A few months ago, I received a letter that ended a long-term friendship. In the letter, my friend outlined how I wasn’t there for her during a difficult time in her life, even though she had been there for me in the past.
She went on to say how she couldn’t get past the hurt and betrayal of my absence and, as such, it was time to end the friendship.
I was gutted. My emotions ran from sadness (losing a friend), then anger (as there are two sides to every story) and finally a sense of relief (once I let go of the guilt).
While I won’t go into the details of what happened, the quick summary is she was going through a personal crisis at the same time that my child (a toddler at the time) was undergoing a health emergency. The latest in a series of health emergencies in his short life.
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She’s right — I was not there for her when she needed me. I was in a space where all my energy was focused on helping my child and family get through a rollercoaster of health issues. My tank was empty and I had nothing left to give — to myself or others.
Here’s the thing about going through a family crisis — all your energy is spent looking inward and it can be hard to lift your head and look outwards. When I reflect back at the period of time referenced in the letter (which was a few years ago now), it’s all a blur. I don’t even remember when it began and when (if ever) it finally ended.
Being the mum of a child with a disability has dramatically impacted my ability to have solid friendships. I am not good friend material.
My days are filled with my consulting work, juggling kids’ appointments, extra circular activities, supporting elderly parents from afar, and everything else on my plate. On a good day, I have very limited “me time” to pick up the phone and call a friend or go for coffee. Add a health emergency to the mix, and it could be weeks or months before I’m able to reach out and a connect with a friend.
Evolution of friendships
Not being a good friend is something that weighed on me for years. Having had children in my late 30s, my friendships were a main focus of my life for a long time. Being an extrovert and an empath, I loved spending time with friends by throwing dinner parties or connecting over coffee. My friendships kept me grounded and brought me joy.