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2 weeks after my husband died, my friend dumped me for being "too draining".

As told to Ann DeGrey

When my husband Ben was diagnosed with an aggressive stage four cancer, it felt like my life had imploded. We were told we’d have three-six precious months with him, but instead, he was dead within four weeks. Ben was really the epitome of the saying "only the good die young." He was only 42 and he was a kind and loving man – a fantastic partner and a great father to our two daughters

While many of my friends whinged about their "useless" partners, I’d have to keep my mouth shut because there really wasn’t anything about Ben that was negative – apart from wanting a LOT of sex – but that only annoyed me when I was tired! 

When he died, I was an absolute wreck. I sent the girls to my parents and my best friend Ellie moved in with me. I was a zombie; I couldn’t sleep and when I did drift off, I felt like my grief made me hallucinate that Ben was beside me. I’d reach out to touch him and then feel absolutely gutted when reality hit me and I’d tell myself, "He’s dead. You will never see him again." One night Ellie came into my room saying she heard me screaming. I was on the floor, lying in the foetal position and crying uncontrollably. I have no memory of this, but I do remember her holding me later and letting me cry into her hair. 

She was the most amazing friend. So strong, very wise and so loving – she was all I needed during my lowest time. She made nutritious food for me at a time when eating was the last thing on my mind. She cleaned my house and, most importantly, she took over my mobile phone – answering calls and texts for me because there was no way I could talk to anybody. 

Ellie organised Ben’s funeral – from booking the church, ordering food and drinks for the wake at the local surf club, to choosing flowers for the service and even writing the eulogy for me. 

Ellie also wrote a special letter from myself to Ben – I gave it the okay and it was beautifully written. But I was such an emotional wreck, I could barely sit straight let alone read anything aloud in the service, so she read that for me. Afterwards, people were telling me what a beautiful tribute it was for Ben–and I didn’t even write it! 

Watch: A Beginner's Guide To Grief. Post continues after video.

Video via SBS On Demand.

A friend who’d lost her partner a few years ago warned me that for many people, family and friends who surround you leading up to the funeral, are very quick to get on with their lives and leave you behind. So I knew all of that – but there was no way Ellie would abandon me. 

When I thanked her for all she’d done for the funeral and for supporting me, she said, "Please don’t thank me, I know you’d do the same for me." But she was clearly full of shit and the next couple of weeks made me realise what was going on. 

The day after the funeral was a very low point in my life. My daughters were with me and when my 10-year-old started to cry and say, "I just want to be with Dad," I lost the plot. I was on the floor crying with her. But I knew I had to try to be strong and I just couldn’t do it. The first person I reach out to was Ellie but she didn’t pick up my call. I thought she must be busy with her own kids, and she’d call me back later. But two days went by, and I hadn’t heard from her. I texted her asking if she could call me back, but my text wasn’t delivered. Again, I made sense of this, thinking she must be flat out, and had her phone on aeroplane mode. 

I reached out to a couple of mutual friends and asked if they’d heard from Ellie. "No, I think she’s lying low for now," said Rebecca. "She must be pretty drained." 

Okay, that was perfectly understandable. Another friend was clearly playing dumb. "Hmm, I think she’s busy." What the hell was going on? I was truly concerned about her, whether she was having issues with her mental health as she had in the past. It was just so weird not hearing from her. 

I phoned her and the call went straight to voicemail. Then I sent another text: "Just checking you’re okay?" and noticed that my text was green, when it is usually blue. A quick google search showed me that means either the person has now got an Android phone, or that they have blocked you…but no way would she block me? Would she?

Well, two weeks after Ben’s funeral, I had my answer – and it was brutal. She sent this email: 

"Please do not contact me again. I feel I have been a good friend to you over the years, but I cannot continue to be drained by the many dramas in your life. Your grief is too draining for me and is starting to impact my mental health. I wish you all the best for the rest of your life, but I no longer want to be a part of it."

I read the email in tears – my grief was "too draining?" I had no choice but to block her on my social media, phone and email – although I believe she had already done the same to me. I felt that Ellie was a coward, that she couldn’t say this to my face. I felt another wave of grief hitting me that was almost as upsetting as my husband’s death. 

To make matters worse, another friend – who at least had the guts to phone me – told me that Ben’s death was "very triggering" for her because her brother had also died of cancer. Apparently, being friends with me, meant that I was a constant reminder of the brother who’d died many years ago. The last insult was when my lovely elderly neighbours began ignoring me. They’d been so supportive when Ben died, and now they cross the street if they see me walking towards them. 

I feel grateful for the handful of friends who have stayed by my side. But they will never fill the hole that Ellie left when she dumped me. It’s been four years now and I have never heard from her. I only hope that she has a close friend who can be there for her when times are tough – but it certainly won’t be me.

*Names have been changed. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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