I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends lately, especially because I don’t get to see them in person very often. Yes, sometimes I’ll pass someone on a walk a catch up for a moment, and yes, I do like to connect virtually. But as we all know, it’s not really the same as having a group of people gathered around your kitchen island, drinking beer and making chili and laughing about the week.
I’ve also been remembering all of the support they have provided me over the past two and a half years. There are so many ways that my friends have kept me afloat that it’s hard to list it all out. But no one person did everything for me. My different friends have supported me in different ways. Some have been my go-to friends when I needed to cry and others have run with me through the pain. Some have cheered me up with a beer and others have calmed me down with a box of chocolates.
And I’ve needed them all. So I decided to make a short list of the five kinds of friends that a widow needs. No, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s one that encompasses a lot of the different kinds of friends that have been really important to me in recent years.
- A widow friend. It doesn’t really matter how or when this person was widowed, but you need someone who really gets it. I met my widow friend Abena in a spousal loss group, just a few months after both of us lost our husbands. She understood me like no one could in those early days, and she provided me with an outlet when I just needed to scream about the injustice of it all and know that she totally GOT IT. Like in her core. If you can’t meet someone like Abena in person, there are online groups that can connect you with others who are in the same boat. Even now, years later, I see Abena all the time and I always know she will really understand some of my most complicated emotions.
- An everyday friend. This is someone who was part of your life before and continues to be part of your life after widowhood. For me, I had a whole group of community members who filled this role, but maybe none better than Becky and Michelle. They were the people I could text that I had run out of milk and then I’d find some on my porch an hour later, and I didn’t have to feel guilty about inconveniencing either of them. If you’re wondering who is your “everyday friend,” well, it’s someone who will pick up your kids every single day for a year, and never think a thing about it, because if the roles were reversed, you’d do it too.
- An old friend. When I was a new widow, I can remember often thinking that I didn’t really know who I was anymore. I was so lost without Shawn. I needed a friend who could remind me of who I was before Shawn and could say, “you may not know yourself right now, but I know you, and you’ll be okay.” When Shawn died, my friends Paige and Kelly came and stayed for a week. They had known me back when I was going to crazy parties in college and deciding to take my first job abroad. They had seen me through the entirety of my love story with Shawn. And so they came and they sat with me in those moments (and so many moments afterwards) and they figured out how to help me know myself again, too.
- A friend of the opposite sex. This is one you probably don’t need right away (and as a caveat, this may be a member of the same sex, depending on your sexual orientation.) But it’s someone who you can provide a different viewpoint on life, especially if you want to talk about dating. Sure, I could ask my girlfriends what they thought of the men I was seeing, but there was something really useful about having a man around to discuss my latest mini-crushes and funny dating stories. I found it invaluable to be able to ask my friend Andy, “does this guy seem crazy to you?” and see what he said. He provided a new perspective and a balance to all of the female voices around me.
- A friend who will push you. This person doesn’t necessarily need to be your best friend. It’s someone who can tell it like it is, and make sure you keep moving when it’s needed. My friend Abby is this person for me. Do I see her every day? No. But when things are rough, it’s like Abby somehow knows, even without me telling her. She’ll send me a text and when I admit that things are more difficult than usual, she’ll follow up a hundred times. She will ask me probing questions and she will get me to say “yes” more than I say “no.” She’s the kind of friend that will coax me to go out to a bar when I’m feeling down, greet me as I walk in the door and ask, “do you want a beer or a glass of wine?” and then upon seeing my face will say, “actually, it seems like we need shots. Bartender, two shots!”
There are more types of friends I have, because of course there are. But if I have one wish for a new widow, it’s that she’s surrounded by friends of all sorts – the funny and the comforting, the wild and the calm, the old and the new.
Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.