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Archive for the ‘seasons’ Category

In my work with Soulation women often email me asking for advice.  Sometimes close friends want to know my theological position on a controversial topic.  Commenting women come to my blog often wanting me to both connect with their question and connect with them.

Are these all my friends? In what way?

Photo credit: .kenokel.com

What are my responsibilities with each of these friends?

How do we make definite yes and no decisions about friends who seems kind, but for whom we just don’t have time.

I feel frustrated, regularly, by the lack of time I can dedicate to those I’m acting as a mentor, counselor and spiritual guide to. Each speaking trip and book sold means I will probably get more practice with this frustration.

As an extrovert I usually feel delighted and eager to try. And try I do.

But befriending for life every person who wants to connect is not a reality, nor is it kind to my life-long friends.

Each of us has had the difficult decision to know how to understand a friendship’s limits.

Sally gave some helpful distinctions between a Four Seasons Friend, a Hot and Cold Friend and a Seasonal Friend.  What I loved about her post is how she shared that none of these friendships are better or worse. Rather, you decide which friendships you want to invest your time with.

Dating the Wrong Guys?

The first step in deciding friendships is taking time inventory.  How much time do you currently have to devote to a new friendship? This is a tricky evaluation because after work or church or family or hobbies and friends we don’t have a lot of time.

But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re happy-busy. Just like a date Friday night doesn’t mean it’s a fun date. In friendship, like dating, it’s easy to waste time with the wrong peeps.

Photo credit: davidwygant.com

It’s been my observation that most women spend at least some of their time with friends they do not enjoy.  In fact, there’s something in women that keeps us hanging on to friends with drama, controlling tendencies, hot and cold patterns all in an effort to be “nice.”  It’s the good girl complex that keeps us from evaluating if this friendship is a life-giving place of growth.

Two years ago I wrote this in the post “The Recipe for a Good Friendship

Psychologist Jean Baker Miller writes about five components that make up all “growth-fostering relationships”.

Each person will feel:

  1. a greater sense of zest (vitality, energy).
  2. more able to act and does act.
  3. a more accurate picture of herself and the other person.
  4. a greater sense of worth.
  5. more connected to the other person and a greater motivation for connections with other people beyond those in this friendship. In other words, frenemies drop away and friendship becomes more possible.

Friends who do not bring life can very easily book you up all week long.  No friendship ought to keep you from growth.

Put another way, keep your Friday nights free for someone else.

Top Three

I believe it helps to consider that you can only be really close to a handful of friends. Closeness requires awareness of the everyday occurrences.

Photo credit: Sex and the City

You already have close friends in your life. If they’re mothers, they’re the friends that you’ve already asked and found out how their Mother’s Day went.  Whether you like it or not, these are probably your besties.

I’ve found I can only be really close to two, maybe three friends. And I’m a high energy extravert. I entitle them to know how I’m feeling before and in more detail than any other friends.  Sally is one of them.

I reserve knowledge about my feelings for our conversations that (even if other friends ask) I do not share in this kind of detail.

I call to cry or rail or laugh or announce things to Sally and a few others before I post it online, before I share with others.

Even if others ask.

My Four Season Friends have priority.

Guilt?

Any time I feel guilty for not being “nice” which translates into devoting longer and longer emails or phone calls or play dates or information to friends who want to be closer I consider this question, “Are they in my top three?”

If no, then I give myself the freedom to not make them top priority.

By saying no to them, I’m saying yes to my three.

In fact, I can say, “No,” with quiet conviction because I now know nothing really compares to friends who can stand up through all the seasons with me.

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What do you think of when you think of seasonal friendships?

  • A wintery cold ending to a friendship that was once warm and welcoming?
  • The chance to make a new friend?
  • A faithful friend that loved you through a difficult time?
  • The loss of someone special as a friendship dies or breaks-up?
  • The loneliness of a more shallow friendship that never seems to gather depth?

Our blog on female friendships often references seasonal friendships.  We also reference things like healthy friendships, self-awareness in friendships, honesty in friendships, confrontation (yikes!) and ending friendships.  All of these things are important when considering your friendship experiences with other women.

