Categorizing Friends

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops an image of all types of friends for categorizing friends.“How many children do you have?” The question used to put me in a quandary.
“One living and one dead,” I’d reply, needing to account for both kids. Needing to hang on to what I love, and peg it in place. I think that was how my categorizing started. Now I categorize everything, including friends. Online friends and offline friends. And offline friends are further classified into my Regular Friends and the new Blue Friends.

There is nothing really regular about my Regular Friends. Many knew me in my old life, knew my daughter. When she died, they showed up to support me and they continue to do so. These Regular Friends keep me grounded, anchored in the real ongoing world with news about their kids’ graduations and weddings, their grandchildren. These are mostly people I chose long ago. We are connected by history. I love them, love that they stuck by me. But. They don’t really get me. They don’t understand my fascination with afterlife, or what drives me to endlessly photo-shop my daughter’s face. Forgetting that I’d give my eyeteeth to have one more hour with my girl, they sometimes complain about their children, about petty things a daughter did, or a son did not do. I call them ‘regular’ because these friends are happily not initiated into the realm of child-loss. I’m grateful they don’t know this pain.

Then there are my newest friends. Bereaved mothers and fathers. I call them Blue Friends as they aren’t at their happiest, and I may never know them at their happiest. Many of these people are folks I would never have met if not for our shared grief experience. Now I am drawn to them. I see beauty and a particular grace about them. They are like cousins. We are fragile and broken in the same ways. These friends get who I am. Now. They understand the crazy things I do—we do—to keep connected to our children who died. They will plant candles on a cake and sing Happy Birthday to my dead daughter with me. When I desperately need to talk about my girl, my Blue Friends listen without feeling uncomfortable. There is something very special about the way we can laugh together despite our crushed hearts.

In an unpredictable world, where a child you love can disappear forever, I need friends of both types: those who know, and those who are blessedly ignorant of how everything changes and everything hurts when you lose a child. I’m grateful for all my friends. Having them has made everything almost manageable. Stepping cleanly from one set of friends to the other, sometimes several times in one day, I always felt like I was on solid ground. But that changed last week when one of my Regular Friends had her world pulled out from under her— her child died—and suddenly, even assigning categories can’t stop the conundrum of change as a Regular Friend turns Blue.

 

Best friends, foodie friends, crazy friends, needy friends…. Is it okay to categorize your friends?

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6 thoughts on “Categorizing Friends

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Thank you, Robin. I understand that distinction and a change that happens when friends deal with the death of a spouse–or a child. I know a child is even harder, but I’ve been spared that one. Still, I feel part of your Blue group. I met you at a blue time in the hospital at Strong–my husband dying, Marika struggling to withstand treatment and survive. I’ll never forget leaning against the cabinets, or walls in the small patient and family kitchen and feeling that connection with you. And realizing Vic was in his 60s and had lived a full life, so I was the fortunate one.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Those faraway, remarkable, memorable moments back when our loved ones were alive. For an instant it seems, that passed without our even knowing. (The kitchen always smelled so great when you were in it). I consider you to be in my Blue group as well. I talk in terms of child loss and bereaved parents but really, I am thinking about anyone who has lost a dear loved one. Before losing Marika I didn’t think or even know of grieving. I had no idea of how loss could change the life one knew, and I lived day to day mostly oblivious to how death could sweep in and turn one’s world upside down. You and I are united in loss. United in grieving. And in survival, or survivorship. Okay, we’re connected in a bunch of things. And, most importantly maybe is our the way we go about living these days. Writing, connecting with others, wandering in the woods with our dogs, …but I think we are not blue. We are finding our ways to keep hope and connection and warmth in our cores. We consider the Blue folks all around us but we are not Blue. Maybe a rich shade of purple is more like us. What do you think?

      Reply
      1. Elaine Mansfield

        I like that, Robin. Not blue in the sense of depression or lost. Vic is right here in my heart and I feel strengthened by our time together and his presence in my memory and dreams. His memory never holds me back, but gives me courage.

        Reply
        1. Robin Botie Post author

          Well actually, Elaine, I think I was kinda thinking about sadness or depression when I assigned my grieving friends the blue color. I’m a little embarrassed about that whole thing now. I really do believe that, having gone through all we did, we are strengthened by our beloved losses. And their memories. I know what you mean – “right here in my heart.”

          Reply
  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Robin, your post today reminds me that I need to connect with two old friends who have lived far away from me for a long time. I am so close to two sisters–one of whom lives 5 minutes from me–that I sometimes neglect my friends.

    Do I categorize them? Hmmmmmm.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      You are so lucky to have a sister nearby, Lynne. I understand how sisters can keep you so busy that you forget about the friends here and there. But to have 2 close sisters, well, that must be as good or better than having friends. Did I just categorize there? I think I made some judgments as well as categorizations. Yeesh! Must keep myself in check better.

      Reply

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