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So I lost my husband Mark just about 3 months ago. He was only 37, and he fought a battle with cancer for 10 months prior. His birthday is coming up on April 23rd. The Saturday before I wanted to invite a few close friends and family over and have a little party for him. Our closest friends were 2 other married couples. Come to find out, they can't make it to the party because they are all going camping together that weekend. I enjoy camping too, but for some reason me and my son weren't even invited. I wouldn't have come, but to not even be invited just confirms my feeling that they don't really feel like I'm part of the group anymore. Also it seems kind of insensitive to plan something like that on Mark's bday, especially with it being the first since his passing. So I won't have any of my so called best friends there on what will likely be a really hard day for me. I sent a group text letting them know how I feel, but keeping it respectful. I guess I'll just have to find new friends. What would you do in this situation? We all go to the same church, so completely avoiding them isn't going to be possible. I also feel like I should mention that the last camping trip they all went on, we were invited, but didn't go because we had already had plans with my sister who lives several hours away. So maybe some how they got the idea that we aren't into camping? 

Thanks

Ashley

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Were they aware that it was Mark's birthday?  They may have forgotten.  Also- you mention that you were invited on their last camping trip- was that when Mark was still alive, or just you and your son?  If the latter, maybe they really did figure that because you turned them down, it wasn't something you wanted to do anymore.

I think most people just don't know how to behave around the newly-bereaved.   I don't think that losing a loved one even makes you a genius on the subject- we all react differently to the loss so what makes one person feel better may depress another.  So, sometimes well-meaning people say things that sound stupid or hurtful or maybe they avoid us because they're not sure what to say or do.  Sometimes, as you did, you need to gently let them know what works or doesn't work.  Their answer to your text should be a helpful cue.  I hope you and your son are back camping with them soon.

My advice would be to stay cordial and maybe just allow water to find it's own level. I have heard of other situations similar to yours (couples groups) where widows are pushed aside, not saying this is what is happening in your case but if it is, you'll know. There are threads on here discussing in-laws that do the same thing.

It could be that they were uncomfortable with the party. Athena is right--some people just don't know how to act around the newly bereaved. Unfortunately, some chose to avoid. Throughout our lives, we maintain different types of friendships. I would still say hello and make small talk when seeing them in public even if the friendship changes. I hope it doesn't end in disappointment for you but you'll at least know the type of friends they are if it does. As time passes, you may find yourself developing new interests and making new friends.

Hi Ashley,

I'm sorry that you have joined "our club" and have arrived here.  But, I believe here is the best place to be.  Here you can grieve, vent, rage, ask questions, and

receive support.  We need support and perhaps your idea of the Birthday Party was a way to honor his memory and having friends attend might provide support.  Folks who have not lost a partner have no idea what we are going through.  They have no idea of our needs.  Close friends want to help but are ill prepared for what they see us going through.  Some try to empathize by saying that "I know how you feel, I lost an aunt or uncle, once.  I honestly had one man tell me that he knew exactly what I was going through because he'd just lost his dog!..  Self protection is a primal safety device.  Presenting our back instead of our front to some force, etc.  Withdrawal is a way to protect one's self.  Some folks just have no idea what to say or how to act when they see the agony we are in. 

Try not to be angry with them.  People want to help and when they say "Oh, I'm sorry,"  or "How are you doing?" Please take that at surface value, they mean well and a simple "I'm taking it a day at a time," is enough.  A retort such as I just lost my xxxx How do you think I'm feeling - jerk, is really not right.

Especially early on, many of us celebrate birthdays, anniversaries of the wedding, the death, Christmas, New Years, Mother's Day, Father's day, some of them or only a few of them.  It is entirely dependent upon the individual and, I believe their upbringing.  My first year, every single one of those occasions was simply too painful to even think about.  I'm now four years out and I have decided that I wanted to celebrate or honor Susan on the anniversary of our wedding.  I sit in the afternoon sun, open our wedding album, and talk to her as if she were sitting against me as I turn the pages.  I tease her about the story behind each of the pictures.  When I've gone through the album, I tell her I love her, I miss her, and I thank her for saying Yes, and making the past 35 years the best of my life.