Photo Credit Sally H. Falwell

You Never Know

When it comes to friendship, we may not know what shape a friendship will take. Some women hope for the best, give the benefit of the doubt; some eye women with suspicion and tip-toe carefully into anything that smells of openness, love and appreciation.

Seasons are a mark of change, an idea we can apply to friendships.  Consider your wedding party – would it look any different today?  Think about the friends you hugged and signed year books with at the end of high school.  Or think of the woman that you miss, who you thought you would never be without.

We have a tendency to think that our lives can hold a million close friends, we swear we will keep in touch, we vow to never trust again, we just know that “she” won’t do “that” to me…the thing she has a reputation for in friendships (e.g. One woman told me about the pain and confusion she experienced at losing a friend for no rhyme or reason, but her friend, known to “disappear” suddenly on people, pulled her “Disappearing Friend Act” …and has moved onto another “favorite”).

Do Friendships Have Expirations Dates?

Seeing friendships through a seasonal lens might soften the negative connotation we normally carry with a relationship ending.  We all change – we change marital status, career focus, living location, philosophical and theological beliefs, interests.  We get hurt, we lose perspective, we tire of someone (yes, this happens), we mature, we discover things we didn’t know, we get stabbed in the back.

Endings are as normal as beginnings.  Winter is as normal as spring, summer is as beautiful as fall.  How it happens might be painful, but it also might be natural and easy.

Women, Friendships & Seasons

Women’s friendships can often fall into these types of categories.

  • An “all four seasons” friend is a life-long friend, one who is part of your world not matter the stage of your life.
  • hot and cold friend is a friendship that has its “on” times and its “off” times. When things are good, when things are bad, when things are easy, when someone is in need.
  • A season friend might be one that fits at a certain time in your life.

Life Long

To me, these are friends that fall in the “whole” category – friendships that exist through any season.  These friendships are not bound by location, and they endure differences of age, interests, health, marital, working or financial status.  While similarities might be a strong part of a friendship like this, the actual person is likely the glue.  There is a level of love and commitment that is more focused on who the two women are and less about their ability to relate through similarities.

Time and Place

Friendships based on time and place are very common.  This might be a friendship that begins with similar experience, such as having children in the same classroom at school or a diagnosis of breast cancer.  We easily connect with and share our lives in areas of similarity and what life requires from us at that time.

A friendship of time and place might change as the child grows and his teachers and interests change, or as a health diagnosis betters or worsens.  While the change can be a bit challenging and sometimes feels like a loss – someone you knew and spent time with is now someone you only know from a distance – remember the place in your life they vacate leaves room for another fun soul to enter!

Hot and Cold

These friendships require a lot of openness.  I definitely have had friendships that had a burst of life and then faded out as it got harder to connect or get together…only to be revitalized at a later date.  I have found that women are okay with this type of friendship, but tire of it after awhile.  These can provide challenging situations because a friendship can be emotionally expensive, and the two choose to enjoy the style of their connection, stay silent about it, or one person eventually speaks up and asks for more.

Don’t Forget To Forgive and Grieve

The same way that leaves fall off of trees and warm air turns crisp, our lives include change that causes us to grieve the loss of a friend.  The loss might be from a fallout or a simply a life change that takes friends to different places physically, spiritually, emotionally…any number of things can happen that impact our relationships and leave us with broken dreams (e.g We were going to grow old together!) and dashed hopes (e.g. I trusted her!  I thought I found someone who really got me.”).

If the friendship ends on a bad note with a pile of hurt feelings, grief and forgiveness become all the more important.  It can be extremely hard to welcome grief and forgiveness into our lives because these experiences require willingly walking into painful feelings and memories, but the results ready us for healthy relationships, good emotional boundaries, and freedom from the heaviness of emotions like anger, bitterness and resentment.

What’s Your Story?

Jonalyn and I enjoy our readers adding comments about their friendship experiences.  Seasonal friendships is a topic that is relevant to us all…we would love to hear what you have to say about how you have experienced a winter, spring, summer or fall friendship.

