Non-supportive friends after a bereavement

Has anyone else found that the people being supportive after a bereavement has been surprising or disappointing?

I have numerous friends who have hardly contacted me in the four months since my mum died, and conversely, people who I would have considered acquaintances who’ve kept in touch with me and been very kind and supportive when I wouldn’t necessarily have expected them to be.

A woman who I have always thought of as a very close friend has repeatedly ignored my attempts to make plans and meet up, even when I explicitly told her I was having such a hard time that I had been signed off sick from work again. Now, weeks later she has messaged me to let me know all about her new boyfriend but not even asked how I am. Because I haven’t replied, she has followed up with numerous messages asking why I haven’t replied and if I’m ‘too busy’ or, eventually, if I’m annoyed at her.

I am now annoyed that she sees nothing wrong with ignoring me for weeks on end but can’t even give me the space of a few days to reply to her, and that she has turned out to be so inconsiderate of what I’m going through.

I find myself increasingly relying on a small number of people who’ve been consistently helpful, supportive and understanding. I start to worry that I might lean too heavily on them and become a burden, even though they’ve never suggested that.

But it’s disappointing to see how many supposed friends just seem not to care that I’ve lost my mum, or are simply not interested enough to even call or text, much less offer to meet me.

I read somewhere recently that suffering a bereavement makes you ‘rewrite your address book’ as you find the people you can and cannot rely on, and I am now really starting to feel the truth in that - I cannot imagine continuing friendships with people who have been so disinterested in what has been the hardest time of my life.

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It is shocking isn’t it. I also experienced this. The people I thought would stick by me either went silent or actively had a go at me. People I only thought of as colleagues or acquaintances surprised me by caring more than I thought they would. Then this forum of people I don’t know, never met and who owe me nothing has given me great support. I couldn’t have predicted any of this and I am still left reeling by the way some people acted towards me. A colleague I sat on the desk opposite to for ten years didn’t say anything at all to me about the death of my husband (who he’s met and heard stories about all these years). A girl I’ve been friends with for 25 of my 40 years had a massive go at me about my husband and we broke friends.

It seems particularly unfair that when we need them most people can’t step up but it seems to be the way it just is. Sorry that you lost your mum, it sounds ver hard. I hope you find some comfort here where it is lacking from others. Take care.

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I am sorry that you have lost your mum.

I lost my husband in September. Friends and even some family have left me more than disappointed. One family member sends the occasional text, usually to tell me how their retirement plans are going and throw in the odd ‘stay strong’. Well I am not strong, perhaps if they called they would know this. My husband considered he had many friends and used to mock me for just having a small select group - my reply was always ‘your mates are not friends they are acquaintances’. Regrettably my comments proved to be correct following his death and his so-called friends are only noticeable by their absence in my and my family’s darkest hours.

You are spot-on about re-writing your address book. Some have been deleted but other friendships have been strengthened and for those I have found the saying ‘friends are like stars, you don’t always see them but you know they are always there’ to be so true.

I too worry about over-burdening those I can count on. I sometimes send my friends a text to see if they are free/available and wait for the response (not always great particularly when you just want to scream, shout or cry) but they at least let me know if they are busy for whatever reason and it saves an unanswered call which sometimes in the early days I misconstrued as ignoring me.

We have two adult children - son and daughter - fortunately they have good supportive friends which I am glad of. When my husband died I rang each of our children’s Godfathers and part of the conversation was asking them to step into the roles we had carefully chosen them for in such an event. They have not let us down.

Take care

I have been really upset by some friends, and also some family. My siblings talk to each other - as I discovered recently - but not to me, despite my gently asking for time to chat, if they would like to. Clearly they don’t. People who have known me for 25 years, who I met up with recently when we were able to meet in gardens, never asked me how I was or mentioned my mum - it was so painful to feel it so ignored. Some friends have never replied to my texts at all. And yet someone who has only ever known me remotely, because of volunteering work I do, has texted me almost every week to see how I am. I have two really good friends who have supported me since the day mum died, and I am endlessly grateful to them for that. It’s a hurtful way of discovering who really is ‘there for you’…

My children are lovely and supportive, but they are grieving for their granny so I don’t ask them - I have probably leaned hardest on my husband, and he has been there every time,

Take care all - this site has shown me that there are so many people who care xx

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Hello Smeats
I can identify with a lot of what you’ve said.
However I have one friend who has been amazing. She has kept in touch with me every day, not asking how I am but just little bits of chat, telling me about her day, making me smile.

