Friendship: Surviving a Loss

Look for the Unexpected Gift

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately and how friendships change. I look at my daughter and her friends – that core set of 6 girls who started playing basketball together in 3rd grade and never looked back. They remain, 5 years out from high school, BFF.

That whole concept – Best Friends Forever – is somewhat touchy for me. I tragically lost my first BFF (Barbara Ann Nelson) in 4th grade when the Evil Natalie moved to town and stole away her time and attention. I can laugh about it now, but when I was 9, the pain and grief and loneliness of that loss were almost unbearable. There they were – having a great time every day at recess, and there I was, alone and watching from the outside. Barbara had clearly moved on and left me behind without a backward glance.

There are many, many people in my life I consider friends: spiritual friends – most of whom live at a distance; work friends; hometown friends – a group that graciously folded me in to their established network when I arrived in town 30 years ago; old friends who are outside of my “normal” life who I simply love and who love me just because; there are even two friends from high school I’ve recently reconnected with via the magic of Facebook.

Although I’ve known most of these people for a gazillion years, it doesn’t mean that my list of friends never changes. The relationships ebb and flow with people growing closer or more distant. There are even times when a close friend simply disappears from my life or times a new friend appears.

The purpose of meditation and other energy work is spiritual growth and change (also called healing). One of the results of growth and change is, well, growth and change. That makes shifts in the intensity or closeness of a friendship inevitable – especially for someone who is focused on their spiritual path.

We draw people to us to help process our life lessons. Sometimes, when the lesson is over, we drift apart. There are also times when you make a change and your friend doesn’t. Suddenly you don’t fit in each other’s lives quite the same way anymore.

Through much practice I’ve learned to ride the changing tides of friendship. Every time someone fades away or disappears, the pain and grief and loneliness come slamming back. It doesn’t matter that I am 53 instead of 9; it doesn’t matter that I was the one who forced the issue or made the change. I’m alone and it hurts.

There are three things that consistently get me through the loss of a friendship. The first, and most difficult step, is to remind myself that I am not alone – that I have plenty of friends who do fit in my life. Then comes the hard part; I force myself to actually reach out and connect with some of those friends. (Asking for help, or a hug, or just some “hang out” time is often difficult when you are alone on a raft in the middle of the Sea of Despair.)

The second is a quote from the play, Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee: Perhaps it is you who have moved away – by standing still. I find this comforting. I also use it to validate that I am making progress on my spiritual journey. It helps me remember that everyone’s rate of growth is unique – it is natural to pace each other for a while, but eventually one person will go on ahead.

The final step is to look for God’s Unexpected Gifts: random chance encounters that sometimes just happen. My most recent experience with this was last month in Spokane. I was there for a conference for my “day job” and I’d returned, very tired, to my hotel. All I wanted to do was grab some food and be alone. I had to wait for the food to cook, so I went to what I thought was a quiet, empty corner of the lobby. I’d committed myself to sitting down before I noticed the woman already sitting on the floor. What followed was an amazing interaction for both of us. “What did you present?” she asked me. My answer was, “Well, nothing – I’m just here as staff. Except I did present a Meditation Workshop this morning.” “Of course you did.” she responded with a very knowing smile. We talked for close to an hour. My dinner came (and got cold in the to-go box) before we ended our conversation. She called me her blessing of the day. I got back to my room and no longer felt tired.

I have friendships end. I grieve the loss and acknowledge the pain and loneliness I’m experiencing. Then, before I allow the Sea of Despair to close over my head, I remember my friends, and my quote, and open my eyes and heart to God’s next Unexpected Gift.