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Well, What Did You Expect?

I remember I sat with my to-be-husband in a pre-marital counseling session – a sort of deer in the headlights look on my face, but an excitement in moving forward toward marriage.  Now, 14 years later, I still remember one part of the “10 Commandments of Fair Fighting” that our counselor gave us.

Expectations need to be clearly defined and mutually agreed upon.  

This was the type of direction that we did not really digest until our lives began to weave together…and what one person thinks and expects is not always known to the other person.  Where we would go, what was important in our schedule, how we would talk about any given topic.

What Is An Expectation?

As thinking humans, it is natural to have expectations…they help us organize our thinking, our days, our lives.  In a relationship though, it takes some practice to move away from mind reading and into strong and gracious communication.

An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen, a belief that someone should do or achieve something.

This month, we are writing about why some friendships fail.  Our blog on female friendship addresses a variety of topics that example what can happen between two women in a friendship, anything from the delight of really knowing someone to the pain a broken friendship causes to the female heart.

Unmet expectations are often a reason that a friendship breaks down.  Small disappointments based on miscommunication, lack of honesty, inconsistency, personal change can all lead to fractures in a relationship.  Overall, most of us have some basic expectations when we enter into a relationship with another person – emotional safety, loyalty, availability, consistency.

Some expectations are normal ways we exist in society that most people adhere to…I trust that you know not to:

  • lie to me
  • steal from me
  • betray me

Expectations: Getting What I Want

One of the simplest ways to find out what your expectations of another person is watch what happens when you do not get what you want.  Wanting is not a bad thing, until we place our well-being in the hands of another person…creating a situation where if they do not fulfill our expectation for their behavior, we get upset.

Common responses when with an unmet expectation:

  • the emotion anger
  • “But I thought…”
  • “I can’t believe you…”
  • “You knew I…”
  • “You should have known…”

There are also ways that we have expectations set for others that they may not have agreed to:

  • punctuality
  • level of sharing in a relationship
  • similarity
  • confidentiality
  • ease of friendship
  • value the same things
  • always agree

Surprised By The Unknown

Trust and safety are both big factors in the development of a true friendship.  Every one of us has experienced pain at the hands of another, and often protect ourselves with isolation, vows or emotional distance in order that no one can hurt us again.

The result of holding ourselves back from one another is that we feed that little monster called Fear, and we leave a lot of space for miscommunication and misunderstanding, as well as people working with a lack of knowledge.  If my friend does not know certain things about me, and yet I have an expectation for her to behave as if she does, I am setting the friendship up for failure.

Assumptions

An assumption is something that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Sweet and nice.  These are two adjectives very often used to describe women.  And we believe it, because most of us are sweet and nice…However, we cannot assume that all women are fit for healthy friendship, for honesty, for depth, for endurance.  Many are not.  More than that, we cannot assume that any person knows what we think and feel.

Also, it is easy to not voice an expectation when we fear rejection, and so much easier to make an assumption.

But we know what making assumptions does….  🙂

A Changing of Seasons

Seasonal friendships is a topic we refer to often on our blog.  Life is constantly changing, our roles as women are constantly changing as we enter into our own different eras.  A friendship can definitely fail when new circumstances change – you no longer have cancer, are no longer married, now have children, got married, got a job, have a shift in your belief systems, etc.

A great thing about seasonal friendships is that if we enter a friendship without putting pressure on it to last forever, we can hold the friendship loosely, letting it move with both women’s lives.  As our seasons change, we can remember one another fondly and wish each other well in our new circumstances.  Also, change gives us a great chance to know our friend in their new role – as a working woman, as a mother, as an unattached single woman.  The place the woman holds in your life might be different – she may no longer be a best friend, but might be more of a friend or an acquaintance.

The Past Becomes The Present

Another way expectations impact the stability of a friendship is that we decide who someone is based our previous experiences.  When we live with one foot in the past and one in the present we do not allow ourselves the chance to heal from past hurts and move forward, and we do not trust that there really are needles in the haystack – women who really do make for good, caring, loving friends.  The same way that a woman can have a bad experience with one man and think “All men are pigs!” We can think of all women as catty, bitchy, selfish, backstabbing or shallow.

