Amen to friendship.

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This post on friendships and illness and grieving at Eve’s blog speaks miles for me. In this post, she speaks of friends who disappeared in her time of need, leaving a void. A void, she realized, that was ultimately within herself.

Oh.

I am still angry, still hurt by this painful pulsing void in my own spirit.

I had a friend call me up a week after I’d returned from burying my mother-in-law to tell me how much she hated her. The image of her body (sans coffin, per Israeli and Jewish tradition), going straight into the ground, the screams and wailing in the air (I was told later that that was me even though I swore it was someone else), and the week of sitting shiva afterwards, in shock, was too new and too raw. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I remember feeling horror and shock as I drove across the Bay Bridge, hearing her cold words on the cellphone. She began with her usual “I’m sorry for what happened,” and then proceeded to bitch about my mother-in-law. What could possess her to bitch about the dead like that? I did not have a perfect relationship with my mother-in-law, but in those moments, I felt a profound grief (and still do) in losing her from this world.

When I was sick and in the first steps of recovery, I had my disappointments, even though I tried to understand–what was going on? Some of my friends didn’t seem to care. And if they were dealing with personal pain, I didn’t know. Thank goodness for the friends who did come by, who did call, who did genuinely check in with me and held my hand. Several of my friends even wrote me unprompted emails of guidance and advice, emails that gave me endless comfort in knowing that what I was going through was not an entirely lonely event. Shit happens, and I will make it.

Oh, and then there’s the ridiculously fictional “Desperate Housewives” episode! I watched it with interest, seeing that this was an episode in which Lynette (suffering from cancer) asked her friends for support–what would they say or do? Gabby looked away and clammed up. She wasn’t there for Lynette. I give her credit though, she didn’t sling something back in Lynette’s face. And kudos to Lynette for staying so f*cking calm and rational and logical and telling Gabby exactly what she needed and being incredibly supportive, even though she’s staring death in the face!

But of course–by the end of the hour-long episode, Gabby had opened up and told Lynnette why she was so absent–she had her own pain (her uncle had died when she was young and she was not allowed to face her fears and cry, therefore scarring her emotionally), and was scared that Lynnette would die and she didn’t know what to say or do. Gee. Like that (behavior) is so realistic. In reality, people don’t go through about 100 years of therapy inside of 45 minutes to discover why they can’t be there for their friends and then figure out a way to open up and share and ultimately be there in support. And in reality, sick people just don’t have the energy or capacity to be so rational and calm and logical. That’s why people take care of THEM instead of the other way around.

I’ll never know why some people weren’t there for me. I only got the vibe, bottomline, that they didn’t care enough to reach out to me, or to overcome their pain and fear, or to have the bravery to tell me why they couldn’t be there.

So in the spirit of Eve’s post…I have to figure out what this void inside of me is all about. It is a big strange void, one that screams, “Lonely!” Weird. It hurts, it really really does. And I am going to take a deep dark look.

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11 Comments

Filed under Life, SuddenDeath, The Stroke

11 responses to “Amen to friendship.

  1. Eve

    Oh, Jade… I feel sad after reading this. I hope you don’t assume that you have a void just because I did. I had carried a few too many self-involved people in my life because of my responses to my own history. I do think we can each benefit from looking at ourselves, though, because in the end, we’re the only ones we get to work on, to change.

    I especially liked what you wrote about sick people. That’s exactly right: we’re supposed to take care of people when they’re sick, and also when they’re grieving or otherwise in extreme circumstances. And afterward, too.

    I’m especially shocked that a friend would talk ill of your mother-in-law so soon after she died; but then a memory of my brothers talking ill about my grandmother as we sat with her body suddenly rushes into my mind and I realize that death stirs up all sorts of stuff that makes people do shocking things. Because of the grief and loss, we can do nothing to deal with their stuff and their rudeness, so we never really get to resolve it.

    It’s interesting that you’d write about voids today, because I was just talking with one of my daughters about voids. It’s as big a danger to fall into one as it is to try to fill it with the wrong thing. Something or someone leaves, and a void is there. Now what?

    I’ll be waiting to see what you find, if you care to share it, and whether it’s as deep and dark as you feared. And why it’s lonely… do you miss one particular friend? (I did, and could write a *lot* about that!).

  2. No matter how much one hates another, that hatred (should) leave as soon as either (the hater or the hated) passes on. Talking, demeaning, and/or insulting a person after they have passed on is completely undeserved.

    Death is an equalizer…

  3. my view is that i don’t speak ill of the dead, if i can’t say anything good, then i just shut up about it….

  4. teacherleila

    Hey, Jade, I am just dropping by. I don’t know what to say about the void – I know what it’s like, but I don’t know that any “advice” I could offer would help or console. I pray and I’ll pray for you, if that helps at all.

    It does strike me that with the year you have had, you may need plenty of time to grieve. Your illness was huge and you lost your mother-in-law (and went to Israel for that sad burial) all within a couple of months. These are huge stresses. And yes, some of the responses you got from alleged friends were shocking.

    I wasn’t around much for you because so overwhelmed with my own grieving and my power-drive through grad school, despite sadness and some pretty profound despair and self-hatred. I posted comments, and that’s it. But I hope I didn’t say anything so obnoxious as a couple of your other friends.