I have another friend who lost her Mum some years ago but I have barely heard from her. People seem to think that saying “here if you need me” is enough. Well it isn’t! I don’t feel I can burden anyone else with my grief. What am I supposed to say?

Lots of other people haven’t bothered at all and some people who I wouldn’t have considered friends or even casual acquaintances have surprised me by getting touch regularly.

I realise dealing with a grieving person isn’t easy but I hope I’ve always been supportive to others and not just ignored them. I like to think I haven’t.

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Same here. Some people “don’t know what to say” but my argument is, well say that! Complete radio silence is akin to abandoning me in my time of need. If they continue to make it all about them & how they don’t know what to do, then that’s a poor excuse in these times of every answer you can think of being available on google.
I shan’t forget who suddenly showed their true colours of being “fair weather friends”, waiting silently in the background until the old, happy me reappears for friendship fun. Because the old me isn’t coming back from this.

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I can relate to what you say about friends.

I had some unusual reactions to my situation of being a carer for my daughter diagnosed with terminal cancer and bedridden at 28 - “I have tickets for a gig. Come along the rock band are great, it’ll cheer you up!” as being the only contact from that friend. I had to let him go after he cancelled Christmas Day with me (at 10pm Christmas Eve by text) which we had planned to save me being alone. He said “oh I was only going to pop in for an hour anyway in passing” which was a lie as we had chosen our dinner menu which I had shopped for. Another one kept putting pressure on me to DJ her birthday party as I had originally agreed to do, but my daughter died 6 weeks beforehand and I couldn’t do it in front of a crowd etc so cancelled. She made it clear that she was very disappointed. She also had tried to help by totally rearranging my life and had no concept of grief (I was actually in shock and she took advantage of the situation and wanted me to help her further her career to “take my mind off it all”). I had to let her go as a friend.

I also had all the usual “if you need anything” offers from people but when you do ask, they seem surprised and a bit caught out. The male friend as mentioned earlier actually said “this isn’t like you at all. This isn’t the strong woman you usually are”. I said something like “No. Things have changed” but inside I was saying “That’s because my only daughter died 4 weeks ago - wtf do you expect?” but I didn’t as I might not have stopped there and got into trouble! You never know with heated emotion vs people who press your buttons.

Then there are as my daughter described them as the “groupies” - people who come from nowhere (not even acquaintances but friends of friends) who are falling over themselves to help in a way that just feels weird and wrong. One person had lost her mum a year earlier to cancer and wanted to come and nurse my daughter with cancer as it would help her from missing her mum. My daughter didn’t want to know and this person kept trying and also afterwards when I was grieving. She might have been a good kind person but I was too vulnerable to know for sure or to be able to be vigilant with an unknown stranger.

Also I find telling new people of my loss difficult. People become speechless and seem shocked and I don’t want them to pity me or see me differently. Does anyone else get this issue? I try and delay telling them so as not to put them off.

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Dear TerryLady

I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter.

My husband died in a road traffic accident in September so the majority of friends and family are aware. However, yesterday I bumped into a former neighbour - from her greeting I knew instantly she had not heard about my husband. It was a difficult conversation and I do get the pity aspect of what you mention. In terms of seeing me differently, unfortunately I have lost so much weight and aged so much since my husband died it is laid bare for all to see.

I understand - and take the same approach - of being vigilant. I received so many scam phone calls, texts and messages after my husband died.

I am disappointed at friends and even a few relatives. This weekend just gone two said they would call. I waited but no calls came and no texts to explain.

I find this site an outlet to say what we would sometimes like to say to people who have no idea what we are going through.

Take care.

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Thank you Sheila.

I think its so sad that people just can’t manage to do the right thing so often. It doesn’t take much to just phone or send a card or something.