Clearly Defined And Mutually Agreed Upon

Discussing expectations is a great way to build the trust and safety that a true friendship requires.  This helps keep the air clean between two people…and makes it a bit easier to talk about when something goes awry.

When something is clearly defined, this leaves less room for misunderstanding.

Example:  What does “On Time” mean to you?

  • 5 minutes early
  • right on time
  • within 10 minutes of the beginning

When something is mutually agreed upon, both people feel a sense of understanding, importance and control.  One person’s well-being is not elevated above the other’s.  The “mutually agreed upon” increases the fairness and attention I give to my friend’s thoughts, needs and interpretations – and cuts down on the chance that I demand something of a friend that she has not agreed to.

While talking through expectations can seem a bit awkward, it offers two friends the chance to discover more about who they are and what they desire out of the relationship.  None of us jump into something hoping we fail…but most of the time we want guaranteed success.  Considering the role expectations play in our relationships is one way to prevent a friendship from failing.

Have you had the chance to see what spoken or unspoken expectations do in a friendship?  We’d love to hear!

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Most of us have a handful of friendship stories.  We can attest to how other women bring us fun, laughter, love, support, anger, confusion and pain.  To know and be know over time amid experiences like these is a sweet gift.  It takes a lot of courage to let a friend into who you are and the nuances of how you work, continually showing your real self as you learn, age and grow…and to offer the same to a friend.

With all that can happen between two people, it is good to have an idea of a few things that can help a friendship stand the test of time.

Be Realistic.  

Not all friendships last a life time and not all women have it in them to maintain a long-term friendship.  There are different types of friends, and different seasons of our lives that certain people fit well into.  Within any friendship, it is good to remember that:

  • People change.
  • People disappoint and surprise.
  • Sometimes words do not match actions.
  • Many of us put on a happy face and keep the “real me” hidden.
  • Many women have secrets and long to be known, loved and free.
  • My relationship with you is not all about me.
  • As we get older, we have more things we are committed to.

Personality.

We are all different.  We all do friendships differently – the time we devote, the level at which we are willing to share, the expectation for the life of a friendship.  Jonalyn and I had a great time completing the Myers-Briggs and hearing new things about one another, and laughing at things we already knew.  Then, wouldn’t you know it, we recently had situation that challenged us to do exactly what we present in this blog – love and enjoy our differences, listen to learn, keep an open mind, stand up for ourselves, seek resolution and move forward with clear hearts.

 Similarities.

Personality is dynamic and allows us to be unique, beautiful and interesting all within one person, but it sure does help to relate to another person through values, interests or life-experiences.

Honesty and Growth.

These two things are a great basis for a friendship, but also great aspirations.  They are always present, always needed to help maintain a long-term friendship.  Honesty and growth are good buddies in themselves…one begets the other.

It is true that growth brings change, which is scary for most people.  Being honest can be scary, too.  We are territorial beings that love predictability and patterns, even in people.  It is also true that some women do not want relationships to grow, and some say they do but when push comes to shove, cannot offer the honesty with themselves and honesty with another that it takes to maintain a dynamic relationship.

Seasons.

As we grow, we change.  Are you the same person you were in elementary school?  How have you changed since you had your first best friend?  What things have happened that changed your outlook on life or your perspective on women?

Just as we are waiting for winter to turn into spring, there are times in friendships that welcome new friends and usher out ones that no longer fit well with where we are in life.  This happens with major events in life, groups we belong to, heath diagnoses, values we embrace, loss we incur, places where we live, projects we put our time into, and age.

“We’ll keep in touch!!” is often the promise.  Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.

S#*t Happens.

Relationships are like pressure cookers.  Before too long, friends are required to deal with one another’s issues.  We ALL have issues.  (As soon as you think you don’t, think again.)

When you enter into a relationship with another human being, you are ripe for personal growth.  In easier times in a friendship, relating to another person can seem easy-peesy.  Then something happens.  A misunderstanding, a betrayal, another person…something that shows who we really are.

