real life

"A few years ago I ended a friendship. Now, she has only 12 months to live."

A few years ago I ended a friendship. Not in a dramatic or spiteful way. It was so subtle that I’m not even sure she realised that I had made deliberate steps to end our friendship.

We shared a short, intense friendship over a couple of years. In the end I realised that we just saw the world differently. There were fundamental differences in the way we approached things and I didn’t see a happy ending for our relationship.

I recently found out that my former friend only has twelve months to live.

My gut reaction when I heard the news was to reach out to her, to show my support. I needed her to know that I meant her no harm, that I only wished her the best.

"I recently found out that my former friend only has twelve months to live." Image via iStock.

But once I had some time to chew on it, I realised this was more about me dealing with my own guilt and coping with my own feelings around the situation, rather than supporting her.

The gap which I’d left in her life had already been filled with wonderful, supportive new friends. I chose not to be a part of her life and, in doing so, I also chose not to be part of her death.

She has very little time left on this earth, and I hope she gets to spend that time doing what she loves, with her family and friends close by.

An old high school friend passed away a few years ago. She had been sick for a long time but we weren’t friends during this period. We had fallen out at the end of high school, some teenage fight, the root of which I can’t even remember.

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A few years before she died, she reached out to me. We talked on the phone and planned to meet for a coffee. It never happened. She had to cancel last minute and I never followed up on it.

It was only when I heard of her death that I thought about the significance of that phone call. Was she reaching out to me? Offering some forgiveness? Did I miss what could have been a really special moment in my life or am I making a big deal out of it because I’m looking back on it now armed with this new information?

When she died, I privately mourned for the friend I knew 10 years earlier. She was the kind of girl who wasn’t afraid to be herself, she was hilarious, and she was a collaborator in many of my teenage hijinks.

"When she died, I privately mourned for the friend I knew ten years earlier." Image via Google. 

When I think about any of my friendships that have ended over the years, despite whatever led to their demise, I can always look back on the good bits with a smile. The private jokes, the conversations that you never wanted to end, the special moments, they never really go away.

I think when you’ve let someone go and then they pass away, you’re still allowed to grieve. You’re allowed to grieve for the friendship you once shared and the person you used to know.

And you’re allowed to forgive yourself for losing touch, for walking away, for any cruel words said in the heat of the moment.

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But I’m not sure that you should ever insert yourself back into their life. You chose to leave it and you have to live with that decision. It’s not fair and it’s not the right time.

Death is messy and impractical and real. Sometimes there are no tearful reunions, there’s no missteps forgiven, no slights forgotten.

Most of all, you need to give their family and friends plenty of space and time to grieve.

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