Take care and ((((HUGS))))

Frank

Aw Frank, now you have made me cry.... I like your idea though.

Frank. Perfect timing. That as just what I needed to hear this grey, gloomy morning. I am going to make a conscious effort to take what you wrote and turn over a new leaf. Thank you. -Denise

I usually go out to eat with friends and family on Lupe's birthday and the day she passed We have a Mass intention on the Sunday closest to the day she passed. On our anniversary, I do one random act of kindness for every year we would be married. This November it will be 15.

If, and only if, you feel up to it, maybe talk personally with the person you are closest to in that group of friends, something like "I know we didn't make the last camping trip but I and my son are still really interested in being involved in future trips. [You could add  -- In fact, I think it would help my son to continue doing normal, fun things.] Can we help plan the next one?"

Agree with the previous comment that they might not have even been aware of the birthday date -- I don't focus on friend's birthdays unless I get an invitation.It would be different, of course, if you all had a long-standing tradition of celebrating each others bdays.

When my father in law passed away my mother in law went through the exact same thing.  There was 5 couples in total, since the kids were young they all camped together, christmas together etc.  When the kids grew up the couples went to Hawaii every year together.  After Bob died, my mother in law was no longer invited.  She finally was mad enough one day and called & asked why.  They said she made an odd number, & it just wasn't the same without Bob.  (He was the the fun one).  Yes, she had to make all new friends.

Doug died 4 years as of May 2017.  I had to make all new friends.  My best friend died 2 years before Doug,  but one friend stayed my friend.  Other than that, because you aren't the same, and you aren't "over it it" by 2 - 3 months they don't want to be near you.  Humanity can be very cold.

Advice I wish I was given:  Only confide in people who you truly believe care about you (1 or 2), confide in only people who have had a spouse die. Any events that mean something to you (death anniversary, birthdays, christmas) do something just for you (& kids if you have them) expect no one else to care.  I went to a bereavement group & she said to tell people, but the fact is they don't care.  One thing I heard  "People aren't against you, they are just for themselves" is so true, & I have never forgotten it.  I just learned it too late.  I so regret confiding to people like the bereavement group said to do.

Your comments are so true, humanity being cold and how people expect you to be over such a devastating life change in a matter of a few months. Or how people are just for themselves. That is so true! My late husband and I both worked for his family's company, and even though he helped his coworkers numerous times throughout the 10 years he worked there, some of whom were at our wedding, not one of them has called me since his passing in December. Perhaps it's because the family bosses told them not to for whatever reason, but it is odd.

Ashley,

    it's possible they think your not as into camping as they are. I have also come to realize that people feel awkward towards their friends when one of them passes away. It seem like they don't know how to talk to the one who s still here.  It's strange. They feel awkward and we alone. If only the two could come together.

