I've spent a lot of time lately talking about friendship with those to whom I'm closest. Friendships are a hard thing, especially as an adult, even more so as a widow.
Statistics show a widow will lose 75% of her friends within the first YEAR of widowhood. Sadly I have found that to be true.
Looking back, widowhood has taught me more about friendship then I ever dreamed possible. Mostly, it taught me about what true friendship is, what it looks like.
The older I get the more I realize what a rare gift friendship is. It's one to be treasured and handled with care. True friendships are hard to find.
Following my support system loss, in the months and years after, I had to tackle a very real question.
What is true friendship?
After one such conversation recently a girlfriend sent me this quote by Jon Acuff that said this:
"You say "crisis," I say "friend filter." Nothing sorts relationships like a bump in the road. Celebrate who stayed. Forgive who didn't."
The truth in his words about knocked me out of my chair, because it is exactly what I have experienced in the last two years in particular.
Nothing, nothing is more of a friendship filter than crisis. Crisis is like a sucker punch to the gut, everything you thought you knew was wrong. What you thought would come to be is gone. The people you thought would be in your life forever were some of the first to leave.
It hurts. Deeply.
The second year of widowhood was one of real grief for the friendships I was losing. People I thought were my friends I never so much as heard from when Joel died. Other people I thought were friends that eventually quit coming around once we got farther down the road from the initial crisis point.
My heart was heavy at, what seemed to be, not just a loss of a husband but an entire life. Friendships dissapearing when I needed them the most.
Then I realized something.
A cold hard truth.
Those people were never really my friends to begin with. It's a hard realization to make, but one that can actually be freeing.
Because what remains is essentially what was only really true to begin with.
That shifted my thinking from:
I want as large a circle around me as possible.
No matter how small the circle I only want TRUE relationships in my life.
This past year became a year of trying, purposefully, to make my circle even smaller. I backed off on communicating with much of my large circle to see what would happen. I quit initiating and waited to see what the result would be.
Do you want to know another instant friend filter? Stop initiating on your end of the friendship and see what happens. If everything goes radio silent, that could mean it wasn't a true friendship but more of a one-sided effort.
I found this to be true in many of my relationships.
But this time my thinking had changed.
Instead of the grieving came rejoicing, because I was shedding what I should've never carried in the first place.
My circle was closing and I was ok, even more I was thriving.
Here are some truths I've learned about true friendship.
1. True friendship is not one-sided-It is a constant, mutual rhythm of giving and receiving.
2. True friends will be there for the long haul-Not just the moment of impact, but the far more needed road you travel after.
3. True friends remain even if you change-I am in no way the same girl I once was, my true girlfriends recognize that and have found common ground with the new me.
4. True friends love you where you're at-They're not just with you at the mountain top, but walk faithfully with you in the valleys.
5. True friendships are life-giving-You should always feel like you're leaving your friends presence a better version of yourself, not worse.
When you stop holding your hand so tightly to what was, you open your hand to what could be. In that I've realized I no longer want a vast circle, so I've purposefully pruned it down to a closed one.
In my case I've found narrowing my circle has allowed me more time to strengthen relationships with those who were truly my most faithful friends.
Since I've had more time to devote to the few, I've found my friendships growing and blossoming far beyond what they once were. As those relationships have begun to deepen, the sting of the broader losses have vanished.
Sometimes there's freedom in release.
Life has many natural ways of filtering out what's not good for us. What is true will always remain. If you'll embrace it, in the end you'll be better off because of it.
"It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only close with those to whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter or leave, but you will soon find yourself losing your soul.
When you claim for yourself the power over your drawbridge, you will discover new joy and peace in your heart and find yourself able to share that joy and peace with others. -Henri J.M. Nouwen"