. . .
Dear Swipe This!
I have a good friend who lives in a different state. I don’t see her often, but we can talk about all sorts of things, from personal troubles to nervousness to relationships. I truly value her friendship and our differences. I think we complement each other well.
But lately, she hasn’t been texting or calling or responding to my attempts to reach out. She replies via Instagram, but in a superficial lane. This started about a month ago when I adopted two teenage puppies( siblings )– a saga that has been challenging and rewarding and astonishing. She had two bird-dogs, one of which died recently, and was really sad. Purely by coincidence, her dead dog’s name is both my name and a variation of what my new bird-dogs were called by their former owner.
After a long period of radio silence, I asked her “whats wrong” and she said it hasn’t been easy hearing about puppies with the same epithet( which, again, happens to be my epithet) for a month. I told her I was sorry that I was insensitive; I genuinely supposed she’d be happy, maybe even see it as a little bit serendipitous, like her dog living on in some way. When her bird-dog died, I asked her how she was doing and talked to her about it. I also posted a photo of her bird-dog and a RIP note on Instagram–I thought I was doing enough to show her I cared. But I guess she hasn’t moved on.
Also, I’ve experienced a lot of loss myself–my father were killed when I was a teenager, a roommate passed away, and then my husband and I had a dog that died over a year ago–so it’s not like I don’t understand ache and grief.
I’m kind of mad at her for not explaining to me what’s going on. I’m also sad that she couldn’t be happy for me. And I’m kind of frightened that she’s going to say I did something wrong and I’m going to differ and this is going to build us develop apart.
I want to stand up for myself, but I feel bad “that shes” injure, if that’s even what is going on. Can she genuinely blame me for not thinking of her puppy when the dogs that I fell in love with happened to have my name? Or is she only mourning differently than I do?
What do I do? I’ve sent her five text, spaced out over the last month and she only reacted shortly to one with” Fine, thanks .” Do I reach out again, or do I wait for her to reach out to me?
Not a Dead Dog
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Dear Not a Dead Dog,
I am so sorry for your loss. Your friend is a possibility mourning her puppy, but you too have experienced a terrible loss. You’ve lost a dear friend, and that is one of the worst kinds of heartache I’ve ever known. I hope before you rush to mend this friendship, you will slow down a bit, put down your telephone, and make room for your own thoughts of sorrow and grief.
That’s not to say this friendship is over.
I cannot predict the future. It’s possible that you and your friend will reconnect down the road, but for now, what was once a space of warmth and intimacy has been replaced by an icy stillnes. That is necessary awfully painful and frightening, specially think that the reasons for your breakup feel so beyond your control. How could you have anticipated her dog’s demise? And how were you to know that adopting your own puppies would trigger her so profoundly? Not be reminded that, as you point out, you are not responsible for sharing your own epithet with your friend’s dead dog.
But before you analyze all the best modes for “fixing” this mangled connection, I think it’s important that you make room for your own sadness and discouragement. You can’t show up for your best friend if you aren’t depicting up for yourself. And you can’t give much in the way of support “if youre trying to” simultaneously pressuring her to comfort and reassure you in her own hour of need. Social media encourages this kind of rushed validation. We share, we comment, we like, like, like, and we fall victim to the false suggestion that an immediate reaction is the best reaction. Sometimes it’s much better, and much more healing, to go slow.
So let’s focus on what you do know about what you can and did control. You made a choice to show up for your best friend by sharing a post about her deceased pet. I can see why this may have felt like a loving gesture on your end, but I can also imagine that your best friend had an opportunity to felt like you were co-opting her grief. This was, after all, her loss. And no matter how closely you have had to face your own heartache you cannot know her sorrow the way she can. You is simply give adoration and supporting. And some of the best supporting requires that we ask our loved ones what they need. This can be difficult, vulnerable project. It might be more comfortable to rushing to soothe person than it is to sit in the inconvenience of admitting that you aren’t sure what they need. But letting your friend know that you wanted to show up for her in the precise way that she needed to be cared for might have avoided some of her discomfort.
That said, I don’t believe that you failed your best friend or misstepped so seriously that she will never forgive you. I believe it’s obvious that you two are operating from a place of care, even if you may have failed to anticipate her actual necessities. Perhaps you can ask yourself why you assumed you knew what she would need. Is it possible you wanted to push past the inconvenience of her grief into this space of celebrating a new chapter because of your relationship to your own heartache? How were you allowed to grieve your own losses in the past? Who constructed space for you? Did anyone crowd you or urge you to share when you weren’t quite ready to open up? How have you coped and how is that filtering into how you expect your friend to be?
I also wonder if you can deem your friend’s distance not as a penalty but as evidence that she is trying to discern how best she can take care of herself. She may need to retreat into her own world for a while, and that is her right. Being that you too are familiar with heartbreak, I am sure you are already well aware that nobody is has the right to tell you how to mourn. Your heartache is yours to manage and you are entitled to all the subsistence or space you need to get through it. If your best friend necessitates space, one of the most loving things you can do might be to actually give her that space.
I likewise wonder if part of what your friend needs right now isn’t texts and Instagram posts but the solace of IRL connection. If you find her in person and she seemed the presence of your care, unfiltered by terms, the remarks and curated photos, might she find more consolation in that?
Well, there’s merely one lane to know. You’ve got to ask. Tell your friend you want to be there for her and ask her what she needs. Perhaps she is likely to be unsure. Perhaps she won’t know what to tell you. Maybe there will be more dreaded stillnes on her end. But if you promise to leave the door open for when she’s ready, if you are able make room for your own sadness while you await, I have a feeling she will find her way back.