March has been a Good Month for Healing Friendships

By Emma Pearson

October 24, 2020

24 March 2019

I have been very fortunate this month to spend time with four dear old school and university friends. (We Brits differentiate between “school” and “university”. School for me is up to 18, and university is what came after that). 

Surprisingly, for an extrovert, I don’t go out much at the moment – at least not socially. It’s all too much effort for me in this life of after. I don’t meet up with many people. I hardly ever meet new people. And I most definitely don’t do groups. (Unless of course I’m co-facilitating a workshop with 120+ people, or dancing with 200 new people at a Widows’ convention in Toronto. But that’s “extra-ordinary”).

I am convinced that being widowed when others my age are not, not only rips at every thread in the fabric of my current life (and future life), but also tears to shreds the fabric of many long-term relationships. I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to say that bereavement changes everything, even past friendships that pre-date my life with Mike.

I am not sure how it’s happened, but clearly the “me” I am now, the me that I am in the process of becoming, seems unrecognisable, and not altogether comfortable, for people who knew me “before”.

I have been chastised, corrected, advised, admonished (often gently but the impact is the same) for being the Emma I am becoming, the new Emma who seems to be settling in my skin.

“You’re too angry”. “You’re becoming hard”. “You don’t go out and do as much as you used to”. “You need to meet more people”. “You need to start dating”. “You’re not as much fun as you used to be”. “You need to be lighter”.

Believe me, I don’t like the new Emma much either. I wish she hadn’t shown up in my life.  And yet she is probably here for the long run.

For sure the “old Emma” has gone. I am very sad about that. I liked her a lot, actually. I thought she was a pretty decent human being. Already. Before big shit crap hit. I don’t believe she had too much “growing up” to do to be a more compassionate/caring/grounded/rounded/decent/kind person. For sure she had more compassion, more energy and skill for holding space for others’ shit, when Mike was in her life. I think she did a lot of caring for others pretty well, actually. For sure, she was no Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa or Viktor Frankl. But she was no Trump or Putin or BoJo either. She was probably not going to burn in hell for mistreating people.

It’s weird talking about Emma in the third person. I reckon that’s because she still doesn’t feel like me. 

Anyway, back to the healing power of old friendships.

Friend number one, Antoinette, who I have known since we were both 7 or 8 years old and lived in Brussels, contacted me to say she’d be in my area and please could she spend her birthday with me. Well of course! What an honour and privilege. She’d been doing some “extreme self-care” and I was glad to contribute to that package with a special birthday dinner, a 5 km parkrun, a snow shoe in the Jura, a film and a curry (cooked by her, haha).

Friend number two, Geraldine, also from Brussels days, let me know she’d be spending a week in the area skiing with her family and said, “Please come to join for a day or more”, so I did, accompanied by one of my snowboard chick daughters.

Friend number three, Bryony, a university days friend, and my daughters’ “in loco parentis” when at boarding school, was treating herself to a few days skiing, and said, “Come up for the day”. And so I did, after a careful look at the snow and weather forecast.

And finally, friend number four, Victoria, the one person still in my life who knew all three of my fantastically important – and now dead – best men – Don, Ed and Mike, jumped into her car and drove for a couple of hours. Just to have lunch and an all too rare 20-second+ hug, while I am having a UK weekend with my daughters and my dad. Just like that. (Admittedly her own daughter is in the same school as mine, so she got to see her own sproglet too. I wasn’t the only draw. Not really).

With all four of these women, each of whom I have known nearly 35 years or more, I feel able to be myself. To feel myself. To be me.

I feel relaxed. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel glad. I feel bitter. I feel soothed. I feel grateful. I feel bereft. I feel scared. I feel anxious. I feel happy. I feel thrilled. I feel it all.

Blends of my new self and my old self. No questions asked about my “coherence” or lack of it. No “admonishing” or advice given. It’s unusual in that I am allowed to be whatever I am on the day, in the moment. To just be.

It’s sad to me that it’s so unusual. When I bring it up with one of them, Victoria, she says, “Well of course you’re different. How could you not be? And I still recognise you”.

I don’t know if it’s them – their life experiences, skill, personal development, and professional paths. I don’t know if it’s their love for Mike as well as for me. Two of them knew Mike very well indeed, for decades. They might feel some of their own fabric torn at his death.

And I don’t know if it’s me, in that I am able to relax when the admonishment or platitude doesn’t come, which injects an ease into the conversation.

What I do know is that it’s healing balm to my hurt heart, my constricted voice, and battered soul.

Thank you, my healing balm girlfriends.

Yes. March has been a good month for healing friendships.

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