Susan

Hi Ashley Nicole, Im so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband. I became part of the "widowed club" when in 2009 my male life partner of 31 years, Michael, passed from cancer. We had fallen in love in our mid teens, and had both worked very hard on our relationship. He was my absolute best friend, sweet love and wonderful "husband" and his passing was a devestating blow.
We were very blessed and happy to have many long time, dear close friends and Mikes family and i couldnt be closer. It was about 8 weeks prior to Mikes passing, when our doctors told us that we had exhausted all our treatment options, sadly we werent going to win our battle, he told us to go home and love each other, it wouldnt be long. The doctor set up hospice in our home, and i called the family, i was so grateful that, they all dropped their lives and moved into our home, to stay thru Mikes passing and funeral.
Our home was full of love and tremendous support, his mom and sister took over the house, cooking, cleaning, and im so grateful that Mike had his entire family, friends with him through his last weeks and passing. All of our long time friends were there too, almost daily, with love and support. After the funeral, Mikes mom stayed with me for a month, to share our grief, to help me get through those early days without Mike. The family has remained a huge support, we still communicate weekly, see each other a couple times per year, ( they live in the east, i live in San Diego). The family wanted me to move back east with them, offering their home for Avery, our 7 year old yellow labrador, and i, so i wouldnt be alone, starting my life over. So sweet. But i felt i had tremendous support from our lovely friends, i didnt feel comfortable leaving Mike in California at that time. I wanted to remain near him, and in our home we had shared.
Well to my surprise, the relationship we had shared with our dear friends, for 10-20-30 years, had changed and i didnt know it.
To this day, its a mystery. But through my years of membership in WV, and the 100s of people i have read about and chatted with, this is a common occurance. Not saying your friends will be the same way, but just sharing my experience. As the first weeks passed, after everyone had gone back to their lives, and i was all alone for the first time in my entire adult life. I realized that, nobody was calling, except the family. Not 1 friend was calling, or stopping by to say hello, or invite me to lunch. Our friends had always been a huge part of our daily, weekly lives. Now silence. It was brutal. After feeling sorry for myself, a couple of weeks, i decided maybe i wasnt being fair. Maybe they thought i needed some time to myself, and i would call when i was ready for company again. So i started to call everyone, in our inner circle of friends. I thought it strange i was getting so many voicemails, when prior to Mikes passing, i was always on the "A" list of answering my calls. Sadly, over the next weeks, i found out, it wasnt that they were waiting for my call. I realized I had to grieve another loss, that of a majority of the friends i thought were so close and would always be there. I actually got mad, when some calls werent returned, i pursued them hard, i wanted them to actually tell me in their own words, they werent interested in continueing our friendship. Over the years since, some of our long time friends have come back into my life, as a lunch or dinner, a couple times per year. But nothing is the same as it was before. It was an added loss, but through my grieving process over the past 8 years, i have come to peace with it. When Mike passed, my life as i knew it was over. Even the relationship with Mikes family has changed. We still talk weekly, love each other, but naturally, i guess, they never come out to visit anymore. The holidays, birthdays we always celebrated together, are now over. Last year, April 19th, i received a call for the first time since Mikes funeral, from Mary, one of our very close friends, her Husband Cliff, was Mikes best friend, for over 10 yrs. Mike and he worked together and for years we had dinner together at least 2-3 times per week, we travelled together, cliffs birthday was April 26th, mine is April 21st, so we always celebrated our birthdays together. Well Mary called me last year, to let me know Cliff had passed. Also, she wanted to appologize to me. In tears, she said she couldnt imagine how i must hate her and cliff. Since Cliffs passing, all she could think about is how lost and devestated she is and, then she thinks about she and cliff, and how they treated me after Mikes passing. She said, she is so sorry, how they treated me, abandoned me during this time she is currently going through. I told her how sorry i was for cliffs passing and her grief, i accepted her appology, and if she needed anything to please call me. I have actually called her a few times to check on her, offer to bring her dinner, clean her house, whatever she needs, but, she doesnt return my call. Lol.
I give up! Lol. I have done my best to move on, make new friends, but its difficult. Its challenging. I dont bend over backwards to be friends with someone anymore. I meet them half way, but i no longer work hard to keep friendships. If they want to be friends, they can work at it too, or it will fizzle. Ive let all the friendships of the past, die, with my old life. Its ok. It was meant to be. The few friends who have remained are good friends. I kind of look at it like a tremendous firestorm went through my life and totally cleaned house. In the devestation, a few trees survived and are flourishing again.

Steve-

thanks for this long, eloquent story about how relationships change after the death of a loved one.  I'm glad you had so many supportive friends and family members around in Mike's last days and for the funeral even though things have changed since then.

It made me realize that the relationships I have with my late husband Ron's family have also shifted somewhat.  His stepsister was fantastic and very supportive during his last days and now I'm less inclined to call her.  She's a wonderful, sweet person but I feel like we've lost that link in common.

Same with his kids (both over 40 so hardly "kids"). If I were in the city where either of them lived, I'd certainly make some time to see them, but what we have in common is more in the past, and will become more distant with time.  Ron's brother and SIL are still in frequent contact with me but that's because, in accordance with Ron's wishes, I'm sending them $1,000/month for 24 months.  Wonder what will happen when that ends!

So, sometimes we need to forge ahead with new relationships when the old ones don't work anymore.  I'm fortunate- I had quite a few friendships that didn't involve the two of us as a couple since I'm active in my church, Toastmasters and the local garden club.  This relationships have barely changed and I'm grateful for that. 

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