Chapter 5: Your changing relationships with other people
People seemed afraid to bring my partner’s name up. They were afraid of reminding me, but they couldn’t “remind” me because I’m not going to forget. When people do talk about her, it lets me know that they are thinking about her too, and that's comforting.
It is natural that, at first, you may not feel like socializing much. You may choose to just see those people with whom you feel most comfortable and supported. Below are some of the different situations you may be facing. Click on each one to read more.
…then many or most of your friends and family members will have spouses. You may now feel like a “third wheel” and not want to spend time with them. Or you may feel that they don’t want to spend time with you.
You may find it painful to see couples who seem happy together, even if you care deeply about them and would never wish them to feel the loss that you are feeling.
...then it may be that their “big presence” in social occasions is noticeably missing. Perhaps they initiated get-togethers or conversations, or they were “the life of the party.” You and others may now feel awkward and off-balance as everyone tries to find new ways of relating to each other.
…then you may also feel uncomfortable. Often people who care about you want to be helpful but just don’t know how. They may be afraid of doing or saying the “wrong thing,” or they may make hurtful or insensitive remarks. Some people may avoid you.
…then you may struggle with how to respond because you’re not sure how you will feel when the time comes.
You may be surprised by which friends step up and which ones disappear. You may encounter pity or compassion, withdrawal, or offers of help. Some people may be better able to provide practical support, such as meals, while others may be better at providing you with emotional support by listening and talking with you.
What may help
- Acknowledge that you and others will likely need time to adapt and adjust to the ways that your partner’s death has affected relationships and gatherings.
- Look for ways to stay connected to the people that have been important to you and your partner. These friends may carry memories or shared experiences that can be a source of comfort and familiarity.
- You may want to let friends know that you welcome hearing your partner’s name because it lets you know they haven’t been forgotten.
- Although there may be awkward situations, talking about feelings can pave the way to finding new ways to relate to one another.
- It’s okay if you don’t know what you need or if it changes from one day to the next, or even from one moment to the next. Talking about this with someone you trust can help you to figure out strategies.
- If you do lose friends during this time, recognize this as an additional source of grief.