I debated a while before posting this. I've decided that though to some it might seem whiny, in my quest for authenticity and honesty, I'm posting it anyway.
Near the end of my freshman year of high school, my dear friend Madeleine died after about a year fighting cancer. I was thousands of miles away. My friends in Durham never knew her. Some had heard about her, both before the cancer and during. But it seemed everyone heard about it after she died.
Because I was crying all the time.
It was April 2004. I was 14 years old. My godmother had died two years earlier (incidentally, Madeleine was present when we found out the news), which was devastating. But somehow, the death of a friend shook me deeper to the core. She died two weeks--to the day--after her fifteenth birthday.
It's strange to think about that time. I was so young. And my friends were so young too, which is why I now can understand better why things changed so irrevocably between us after Madeleine died.
There was less than a month of school left when she died. For 14/15 year olds, my friends really were incredibly supportive. They were caring and kind--helping me to talk about it if I wanted to, and helping me find space to not talk about it if that's what I needed. And I cried a lot. And as I said previously, I really hate crying in public, but most of the time, my friends were very considerate, so it wasn't always as uncomfortable.
School ended a few weeks later. That summer was spent traveling the U.S. with my grandparents as usual and spending time with our extended family in Texas and North Carolina. My grief wasn't so new, but I was beginning to learn that it wasn't something that was going to "go away" or I was going to "get past." As grief always does to a person, it changed me.
When I got back to school in August, I just wasn't as into the superficial social scene anymore. This is no condemnation on who I was friends with--as I said, they were young too, and I never could've expected them to understand what I was going through. So my friends and I grew apart. I stopped getting invited to parties. For about six months, I ate lunch alone. I got really into an online message board, and for a while there, the people on there were really my best friends.
No one wanted to hang out with the sad girl.
I felt closed off from them. These same people who had been so supportive in April/May had forgotten about it by August. But I was different. And obviously, I couldn't forget. And I was sad all the time. And I get it, I just wasn't really that fun anymore. They didn't try to help me. But you know, I really didn't reach out to them either.
By the end of sophomore year, I became closer to someone who is now still one of my best friends, and in the next three years, we always ate lunch together. The sadness wasn't as all encompassing after a while. I was still a very different person than who I had been, but being social wasn't as much of a challenge as it had been when I was still so deep in grief.
Nine years later, I'm 24 and my mom died only five months ago.
Again, I have to say, I have really great friends. But I have also seen another side to some of them. I will never, ever forget those that did everything they could to be at Mama's funeral in TX and/or memorial service in NC. And sadly, I will never forget the people that were glaringly missing.
At the first news of death, people come out of the woodwork from every part of my life. People I hadn't talked to in 10 years. People I had only met that one time. And I was grateful and overwhelmed by the support. But especially grateful for the love and support from my closest friends.
But as the months go by, everyone else goes back to their lives. I have done the best I can. But I have such a difficult time staying connected to my friends. It takes enormous effort for me to even get out of bed most days, so trying to call my friends or hang out with them seems an insurmountable task. But when I do, it has been exactly what I needed. But the ones I have been able to spend time with has given me insight of who is willing to hang out with the "sad girl." And though I try to have grace for the ones I haven't seen in a long time, it is painful.
Sometimes I try to not be sad so that I'm more interesting to hang out with. And it's not that I cry all the time--I really don't. But I'm sad. And though I enjoy taking a break on that and living and truly enjoying my life, whether it be with my friends, family, or alone, it feels dishonest to pretend that my life isn't a jumble of sadness and grief and guilt, even if there is still some joy mixed in.
I don't want to be the sad girl that no one wants to hang out with. But that's my life right now. And I know from experience (unfortunately), that I will lose some friends forever in this time--those that cannot deal with my grief--but I will also gain others and strengthen relationships with the people who can. I don't need pity, but I need a space of love and support. I need you to bear witness to the fact that this is an impossible thing I am dealing with, yet I am still dealing with it.
And I also know that in time, I won't be this sad girl anymore. I know I will carry my Mama with me every where, every day of my life, but slowly, imperceptibly, it won't be so heavy a burden to bear.