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?