Dear Dr Eve
I have lost my best friend. She had been my rock, my person, my sistah.
She began to withdraw from me, making excuses not to spend time with
me, and when I asked her what was wrong, she denied anything was
different. She became more and more distant.
I think I must have hurt her but I really do not know what I did. Over a
number of weeks, I begged her to meet up so we could talk and work out
whatever was bugging her. She refused to meet up saying I should know
what I did wrong. Now we have no contact at all.
This happened 2 months ago. I am so sad and I cannot get over this. I
keep questioning myself and it has got so bad that my boyfriend and I are
fighting all the time. Of course, I am not interested in sex at all. He
doesn’t understand my reaction. I have withdrawn and feel desperate.
What should I do?
DR EVE REPLIES :
The loss of a friend is a horrible experience.
Friends form a very different kind of intimate attachment than
lovers/partners/family. You chose your friend because you felt safe and
secure with her, right ?! You trusted her and noticed when that trust
was fraying as she became less available, less transparent. And as that
happened so you reached, and reached, nagged, screamed, to get her
attention. And when you continued to be ignored, so you turned away and
found a corner in which to curl up. And right now you write to me from
that corner. I thank you for reaching out and not sitting longer in
isolation and despair.
How does this sound to you, Sam? I think you are grieving. I think you
may be suffering from Grief.
Grief does not only happen when one loses a person .. or an animal .. to
death. It happens when there is a tremendous feeling of loss. Grief is
emotional suffering when someone or something you love is taken away
from you. Grief is a yearning for something that is no longer there.
Your body and your brain miss your friend and let you know this through
your emotional reactions of sadness, helplessness, self-judgment and
isolating behaviour, your shut down from intimacy.
Consider if your symptoms fit in with the typical symptoms of grief :
anxiety, distress, sadness, loss of sleep, appetite and sexual interest. This
is different from depression so I encourage you to manage your grief as
best as grief can be managed.
Perhaps you are familiar with the wonderful grief work of Elizabeth
Kubler-Ross. She spoke of different stages we all go through denial,
anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Since her work, new research indicates that we don’t all go through the
same stages and definitely not in a linear fashion. In other words, there
are no set stages that you should be following until you end up in
Acceptance. We now speak about different STATES of grief in which one
finds oneself. It is good for you to know that grief is a Process with a
beginning, a middle and an end.
You have already begun to move through your grief, Sam, by naming
your emotions. I invite you to keep going with this process by naming
specifically the losses you experience now that you have lost your friend.
I also encourage you to find people with whom you feel safe, to talk
about your feelings of loss. Know that you cannot control the grieving
process and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Be kind to yourself, practise daily self-care and mostly, self-compassion.