Some relationships can withstand what it takes to work through these situations, including the aforementioned honesty and growth.  In situations like this, we sometimes experience very disheartening surprises, like a friend who is less committed the relationship than you thought, one who is unwilling to be open or be in need.  (Jonalyn told a great friendship story like this in last month’s post).  This is often when we go through a break-up or a friendship dies.

Deep or Shallow.

Friendships need a bit of both.  Friendships that are always in the deep part can be burdensome at time and lack the color that laughter brings.  There is only so much time we can devote to deep thoughts and feelings before we feel the need for rest, a break, some space.

Shallow is fun and less threatening.  But it can get boring.  In a continuously shallower friendship, there is often an itching to go deeper, know more, see more.

You can’t surf on the sand, you can’t sunbathe well out in the deeper rolling waves.  Both have a purpose.

What other elements have you found important to a long term friendship?  We’d love to have your input!

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Photo credit: photographyblog.com

I didn’t expect reading my friend’s personality to help me get my husband.

But it did.

I found myself reading parts of her personality to him.

“Doesn’t this sound like you?”

Sometimes he’d agree. My husband’s personality is not one to jump up with instant enthusiasm. He takes his time.

So does Sally.

If I don’t feel valued, I tend to micromanage and get more involved. But Sally and my husband tend to withdraw.

This explains the arguments in my marriage where I’d confront and require and find the door slowly swinging shut.

Instead of respecting a shut door I’d barge right in and demand a resolution.

My husband found it necessary to go on some rather long walks or drives during those years. With Sally, if she needs time, I know to back off and wait. Patience seems to be part of the gift I naturally grow for my girlfriends.

But I rarely grow that flower for my husband.

Here’s another example, the MBTI states that Sally’s personality type resists regimentation and control. So my rule-loving, managerial aptitude is not very impressive to her.

Photo credit: gerryzeck.blogspot.com/2011/04/return-of-jacaranda-john.html

Nor to my husband.

During our short courtship, I remember the scary thrill of watching him walk boldly up to a stranger’s yard and break off a Jackaranda tree branch in full bloom with lavender blossoms . . . for me. I was immensely flattered because he broke a lot of rules to get me those flowers.

I kept glancing nervously to the front door to see if the owner was going to come out and berate him for breaking off a limb. I wanted to drive away quickly with my blooms.

Nowadays, when he breaks rules– like the rules I try to enforce of having the kitchen cleaned up, or the bathmat hung up, or the dogs fed before breakfast–while I used to be impressed by his rebel ways, it’s rather tempting to be simply annoyed.

Or worse, disenchanted. I find his ways, not just different, but beneath what I want and believe I need.

I believe the quickest recipe for unhappy marriage (or divorce) is simple: despise your spouse (e.g. 2 Sam 6:14-16). It’s also the quickest recipe to ruin a friendship.

It’s worked for many a woman, who find the dashing personality differences in their spouse the exact things that turn their warm flesh to cold shoulders.

So how can friends help?

  1. Spend time with those friends who you love because of some authentic reason (such as a shared value or common passion like you both love studying the woman’s soul or watching Grey’s Anatomy or knitting).
  2. Spend consistent, more than once a month time, get to know them in good and bad times. Spend time at their home seeing how they keep house, love their pet or kid or husband or roommate. Notice the differences. I promise, you’ll find them.
  3. Equipped with the knowledge of your differences, see if you find any overlap with you and your husband’s differences. Figure out if there is a way to transfer the gratitude for your friend’s difference to your husband’s.  As a good friend of mine once observed, it’s way too easy to be cruel to our husbands, to say things to them we’d never dream of saying to our friends who have the EXACT same “annoying” qualities. For instance, Dale sometimes jokes about how he wants me to visit Sally’s house more often because whenever I come home I’m less anal about him putting his stuff away. Our house feels super tidy after a visit to Sally’s. And she’s not messy. She’s just not as neat as I am. When I relax at her place and let myself realize life still happens, people still get fed, rested, cleaned and loved in her home, without all my rules of cleanliness, I can return to mine with less demand in my heart.  I can even be glad that my husband doesn’t expect tidiness to relax with me.
  4. Learn to admire without feeling threatened by bringing your entire self to the friendship. Don’t consistently shut out these differences by avoiding places, topics, activities that prevent you from experiencing your friend’s differences. Point out, even if just to yourself, the differences between you and your close friends without trying to change them or yourself.
  5. Learn to live with these differences unafraid that they will threaten your friendship. For instance, my close friend, A, is much more laid back than I. And while I admire and sometimes want to be more laid back, I know she loves my goal-setting, social activities planning strengths.  She looks forward to enjoying that about me, just as I enjoy watching her remain unfazed when her daughters cry for snacks and she calmly tells them she didn’t pack any and we buzz to McDonalds.