    Human beings are so … wacky. One day you’ll be able to write about these dysfunctional characters…(or maybe you already are?)

    Be well, and know that your kindness and thoughtfulness resonate among all manner of people. And cherish yourself. You are still vulnerable after this stressful time.

  5. This is so sad. I can’t blame it on anything else except that the feral reptilian part of a person’s brain can take over when they see any form of weakness near them. Of course I can say that now many years later because of the distance.

    When I was taking a break from college a family friend’s daughter was stricken w/leukemia and because of my parents issues with her parents we were forbidden to even say HELLO to her if we ever ran into her as if leukemia was contagious by conversation. Also it was because of the potential questions directed at me b/c of my break from school. I ran into her at Blockbuster once and I couldn’t even ask her how she was doing. She eventually went into remission and went back to school, only to die suddenly during summer session. Then things got even more loopy. I still think about all of that and how much better that could have been handled. I don’t think my parents feel badly about it, but I do. It was a bad year all around actually.

  6. off topic: please read this. a story by jonathan safran foer about grief and love and our language and it’s inadequacy and tell me if you think if it’s good, bad or just plain b.s.

  7. Oh, it is hard. I think we all have that loneliness in us, Jade, it’s just some of us actually notice and look enough to call it that, and some people just shop and eat and whatever and never quite put their finger on why none of it leads to real, abiding satisfaction. After bad stuff happens, we are way more able to notice it, even if dealing with it is harder.

    Also, there’s a more charitable understanding which is that people who see and feel the void are depressed, and that part of depression is a lack of the rosy glow that other people see when they look at the world, which they see for no good reason. Depressed or dysthymic people might even see some things more realistically than people who are in a “better state,” but their reasoning and tendencies in terms of interpretation are unfortunately skewed too. If that makes any sense?

    (I’m not saying you’re depressed, though if you are, it’s understandable. But you’re working your way out of a slump in life, right?)

    Death does weird, crazy things to people’s heads. My father’s death brought out all kinds of strange stuff in my own family, for example. In me, even, maybe.

    I actually disagree that people should “let go” of negative feelings towards people when they die: sometimes that’s silly and unnatural to demand of them. But people certainly shouldn’t tell someone in mourning how little they thought of the person being mourned. That’s just thoughtless.

  8. You are so amazing. The way you articulate things that feel fuzzy to me – the void/loneliness, you make them so clear.
    I am so shocked and sorry for you that a ‘friend’ said those awful things. I am always amazed by the insensitivity of some folks. So disrespectful. I can’t imagine that grief, even though I am trying to prepare somewhat (my MIL is ill – recently diagnosed with ALS) – I can’t imagine it. You are a strong person, although sometimes you may not feel like it.

  9. Eve: You know, your mention of the void did not register with me until I read your blog post a second time, several weeks later. So no worries, I did not look for it. But it did coincide with a chat I had with my husband who said that I just do not invest in the core of my being–that I keep focusing on peripheral issues in my life instead. Which then got me thinking, “Why am I not looking into the center?” Ah. Void.

    fishlamp: in an ideal world, that would happen. it’s amazing how the feelings (bad and good) for a person stick around after his/her death. bad stuff remains unresolved…good stuff buoys. so weird. but yes, insults and bitching should stay unuttered when talking to the grieving!

    no milk: right on.

    teacherleila: no worries–you have been very open about your own challenges, and i understand. thank you for your prayers.

    arirang: your story has pierced my psyche–what a painful and true portrayal of relationships with a backdrop of grief. some of the MOST valuable gifts ever given to me while i was in recovery were stories people told me–instinctively, people kept telling them to me, trying to awaken my storytelling synapses. they really did work. thank you for that story, it’s going to stick with me for a long time.

    no milk: i’ve printed it out! i’m going to read it. thank you!

    gordsellar: you are right–circumstances draw out that cell of loneliness. sometimes it lingers like a cloud, other times it shrinks into into a little dried up gourd. we do all have it.

    cindy: I’m sorry to hear about your MIL! 😦 We never want to be surprised by the shock of a loved one’s passing, but it is always a shock, even if we’ve been told everyday for a year. May you surround yourself with great friends, it looks like you have been. 🙂

    Thanks everyone, for your kind and thoughtful words.

  10. no milk: i read the jonathan safran foer story (“About the Typefaces Not Used In This Edition”)–you know, it totally reminded me of Aimee Bender’s story/piece “Some Romans” that was published in ZYZZYVA issue #70. it went through all the fonts (romans, helvetica, etc., etc.) it was totally wonderful.

    jonathan safran foer’s piece is like that–but in a different vein…and his piece reminds me of something that McSweeney’s would publish. i personally don’t like McSweeney’s, and i didn’t like this piece…but then again, there are a lot of people who like McSweeney’s and a lot of people who like things i don’t like.

  11. thanks jade. when i read it, i wanted to know what other people thought about the style that JSF wrote this in. i enjoyed it myself, though it was a bit cryptic. the reason being that there is also another story that he wrote in The New Yorker a couple of years ago that I had enjoyed. I wanted to know if I was just quirky or if it’s just b.s.

    with your level of “expert reading” 🙂 i wanted to see what you thought about this style of writing. thank you for taking the time to read it.

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