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I’m going through a lot of transition. Most specifically in relationships. In an uncanny way, a lot of my closest friends are moving away right now! At first I was in denial. Then I grieved it a bit. But now I’m ready to process…but how?
I am so sorry for how hard that must be for you right now. Although you are not physically moving locations, it sounds like it may feel as if your whole life is changing without you even packing a moving box. I understand that your relationships with community is one of the most important pieces in our lives. I have lived in tourist destinations and hated every second because I felt incredibly alone. I have also lived in places that smelled like an armpit and on the surface appeared about as thrilling as an armpit, but that I bawled leaving because of the sweetness of relationships there.
Most of my life (childhood and adulthood) I rarely lived in one place for more than three years. There have been many days this past year, after leaving close friendships and incredible community to move 5 hours away, that I have wondered “why?” Why have I moved so much in my lifetime? Why are there weeks like this one, where I receive 3 evites to birthday parties and baby showers from my best friends that I can’t attend because of the distance between us. Some days the ache to be in the same town with someone who has known me for more than a few months (besides my husband) is deafening and overwhelming.
I am not an expert in grieving the loss of friendship and starting new friendships. Most days I feel like I am paddling a canoe without an oar, using my bare hands, frantically doggie paddling in an attempt to make the boat of relationships move forward. I share with you from a place of questions, brokenness and hope because of what God has shown me through a life of good byes.
Validation: You are experiencing a legitimate loss. When your work out buddy and your Friday night “I don’t know what I’m doing but I know who I am hanging out with” friend(s), and your friends that know your story…the hard parts, the good parts…the awkward parts…when those kind of friends don’t live in the same place anymore. That is a profound loss. You must grieve it in similar ways that you would if someone had died. Something has died, not your friendship, but the way that you were connected. It is the death of your way of living everyday and it is the beginning of a new everyday reality. Grief (whether the loss of life or the loss of your way of life) is unpredictable, strange and real. It is never the same experience for any person and it is hard to quantify, write about or even talk about, because often it doesn’t make sense. Some days when you are grieving you will feel amazing, full of life, inspiration and hope. Other days you can be walking through the grocery store and be on the verge of a meltdown, because you miss “your grocery store” and the way it was laid out and the way you could walk through it with your eyes closed and hands tied and end up with the right groceries in your basket. You will have days where you just really need “that friend” the way they helped you process life, the way they made you laugh, the way you could just be together and not make forced small talk. Sometimes you can’t reach them on the phone and even if you do it feels like eating off brand Ritz crackers…close but not the real thing (as a completely ridiculous side note…I refuse to buy store brand Ritz…and I am a major bargain girl…I’m sorry they are not the same lightly buttered, perfectly salted cracker!).
2. Take the journey through grief. The best way to get through grief…is to go through it… I wish I had a more glamorous and quick solution. When I say go through it, I am speaking of acknowledging it, and giving yourself A LOT of grace to feel what you feel. To cry in the middle of the grocery store if you need to (or at least when you make it back to your car). To enjoy and embrace the days you feel full of joy and hope and to remember on the days when you feel utterly alone that in Christ we are never alone. This past year, I have found myself saying a lot…”Jesus I need a friend right now” and every time I say this I feel His nearness, peace and comfort. He assures my heart that I am always known by Him, that He is ever present.
3. Fight the urge to isolate! When our friends move away or we move away, it can be easy to isolate yourself. Its low risk to sit in your living room with your Net Flix, facebook, skype and phone and make yourself believe that you have a life. When you really don’t. Because life is who you saw today, eating dinner together, movie nights, and spontaneous shopping trips. Technology isn’t bad, and I am so thankful for the way it has allowed me to stay connected to friends and family all over the globe. However, if it becomes our primary relational connection, we are in a dangerous place. Use technology to stay connected and invested in lifelong relationships, but don’t let it become a hindrance to you finding community and connections where you are.
4. Work through fear! Making new friends can make us feel as secure as a 12 year old entering middle school. Sometimes I wish I could still play barbies together and feel instantly connected. Genuine connection and deep friendship don’t happen instantly. Sometimes I get impatient because making friends takes time. There is also the effort it takes to coordinate spending time with someone and the emotional effort of diving into another’s world while sharing a piece of yours. There are places in friendship that will only be reached through experience, crises and joyful moments.
When I am making new friends I usually feel fearful of four things:
– They won’t accept me.
– I will have to say good-bye
– I will get hurt.
– It won’t be worth the effort.
Do any of these fears resonate with you?
The best place to take our fear is to the one who never fears, Jesus.
One of my favorite verses to read when I am feeling afraid is:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
It always helps me to identify what I am afraid of, and then to ask Jesus what the truth is about my fear. When I hear His truth about my fears it is easier for me to fight and defeat fearful thoughts.
It is so important to address fear and get rid of it, because fear will keep us from the incredible relationships God desires for us.
5. Ask Him! Our time and capacity is limited and I know that God sees and honors my desire for friendship. He also knows people better than I do, and who I can have a meaningful friendship with. I have been amazed over the years, how many sweet friends He has brought into my life from a simple act of asking Him who I should initiate friendship with.
6. Invest like you are staying the rest of your life. When I get into a mindset of “well this person will probably leave in a year or two” or “I will probably move in a year or two” it causes me to withdraw and not live fully present where I am. There have been a lot of times over the past year where I have wanted to curl up on the couch, watch HGTV, only talk to my husband and just wait until we moved somewhere else, because making friends is hard work. The Lord has been encouraging me to live like I am going to stay here for the rest of my life. I don’t know the future and what is to come. I only have today, and when I passively wait to just “get through” I miss out on the incredible relationships God has for me.
My heart goes out to you friend. I will be praying for you! Hang in there, God is bringing sweet friendships into your everyday life again.
What about you? Have you moved away from a close friend(s)? How did you process through that loss? Any advice for our reader?