Noticing, being with, refusing to change your own values and strengths… this will build your ability to do the same with your husband or any friend or family member you find yourself trying to love through you differences.  You’ll find you’ve built up your re-enchantment muscles, able to see your husband in all his differences.

You’ll find the love you once experienced can be made stronger.

For true love knows the beloved.

True love isn’t blind, in fact, love has eyes wide open, in friendship and marriage.

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I have this friend I used to always see on or near Christmas. She and I have been friends for our whole lives. Seriously, we were babies in the church nursery together.

Though we’re now married with children we aren’t in the same places anymore. She and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. Sometimes I’m not even sure I want to see her over those precious, packed days of holiday festivities. When we do get together we spend a lot more time reminiscing than diving deeper. I used to be afraid the time was misspent, but because there is an overlap of our common values, we still make time for each other.

I want to remain friends with the childhood girls who I sold brownies with on the roadside on endless Saturday mornings because I know the common experiences also carved similar shaped values in each of us. For a few of these friends I know we still cherish the same things, even if we express that in different ways. There are still authentic ways we can care for each other and enjoy each other’s friendship as adults.

But I also don’t want to feel so disappointed when it’s not “like it used to be.”

How can I be friends with those in my past with courage to be myself as I am now? How do we, as the old song goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold”?

Photo Credit: silversite.info

Take a moment and consider what makes old friends so valuable? What is gold and what is silver?

For me the gold is a friend who values much of the things I value. The silver is a friend who values some of the things I value.

All our values are different, but this doesn’t mean there’s only one set of values that count as good or godly or best. As a good friend of mine recently presented on life transitions at a Soulation Gathering, I learned precisely what values are. As she explained, transitions help us recognize what will stay the same and what must change through the transition. Values, she said, remain steady. Beliefs, she explained, often need updating.

For instance, if my friend moves away, I notice my belief that she would always be geographically close needs updating, but my value for authenticity in our friendship remains steady. It’s just expressed through email and phone calls instead of face-to-face time.

Realizing the distinction between beliefs and values helps me consider how to connect with those friends who are more than acquaintances but not best-ies. Let me break it down.

  1. Figure out what you value.
  2. Figure out what your old friends value.
  3. Take time to notice the overlap and spend time building up those conversations.

Let your values be part of your tool set of “holding onto yourself” as you re-engage with old friends this holiday season.

Here are a list of values (there are many more), use these to find three or four that are yours. Of course, you’ll be tempted to say you value all of them, but honestly, we all have a hierarchy of what we value. Can you find your top 3-4?

Values (in no particular order)

  • Security
  • Authenticity
  • Spontaneity
  • Preparation
  • Integrity
  • Fairness
  • Humility
  • Honesty
  • Simplicity
  • Dignity
  • Fidelity
  • Quality
  • Temperance
  • Service
  • Courage
  • Nurture
  • Justice
  • Potential
  • Patience
  • Encouragement
  • Work ethic / Industry
  • Freedom
  • Modesty
  • Responsibility
  • Kindness
  • Acceptance
  • Golden rule
  • Love

If my life’s values are Preparation and Justice I will find it difficult to simultaneously and equally value Spontaneity and Acceptance. Now let me be perfectly clear, this is not bad, this is actually good, for it means I’m an adult, knowing how to choose what God has put within me, to value the strengths I have and to act on them without constant apology.

