“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?