Monday, June 19, 2017

3 Tips for Dealing With The Fadeaway Friend

Photo image courtesy of Marcisim via Pixabay.com
A friend loves you all the time,
and a brother ·helps in [L is born for a] time of trouble.
Proverbs 17:17, EXB

I ran into her when I was out shopping the other day. We had a pleasant exchange sharing the latest with our kids before each going our separate ways to finish shopping. It was great to see her.

If you have a child with a chronic illness or disability, you very well may have someone like her in your life as well -- the fadeaway friend.

She is the friend who I used to see all the time at the fun group parties we attended back when our lives were "normal." We collected hilarious memories of silly things like adult scavenger hunts or summer street dances. She even visited after our son was diagnosed... And then I stopped seeing her. 

The invitations to parties or dinner with friends just disappeared. Life became isolated and lonely. Everybody seemed like their lives were carrying on so well... except us. The contrast between their lives and ours became more pronounced over time. While we were in the emergency room, they were on Harley rides through the hills. While we were paying for therapies, they were on adventures. Have I mentioned how lonely we felt?

How are parents, are PEOPLE like us to deal with this sort of thing without becoming bitter?

Here's what I have learned over the years:

  1. Some friendships are only for a season of life. Cherish the good times and memories from each season. But know that when a void is left in your life from the loss of one friendship, God will fill that space in your heart with a new one. Although I can become sad and wistful recalling the friends that have moved on since our child's diagnosis, I truly cherish the new friends the Lord has brought into my life. I wouldn't trade either group of friends for the world, and I don't have to. What a grace! Through adversity, God expanded my experience and my friendships!
  2. People get compassion fatigue. When our child is first diagnosed, we do what I call "the information puke." We can't help it. This experience needs to be processed by discussing it out loud. But we often talk about it with everyone all the time. Not living through this sort of experience themselves, people are at a loss for what to say. And even if we don't do the information dump, many people are repelled because what we are living is their worst nightmare. Their fight-or-flight response kicks in and they take off running. Please know that they are not fleeing from you, but from the pain. This can also reveal who is a true friend and who is merely an acquaintance. A true friend will "love at all times" and press into the discomfort rather than fleeing.
  3. Don't give up. Persistence is key when you would find it easier to curl up in a corner and feel sorry for yourself. Yours may be the only family living with disability or chronic illness that others have a chance to really know. Keep inviting that fadeaway friend. Love them rather than respond with disdain. Get out and do other things that don't involve your child's diagnosis so you can continue to expand your horizons and your friendships. This gives you the opportunity to be a positive living example to the typical world. In doing so, you become a powerful testimony to the fallacy that life with exceptional needs is not a life worth living. You are God's tool to push back ignorance and increase acceptance. You are a light in the darkness, but you must be willing to shine brightly rather than fizzle out in frustration. As the adage goes, to have a friend, be a friend.
This is hard work. It can be much easier to retreat to our natural human response, and even at the best of times, we still will. But if we are willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through us, we can ultimately have a much brighter family story. God will wipe away those tears of losing friendships and restore us with new purpose if we cooperate.

I would much rather have that be my experience than descending into a permanent state of bitterness. Wouldn't you?

Pray with me...

Lord, You tell us in Your word that a friend loves at all times. Help me to BE that friend to others when they fade out of my life or abandon me. Exchange my bitterness for brightness. Rather than expecting compassion from ignorant people, Holy Spirit, do Your work in me so that I am extending compassion to THEM. Make me a reflection of Your glory so that when others see me they want to draw closer to You.

3 comments:

  1. I understand this so completely. But, my life has crossed another threshold. I am now in my 70's and my son, who lives at home, is 47 but because of his disabilities functions as a 2 y.o. He requires assistance in all his daily living needs. I have no friends. He attends a day program, so I have time to shop, clean etc. But the time for friends to want to be a part of my life as passed. I'm scared of the future, because I don't know how I will continue if I should become a widow and still have my responsibilities.

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    1. Oh, dear, TAKE HEART! It's never too late for God to put new friends into your life. My mother was widowed at 83 and has developed an entire new group of friends at her assisted living facility. In fact, one of the new friends has her son with disabilities living with her in the assisted living apartment. I will be praying that God sends you the help and encouragement you need for each moment, each day.

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