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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Your Dying Spouse 290 - When Friends Fall Away

We're linked with Messy marriage's From Messes To Messages - please visit Beth's place for some great marriage resources!

One of the most distressing things about being a caregiver (or a patient) is the loss of friends, the falling-away of community.

I hope that you have a core of steadfast and stalwart people who stand by you, who are there in loving support, gently taking some of the burdens when you can't carry them. There to listen, and to speak love into your heart.

But there are inevitably others, some on whom you'd been sure you could count, who fade away.

You notice that gradually the phone rings less often, there are fewer Facebook or twitter chats, and Instagram goes quiet.

Your inbox is full of offers from Ebay and not much else, and everyone seems to be so busy.

Your friends are going from strength to strength o Facebook, and you feel like you're strugging through a swamp...and you sometimes feel so alone.

What's going on? Why are you suddenly forsaken?

Well, this -

  • When you're a caregiver of patient, a lot of people just don't know what to say, so they don't say anything, thinking their words will be trivial or trite. After not saying anything for awhile, they feel it will be hard to come back. They're ashamed of their silence, and therefore perpetuate it.
  • Some folks feel that associating with the sick is bad luck, that it'll invite illness into their life. It's a silly superstition, yes, but it's rooted in a primal dread of illnesses that really were fatally contagious. Cancer are heart disease and the like aren't catching, but somehow they feel like an evil miasma that may ensnare those in attendance.
  • Some don't want to get in the way. Caregiving and illness are all-consuming, and they don't want to place demands on you for interaction. They think you're too busy.
  • Illness is depressing, and there are those who can't bear to see it, because they're afraid of what they might one day face. The caregiver and patient become a symbol of something fearful.
None of these are hard to understand, and we've all felt these at some point in our lives. Friends who 'drop' you are very rarely subscribing to the Pirates' Code: "He who falls behind is left behind."

But it sure feels that way, doesn't it?

Is there anything you can do, short of metaphorically running after them and tugging on their shirtsleeves, saying, "Hey, please, come back!"?

Yes, there is. You can keep the road back open.
  • Stay in touch; even if you get no response, send the occasional email, and keep them friended on Facebook, sharing posts and status.
  • When you talk to them, don't but these people on the spot. Be gracious and welcoming, and show an interest in their lives, genuine interest in their problems (even when they seem so much less serious than your own).
  • Pray for them, because at some level they know they've turned away in your hour of need, and it will eat at their hearts.
  • Don't take it as a judgement on you; see their weakness for what it is, their handicap.
What do you think? How do you deal with fallen-away friends?

A bit of news..."Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart" has come home! Tate Publishing has gone south, and I regained the rights, so it'll soon be available in both Kindle hardcopy versions once again. In the meantime, if you absolutely can't wait (!), you can still get used copies from Amazon.

I have another blog, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Mick Jagger) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update... been moved to a sanctuary, and Bay County will revise their 'dangerous dog' codes.


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  1. i've heard this cry from many couples i've worked with who were living through terminal illness. the abandonment was like rubbing salt into wounds. you've spoken clearly, Andrew. i hope many take heed.


    1. Linda, thanks so much...and yes, it can be like rubbing salt into a wound. It can really, really hurt.

      Thanks so much for being here!

  2. Such wise words! I had this very thing happen to me when I was caring for my dad. The lessons you outline are ones that all should embrace. Thank you!

    1. Mary, I'm so sorry you had to go through this experience. I truly appreciate your sharing this, and your being here.

  3. Very helpful post! The bridges are less traveled, but they are still there until someone burns them.
    Blessings on you and Barbara!!!

    1. Tammy, that's exactly right. Burning them is a choice, and all too often one made in the throes of pain and anger.

      Love and blessings back, from all of us.

  4. Yes, this is so true, Andrew. In fact, I experienced something similar when I was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago. I had several very close friends who didn't reach out to me and when this lingered into months and even a year, I heard through the grapevine that they were too ashamed to reach out to me at that late juncture. Thankfully, those friendships have come back around. But it is a very bitter pill that comes with illness sometimes. People don't know how to respond or how to deal with their own lack of initiative. Thanks so much for reminding us how to keep these friendships alive, even if it means we must do all the initiating at first. I do hope you're feeling some better. Still praying for you daily, my friend!

    1. Oh, Beth, I am so sorry you had to go through this. And so glad that the friendships were not lost for good.

      Shame can do so much damage; so much better to reach out with an "I'm sorry I have been so long away."

      I so appreciate your prayers, and you have been in mine daily, too.

  5. I'm so sorry your former friends aren't there for you, but those of us who only know you online try to be.

    1. Jan, the online friendships are truly what sustain my soul. One friend from the past does remain, a former student - he and his wife are just wonderful (Jed, if you're reading this, we love you!).

      I had once been skeptical of the strength of online friendships; no more. They carry me.

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, Andrew. It's very gracious to advise keeping the lines of communication open with those who've seemed to abandon you; you're right, it is their issue, not yours.

    Just a thought about reaching out to the bereaved as well as to the sick person: when my mother died, one particular friend never contacted me (although 2 of her adult daughters did). When I finally saw her again (ironically at the funeral of another friend's parent), she was apologetic but also gave the explanation "There just isn't enough of me to go around." I don't believe that excuse, actually. Reaching out to a grieving person with a sympathetic email or phone call doesn't deplete or diminish us.

    1. Jeannie, you're absolutely right that this is a big issue for the bereaved; perhaps more so, for the loneliness can be much more profound. The patient and caregiver do have one another, and something of a schedule to keep the situation stable, with medical appointments and the like.

      But the bereaved have reached a terminus. And when there's no one waiting there to take their hand, it's awful.

      And yes, you are absolutely right that reaching out does not take away from us; it as something...something we may be in danger of losing if we step away.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  7. Replies
    1. Thank YOU, Rachel, for being here!

      You're in my prayers every day.

  8. Friendship is hard. Hard to know how to be one, how to keep one. I think we all have been on both sides of it. I'm right now in the middle of dealing with a friendship issue. I'm sorry for your loss of friends and I'm thankful for your advice. Keeping the door open and bitterness out is so important. And that's not easy either. Praying for you. Great thoughts!

    1. Mary, thank you for sharing this, and I will be praying for you.

      It is hard, and staying out of the bitterness of feeling abandoned...that's really tough. I have one stalwart old friend, a former student.And I thank God for his friendship, every day.

      Thanks so much for being here, and for the prayers!

  9. Andrew, this is a very helpful post and I have seen some of the things you mentioned in our situation, too. People don't mean to be uncaring, but I think it's true that sometimes they just don't know what to say or do so they avoid it. There are times when I've thought some people would become close friends and be a help, but then they fall away. But God always provides, and I think your suggestions are good to use for reaching out to our friends who may feel uncomfortable. Thank you for all you do share which really helps us understand more about what caregivers and their loved ones need.
    Blessings and comfort to you, dear Andrew and Barb.

    1. Gayl, thank you so much for this...you're so right, that folks really don't mean to be uncaring. They're not cold, they're just unsure and hesitant, and hesitancy, if it becomes inaction, leads to shame.

      And shame is the flip side of pride, the devil's deadliest weapon.

      Blessings to you and yours, Gayl, from all of us.

  10. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Norma. This means a lot to me, more than you know.

  11. When my dad died, young and early, everyone was there for my mom - for a of months. Then not so much.
    One wise friend made only passing contact the first couple of months, and then made a point of taking her out to lunch at least once a month for the rest of the year.
    Be that friend!

    1. Paul, thank you for sharing this...that really is true wisdom and grace your friend showed!