needs.

10. Shave your head
Shave your head to show support for your friend. Just like her hair will grow back so will yours.

helping a friend with breast cancerIn addition to being a great friend by supporting your friend who has breast cancer, you can also help raise awareness and help raise money to cure breast cancer every October (or year round for that matter). Participate in walks, fashion shows, marathons, pink ribbons or do any other outward act you want to support breast cancer.

STACY RANDALL is a writer for the Nebraska Medical Center. She enjoys writing on topics in the health field. The Nebraska Medical Center is the largest healthcare facility in Nebraska and is known for its cancer (leukemia, lymphoma, etc.) and heart treatment units as well as being the designated trauma unit three days a week.

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What are your tips for supporting a girlfriend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Girlfriendology cancer quote, friendship quotesFor more girlfriend advice on dealing with cancer, see:

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