Seeing old friends gives me a chance to take note of some values (still valuable, let’s call them the silver) that are not my values (also valuable, let’s call these the gold).

Photo Credit: goldalert.com

So you take the time, and you meet with an old friend or two. And after egg nog or hot apple cider and cookies we will find ourselves glad for the gold and grateful for the silver. And we will be also glad we’re adults, and no longer children. And we will be able to notice the sparkle and beauty that makes the holidays a time to thank God for his variety and purpose on this good earth.

Photo credit: designcrafters.com

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Several years ago I found I was unexpectedly expecting.  The baby was a complete surprise, but, as I told my doctor, that didn’t follow that this surprise was unwanted.

The baby, however, failed to develop a heartbeat.  I kept hoping the baby was just slower in development, but I lost this baby while on the road, one late night after speaking to teens in southern California.

Tulips a friend sent me after my miscarriage

In the Los Angeles hospital, the baby’s broken DNA was taken two days before Christmas 2007. I was left sore without any signal of this life, except a memory.

When good friends lose what can we do to walk alongside without accidentally poking a stick in the spokes?

For starters, friendship takes scholarship. Not the thick textbook kind, but the scholarship that begins by studying our friends.

When I lost my child I grieved and wrote and felt angry, not at God or at myself, but angry that I never got to meet our first child.

I would have loved someone to say, “It’s okay to be sad.”

Several good friends said just that.

I did not appreciate when people said, “You’ll have another child,” or “Just imagine what God has in store, you’ll get pregnant again.”  They didn’t realize that we had not been trying and I had no guarantee that my husband was excited to try. And I didn’t have the energy to explain.

I just needed time. To feel. Sad. I needed friend who would sit with me in the “meantime.”  The baby was gone from this earth and I had no present hopes of another baby in my future.

How do you feel when friends are sitting in the meanwhile?  How does this make you feel?  My first response is to throw them a rope and haul them out.

“Don’t feel like you have to sit there!” I want to shout down to them as I pull them out. “It’s dirty and wet and very unappealing for everyone.”  But this is not what a true friend does.

A steady friend stops, as Jesus did, and works to remember what was lost.  Did you know that even when Jesus knew his friend Lazarus would live again, that he would perform the miracle calling his friend out of the grave, he took time to weep?  He allowed himself to find he was sad, too.

The Son of God weeping.

We honor the God who made us when we weep, too.

A series of posts about pregnancy and miscarriage grew from my journal entries those sad January days.  A community of women and men who understood grew up around me and commented on my blog, wrote me letters and sent flowers. They prayed. A bundle of exquisite tulips arrived in a January snowstorm at my front door, the card honoring my baby’s life, sent from a women’s ministry I had spoken to the previous year.

My kitchen sink arrangement for the first few weeks in January 2007

What is the key to help someone who is suffering, especially when their pain is something you don’t understand?

  1. First, as a new friend recently shared at Soulation’s Gold Gathering*, help your friends take the first breath. How?  Ask them what they feel and then make yourself quiet and still. Listen to what they are processing and do not correct. Do not promise things you cannot know like, “It will get easier”, or “You’ll get over this.”  I have friends who have lost children, healthy, strong babies and it has not gotten easier.  Harder, different maybe, but not easier. This first breath and exhale of grief may take a few days, or months or years. You can help them suck in the pain and slowly count as you exhale. Then, you gird yourself up to do it again.
  2. Next, when they are ready, invite them to take the second breath. To breath new life in, to notice how their life is different. How will they honor their life’s differences after this event? How are they going to approach anniversaries and holidays, food, family, future plans differently? How can you study them and know them in these differences?

These breaths cannot be combined. We must grieve and be glad, rail and rejoice, but God protect us from doing these in the same breath. Just as a memorial service ought not be combined with a wake or a burial, we all need separate times to feel the pain and then to incorporate this pain into our lives.

We can each be that friend who can breathe alongside those whose breath has become ragged.

* I am indebted to Aubrie Hills for sharing the “two breaths” observations in her presentation October 1, 2011 at Gold Gathering.

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