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Nancy Alvarez

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The Grief of Losing a Best Friend

Posted: 04/24/2012 5:13 pm

When I was a child, two things were most important to me: my girlfriends and creating a dance, a picture or a story to delight my soul. I don't know why both of these things were so important to me then, but they continued to be throughout most of my life. I studied dance with Kathleen Hinni when I was very young, and began choreographing dances almost immediately. I loved telling stories, especially with movement. I tried painting, but wasn't very good at it, so I gave it up quickly. I was better at song writing, poetry and jotting down little stories, so I kept at them. My two close friends in elementary school remained my best friends until we moved when I was in high school.

I made my first friend there in the school cafeteria. I was sitting with a girl from my homeroom, eating lunch, when a beanbag landed on my food tray. The Vice Principal stormed over, asking me if I had any idea who had thrown it. Since I didn't know anyone outside my homeroom, I said no. She glanced around, spied a dark-haired girl sitting across the room in a dress made from the same fabric as the beanbag, and stormed in her direction. Margaret denied throwing it, but got sent to detention for the week. When she explained to the teacher there why she had been sent to his after-school program, he laughed aloud and dismissed her. We became friends for life. The other friend I made there I met in French class. We have helped each other through many of life's difficulties, and until I moved to Washington, lived an hour and a half from one another for most of our adult lives.

In the past year, our friendship has dwindled away. We managed to see each other every couple of months for over twenty years and even joined the same women's group. Therapy became my mainstay after each of my two divorces; my friend, Beth, turned inward. After the third, she became bitter and angry. When I suggested counseling, she dismissed the idea: What could anyone say to her, anyway? She, herself, was a counselor. I couldn't understand her reluctance, but it really wasn't my business, so I backed off. Unfortunately, I found it more and more difficult to be around her because of the negativity. We still talked on the phone quite often. I knew she was unhappy with me, but I was baffled about what to do.

I stopped making suggestions to her about getting help, but she became more angry. That I had little time because of the memoir I was marketing didn't seem to make much difference to her. I wasn't available enough. Eventually she became angry enough at me to strike out with words: about my work, the new love in my life and even my "drama" over the illness of one of my grandchildren.

Nightmares about us come and go. We're in the woods; she runs away and I can't find my way to her or my way out of the maze. I drive to her house, but it is empty. She accuses me of terrible crimes and I am silenced, so shocked that I can't defend myself. What I'm left with once I awaken is tremendous sadness.

When I have had tragedy in my life -- and by this time of life, who hasn't? -- I seek help so that I will not shut down, or be less available whatever life has to offer. Had I turned away from relationships after my second divorce, I would never have begun one with the man I now live with. I did take six years to examine my part in the demise of that marriage, and worked hard at altering my behaviors. This work really bore fruit for me in both my personal and professional lives. Nevertheless, I found my friend's minimalist view of what was now possible in life for her deeply disturbing. She experienced my distress as judgment, which in a way, it was. So a friendship of forty years has come to a close.

I still feel her loss deep in my heart. There are new friends because I am gregarious and friendship is still significant to me. I still have my writing, I still have other old friends and several newer ones and I have two grown daughters who rely on me and seem to relish my company. The relationship with the man in my life is flourishing. My own life has many gifts.

And I also know I have to accept loss as a part of life.

 

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