It’s difficult when friends are trying to be kind but it’s way off the mark (and you can see through it as its more about them).

All I need (and I am slowly getting it) is a group of friends (I have no family) who will just come round and drop by and watch a film or hang out in the garden with but have a regular supply of people to keep me company. They don’t have to be wonderful but just pleasant and decent people whom I can build a … (here we go …) “new normal” with.

I tell people I’m having one of my Crying Days and they seem to understand even if they still try to cheer me up rather than just sit with me (which I understand is difficult). I think we need courses on how to be with a grieving person as it can be quite funny seeing people awkwardly tiptoeing on eggshells or talking all about their latest endeavour/project to “take your mind off it”. Umm no. I feel like saying “Sorry mate, but your attempts to take my mind off it make you look like a right t*sser! I watched my daughter die and I buried her myself, and why am I interested in your new house extension??” But I let them prattle on knowing that it’s me that has had the unusual experience and that they haven’t and cannot possibly understand.

Easter wasn’t a good one. All I could think about was children egg hunting and wishing I had grandchildren as she wanted so much before her illness. I stayed in rather than go to the park for a walk. How miserable a place can the park be? All those smiling people together in families or couples - I feel like saying to them “cherish every moment and just love your togetherness- it will change, everything changes. They may be gone tomorrow. Just love each other”. Maybe if I was in New York, I would take a loud hailer :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:.

Anyway another sunny day to try and enjoy but … where to begin. It’s daunting.

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Dear TerryLady

I can so relate to your observations of others. One of my brother-in-laws keeps contacting me to tell me how wonderful his and his wife’s retirement plans are going and how they are preparing the garden to install their outside bar so that they can party - and then invite me as if I want to party. I suffer in silence but when he pushes too much I am afraid he gets it both barrels.

Fortunately I have a couple of good friends who will just sit and listen, not (as you say) think it is their job to somehow cheer me up.

I have my husband’s birthday approaching at the weekend - going to be difficult.

Oh Sheila- I feel for you with his birthday weekend in the horizon. Either no one else much remembers or everyone remembers and it can make it more upsetting (but its nice that they think of him and you). There’s no easy way I find.

I buy flowers for the table and a birthday cake with a lit candle all day next to it. The idea is that people can drop in for a slice but previously and since Covid no one ever did. So it felt piggy of me to have to scoff half of it and I could imagine her disapproving and saying that I should watch my weight as I’m getting older! I then go to the cemetary.

Do you have any ritual Sheila?

Dear TerryLady

This will be my husband’s first birthday since he died. I have no rituals. I did get out our wedding photos a couple of days before our anniversary but that rather crippled me emotionally.

My husband promised our son and his partner that he would be their child-minder and so I have honoured that commitment and gave up work. My time is now taken up looking after a 15 month old with a new addition arriving last Friday. They are wonderful distractions but also serve as a reminder of what my husband is missing and I find that quite difficult.

Take care

Sheila - its lovely to have little children around though and remind us of all the time they have ahead and how we can be part of that. And our usefulness as grandparents!

A women I knew used to love to doze off in the afternoon in the chair with the cricket on the radio as half-asleep it felt like he was still there. It’s not the same with a 20+ yr old girl who liked heavy metal but maybe it could work for you if haven’t already tried that.

Xx

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Not sure if anyone is still reading this thread, it’s been a while since I last logged in. But just to say that the more time goes on, the more stark the distinction between ‘good’ / ‘bad’ friends has been for me.

Someone who I previously thought of as one of my closest friends has hardly spoken to me. I’ve repeatedly told her I am struggling and asked if we can meet, but she ignores me each time - then comes back to be with a general ‘how are you, hope you’re OK’ message weeks later, only to ignore me again when I suggest meeting up. And a friend who owes me £500 that I asked for back as I’d been on sick leave again and was short of money - 6 weeks later I still don’t have my money and she never even asked why I’d been off or if I was OK!

The truth is, I feel almost a sense of relief from just deciding to let these friends go rather than hold on and hope for them to care. Focus on the people who have been so supporting and gone out of their way to help, even (especially) the ones you wouldn’t have necessarily expected it from.

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