The dog and I filled multiple yard bags with weary plants, spent flower heads, and impressive weeds yesterday. Physical work always opens up pathways in my brain for thought. I reflected on the friends and family who were so much a part of my life when Justin was killed, and who no longer are part of my tribe. Collateral losses, those losses which are secondary in nature, losses that accompany an event. I read in grief literature about how our friends would change, that those you were close to before the death of your child may drift away.
I kept having the same re-occurring thought though as I was stuffing twigs and leaves into bags, the love and affection that was exchanged during that time of Justin’s death was real, the beautiful gifts of time, treasure, and talent were genuine in that moment. Love, generosity, kindness, these things are true and they are not tarnished by the separation of ways at a later time. People part ways for whatever reason, but the memories remain, goodness lasts, and that we can cherish, even smile in remembrance. I hold the memories of friendships before Justin’s death with great fondness, I can look back now and realize I can treasure those times even if the relationships will never be the same.
The parting of ways isn’t dramatic, but subtle, a drifting as different winds catch our sails. I have read where some friendships dissolve after the death of a child and some may be quick to say that those people really weren’t your friends. I thought about that all day and I don’t feel that to be true, at least not for me. I believe that they were true and good friends, but we undergo such profound changes, some of them rapid, some awaken in us slowly as we learn to live without our child, that we may become someone they would not choose to call friend. As we embrace those changes that can come from being open to post-traumatic growth, sometimes very little of the old self remains, we may not even look the same. Perhaps as I have grieved those secondary losses, those who were once close grieve the loss as well.
I have found with the collateral losses there have been gains as well. I have friendships that have deepened and grown sweeter with time, new friendships that have blossomed and bring a lightness to my heart. I have found a new found peace about relationships, they are never ours to grasp or to hold forever. Relationships are like water, they flow, rushing, curving, meandering, but never static, we travel with someone for a bit, then our little stream may split off to travel a different course. And just like you cannot hold water in your hand, it always spills out, you only grasp it for a second, we can’t hold on to people either. So we open our hands and let go, everyone has their own journey.
I treasure those moments now when I am in the presence of a friend, knowing that this could be the last time we sit and share our thoughts, I try to make a memory of their beauty, what is dear to them. And the same with family, we never know what event may occur that may part us, that might change the dynamic that lends our gatherings its unique character, so my heart takes a picture of those moments.
Collateral losses can be deep and many, but so can the peace in choosing to remember the love.