We thought we had our “always and forever” lifetime companion. Our spouse, the person we most loved and trusted, and with whom we most wanted to spend our time, is now gone. This was not part of the plan.
What do we do now? Who will we talk to about what is on our mind or about how we are feeling? How would we even know who was willing to listen? What about activities we used to share together, such as dancing, sports, traveling, dining out, or a movie? Can we ever imagine doing these things again with anyone else?
First of all, take your time to consider these very valid questions, and give yourself permission to grieve the relationship. Whatever the circumstances of the death, the marriage was a big part of your life, and as such, should be validated. But don’t isolate yourself from others. Life is going to be different now for sure, but different doesn’t necessarily mean worse.
The truth is, there are many people in this world who could love you, and whom you could love, not necessarily in the romantic sense, but as a friend. What is a friend, and how do you know if someone is one? Well, first of all, we must distinguish between types of friends.
Close Friends: Close friends are the ones you trust with your most personal issues. They know you well, but like you anyway. Obviously, not everyone can fall into that category. Friends: Friends are the people you know and spend time with on a social or business basis, but don’t share personal information with.
Acquaintances: Acquaintances are the people you spend time doing activities with, such as working out, being part of a club or other organization, or participating in community activities. They are the people you encounter often in your everyday life.
The difference between close friends, friends, and acquaintances is the level of trust you share with each other. Some people claim to have dozens, or even hundreds of friends, but they don’t (and should not) trust any of them with their personal feelings. Trust is the most integral part of a friendship, and deepens it to another level.
For example, I have a close friend from high school who has been through many phases of life alongside me and who knows about mistakes I’ve made, as well as my accomplishments. Miraculously, she’s still my friend after many years, and we reconnect periodically to catch up on each others lives. We don’t need to be anybody special with each other, because we both accept the other as she is. When we are together we can be who we are, no holds barred. This is the kind of friendship that would continue to exist without regard to our marital status. I also have a close friend from college and one from work. I have friends and acquaintances whom I value a great deal, and who, given the opportunity for us to get to know one another better, could become close friends.
You may not have any close friends, or even any friends, particularly if you spent nearly all your time with your partner. Certainly stays connected to old friends, and help them to become comfortable with you as a “single”. But be open to developing new friendships as well. Notice that there are many people you see frequently but don’t really know. Why not strike up a conversation about interests you share, or places you’ve been? Try some volunteer work, or join a club. A good conversation starter is to ask the other person about themselves, rather than talking about you. People are usually flattered and pleased that you asked, and you are on the way to making a friend. When you feel ready, ask them if they’d like to stop for a cup of coffee with you. Look for things you have in common, as they are also good conversation starters. Don’t pour out your soul right away, but at the same time, give them a chance to show you whether they are an authentic, honest person. Don’t trust everyone, but don’t distrust everyone either. Give everyone an equal chance to be a friend. You won’t know for sure until you try.