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How to support a friend who is grieving her husband

(9 Posts)
nerofiend Thu 18-Jul-13 17:05:44

A bit of background: a close friend's husband passed away in March. He was found dead in a hostel and they don't know the result of the autopsy yet.

He was an alcoholic and for the last two years lived in and out of rehab and hospital so I suspect the cause of death has probably to do with this. His pancreas was in very bad condition.

My friend hasn't been well for a long time now, and obviously the death of her husband has made things worse.

I went to the funeral, read a poem for him, went to the burial of his ashes, tried to be there for my friend as much as I could. I have two small children so it's very hard for me to take "time off" and we live about an hour and a bit away from each other.

I've texted her and e-mailed her regularly, but she doesn't reply. However, she's constantly busy with a community group and always engaged in social activities with them. If I invite her to my house or to meet up outside work, she's always refused to come.

We work in the same place, so we have lunch together twice a week. Lately, I'm finding this really hard. I don't know what to say or ask. Sometimes I talk about myself so as to not fall back to her problems, as she probably needs a break from them as well. She often tells me about the activities with ther group, which I think it's really good and therapeutic for her, but feel a bit upset that they seem to be the centre of her world, and I'm completely pushed to the margins now.

I'm a very private person, and tbh, I'm not that keen of group activities. I've been invited to a couple of parties organised by this group, and I've attended out of kindness towards my friend and because I want to show her I'm there for her, but I've no intention of becoming part of this group. In fact, I can see there's a ring leader with a very strong personality and I'm beginning to see how she's taken over my friend's life in some odd way.

I feel upset and hurt but given the gravity of her situation at the moment, I feel I should keep quiet about it and feel really bad and selfish to be feeling upset when she's going through so much. However, I can see another friendship dwindling and dying away and it's so painful. I really love this friend.

TheFallenNinja Thu 18-Jul-13 17:27:45

I guess her associations of him to you may mean she will want to pull away. In this circumstance I would be inclined to let her. If that's what it takes for her to move on then you may have to accept this with good grace.

nerofiend Thu 18-Jul-13 19:08:32

Thank you for your reply, TheFallenNinja.

I was talking to another friend we have in common and she was telling me something very similar. That because I knew more about their problems, she might want to pull away.

I think people who experience the death of someone very close go through a "mythification" process by which the deceased becomes this perfect person and all the good qualities are brought to the foreground, whereas the bad ones are forgotten.

As I knew him quite well, she can't do this with me as much as with people who didn't know him that well. Maybe that's why she wants to see less of me and more of these new friends.

Spaghettio Thu 18-Jul-13 19:46:15

I lost my husband 4 years ago. I became very close to a family friend of his, and she was a great support to me. Her and I became very close, to the detriment of lots of other friends that wanted to support me too.

I have recently discovered some truths about her and withdrawn from the friendship, at which point I discovered that my other friends were very put off by her and her presence in my life.

I didn't see it at the time, I just thought she was being helpful, but now I see that she took over a lot of my life.

Give your friend time. She'll realise that she needs ALL of her friends, not just this group. It might take a while, but she'll realise eventually.

nerofiend Thu 18-Jul-13 22:46:56

Thank you, Spaghettio. What you are saying is really interesting. I feel this new friend is actually taking over her life. She seems like a constant presence and I think this is definitely putting old friends off. She seems like a nice enough person but I find it a bit too much.

The other day she organised a birthday party for my friend and a collection for a present. It felt like no one could have their say or pull out of the event as it would have made it look really bad on us. I felt manipulated and controlled. I went but hated the situation.

I hope my friend will open her eyes to what's going on but she's very vulnerable right now and I'm sure she is happy to have this source of support.

ImperialBlether Thu 18-Jul-13 23:12:55

And some friends don't actually want the bereaved person to feel better. They get some sort of kick out of being in control of the friendship. Not all friends are good friends.

nerofiend Fri 19-Jul-13 13:52:19

Thanks, Imperial. Agree. Some strong personalities love to be in the role of life support for vulnerable ones. It gives them some sort of power and keep them in control.

It's a shame but I'm starting to suspect this is what's going on here.

Spaghettio Fri 19-Jul-13 17:48:06

My friend was as imperial says - I think she liked the fact that I relied on her a lot. Once I got my shit together and started going out and enjoying myself (and meeting a new man) she very quickly showed her true colours. She wanted me to need her, and she didn't like it when I was becoming more independent without her.

I'm sure your friend will realise in time, but it might take a while.

nerofiend Fri 19-Jul-13 23:12:59

Thanks again, Spaghettio. There are "friends" out there like the one you describe. They like to play the role of the strong one, the one who provides support and advice, but they find themselves with "no job" when you don't need that support and advice anynore, and are able to take care of you own life.

My friend used to be a bit like that with me in the past, to be honest. I went through a really hard time years ago, was feeling very low, had lots of arguments with DH, and she played that role for a while. I liked the fact that she listened to me, and she understood where I was coming from.

Then my situation changed. My relatioship with my DH is not perfect but there's been a lot of improvement. I have my days here and there but I'm not depressed anymore either.

Now it's her the one who needs more support but I feel she is refusing it from me. It's like she is stuck in her role of a couple of years ago, and doesn't want to let go of that.

I read somewhere that we all play roles in human relationships, and it's hard to reverse them. I feel sometimes that because I talk too much about my problems to people, they seem to take the role of the strong ones whereas I'm the one "with problems", the one who needs help. Whenever that changes, some people find it hard to accept it, and let me move on.

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