Toxic Friends: When You Find Who Really Cares

Angel of Grief

When your life turns upside down in the blink of an eye, you find out who really cares for you.

Last year a member of my family died violently in the most awful circumstances. There was a police investigation, media attention, a court case and, finally, a sentencing for the man accused of his murder.

The weeks after his death were unexpectedly lonely. When someone dies, you expect people to rally around the bereaved.

Not in my case. In the immediate aftermath of his death people who I thought were my good friends ignored me completely.

I didn’t get:

“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Are you okay?”
“Do you need someone to talk to?”
“Is there anything I can do?”

I felt abandoned. I grieved alone and in private. I kept to myself. I couldn’t shake the fear that people were ashamed or embarrassed to know me, hence their silence. In fact even now – many months on – there are friends who refuse to speak to me (despite me trying to contact them).

Some friends I know do not acknowledge what has happened and only speak about pleasant topics. There are friends who email or call, only wanting to talk about their own problems and refusing to acknowledge that I am struggling to be their counsellor while dealing with my own grief. There have been others who expect me to be over my grief by now.

It’s made me see that these aforementioned people aren’t really friends. They’re people I know. The behaviour of a few has shown me that they aren’t even very nice people; they’re what popular culture would call “toxic friends” – people who are so self-involved that they either won’t or can’t be bothered to show the smallest amount of sympathy.

One particular exchange with a toxic friend springs to mind – the police had just informed me of some new horrendous piece of information in the murder case that was still unfolding when a friend emailed, desperately needing to talk. I alerted her to what had just happened with the police and it wasn’t acknowledged. She went on a two hour spiel about a problem which wasn’t really a problem, more of a “life isn’t going my way and it’s not fair” spiel. God knows why I felt the need to listen to her and counsel her all evening – perhaps because she was, at the time, the only friend who had spoken to me in weeks.

I have since distanced myself from this particular person. Time has allowed me to think clearly – her behaviour that day was not okay and her actions spoke very loudly: to her, her life was far more important than anything I was going through. I don’t know if we’ll ever speak again. I’m not sure I want someone like that in my life.

Even though I have lost many friends in this aftermath, two women I’ve only ever met in a digital capacity (thank you Twitter) have become very dear to me – once I revealed on social media what had happened, they helped me navigate my way through the horror of murder, death and grief. While we don’t even live in the same state they have held my hand throughout this ordeal. There will never be enough words to describe just how thankful I am and how much I love them for this.

While I wouldn’t wish tragedy on anyone, particularly not of the magnitude I’ve experienced, I have found out who my true friends are and what friends were never really friends to begin with.

Have you ever discovered your friends don’t care about you? Has an event ever revealed toxic friends? 

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  • Gina Soldano-Herrle

    I’m sorry for your loss. Every situation is different but I understand how hard it can be to have someone that you love be here one day and be gone the next. I have had a couple similar instances of tragedy and friend absence. It’s heartbreaking and makes you wonder if they ever really cared at all or were just putting on a superficial front. I’ve come to see this situation for what it is in recent years and am trying to focus on nontoxic friendships as well. Good for you to not putting up with the toxicity any more! And good luck on your healing. I don’t think there’s ever a way to truly “get over” losing someone. There’s no way to make it go away, just ways to learn to cope. My first instance with it happened over ten years ago and sometimes I’m still overtaken with grief.

  • Tamsin Howse

    I’m so sorry to read this, Sally. It’s so disappointing when people who should be there for you aren’t.

  • Monique Fischle

    I’m so sorry Sally. That is just horrendous behaviour from so-called friends. I’ve found I haven’t been supported in times of grief as others feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to do and so do nothing. It’s really disappointing when this happens. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for you in a situation so awful. I’m glad there were some people you could rely on.

  • maree Talidu

    It astounds me that when something as horrific as a family member is murdered, people chose to distance themselves. Maybe people don’t know what to say in such an extreme situation, but the examples you gave are sure as hell better than silence. As for the friend who emailed you wanting to talk about their issues when you’d just been dealt another heavy blow speaks volumes. That’s when you walk away. For self preservation. If they can’t put aside their problems long enough to show kindness or concern for you & your wellbeing, then you may be better off without them in the long run. You are so strong Sally but it’s important that you feel you have those non-toxic supportive people in your life so that you CAN fall apart when you need to. Big hugs. XX