Monday, January 21, 2008

enough rope

If you've been blogging for any length of time, you develop a posse of friends and friendly acquaintances, people whose blogs you read and comment on, people you email back and forth with, or telephone or skype or actually meet in real life. You bond with these people for different reasons -- shared experiences, similar ways of looking at the world, emotional or physical proximity.

But things happen. Time moves on. People move on. And, eventuallly, some of the friends who once best understood your sorrow have new hopes and joys of their own, hopes and joys that you don't share and never will. People get pregnant, people get pregnant with twins, people have babies. And even though you're long past the worst of your own grief and you wish only good things for your friends, you find that standing too close to their happiness is salt in your mostly-healed wounds. You don't want to hurt your friends, but you're tired of hurting yourself.

What's the right thing to do? What would you want your friends to do?


missing_one said...

I think distance is fine. I have done this with friends IRL as well as online and the good ones don't care if you need to take time away from them and their hopes(and joys) because they understand.

As a friend once said, "Friends come and go, but the good ones come and go often"

niobe said...

missing one In theory, I guess I agree with you. In practice, well, things haven't exactly worked out that way. For me, gone is gone. There's no such thing as a temporary break.

Over a year ago, I decided that I need to end contact with all my IRL friends because I didn't want to deal with the pity or sympathy I imagined they felt. I cut every single one of them off with no explanation and no remorse.

Now, over a year later, some of them still telephone occasionally or send me emails. I don't answer the phone, I don't return the messages, and I delete the emails unread.

As far as I'm concerned, they're gone for good. I can't imagine ever wanting them back. And these are people who never did anything even vaguely hurtful to me and who would have, I'm sure, offered me a tremendous amount of support. I just never gave them the chance.

Which is why I'm trying to be cautious about doing the same thing all over again.

Sunny said...

I have had to give a disclaimer email to my friends, explaining I am why I am not around. If they truly care they will understand your absence.


Julie Pippert said...

The ones I began the IF journey with...we didn't all end up on the same path or with the same outcome. It was easy to hurt, be hurt, and so forth.

We clung to the friendships I think well-past their usefulness and positiveness.

That's hard to say.

I was in the middle...not the first, not the worst, not the last.

Losing the friends who fell off was hard. Losing the friends who couldn't bear me after I bore a child was hard. Keeping up with the ones who were new mommies was hard. And eventually, things narrowed.

You keep up the best you can with the ones who became friends for more reasons than just because you both were in the fire together, but life has a funny way of taking you in different directions.

I eventually had to accept that. I had to accept that as good a person as I might be, I wasn't per se the person or friend that friend needed any longer.

If I may be so bold? You haven't reached closure. You are still on the journey. My friends and I were as open as we could be about sometimes it needs to be space between.

It hurts, all the way around, there's no easy way to say that or deal with it.

But Niobe, at the end of the need what you need to take care of you. Right now? That might be focused to others also still on the journey.


and (hug)

Anonymous said...

I would want my friends to be honest with me.

I have made some friends inside my computer who have changed me in ways I can never repay them for. If my situation were to ever change, like I somehow managed to get pregnant, I would know that it would be painful for them to deal with. Knowing some of these people as well as I do, I would know that my change of fate would be like salt in the wound. I think I would let them know that it was ok to take a step back from me. Make sense? I wouldn't turn my back on them if it were to painful that I was in a different place. I would continue to check in with them, with no mention of they state I may be in. Now, me getting pregnant is highly unlikely, I am aware that this is entirely hypothetical.

From what I have experienced from bloggers, who ARE friends, they have had the change in circumstances and they have been able to support me and still be there for me during my ups and downs. And their understanding and compassion makes it a whole lot easier for me to deal with their good news/baby etc.

I guess I didn't really answer your question, but I think in a round about way I did. You have to do what you are comfortable with. And if they are true friends, they will understand.

niobe said...

I guess I should say one more thing. Many of my IRL friends have suffered crushing, unimaginable tragedies. They sought and I gladly offered whatever help I could give during their times of crisis. I feel enormously guilty that I've been completely unwilling to let them do the same for me.

Lori said...

I have worried a lot about being in the category of a loss mom who also has living children AND has had another healthy, living child post-loss. Sometimes I find it amazing that some of the moms who have no living children read my blog at all. I would find no fault at all with those who choose not to.

Through no fault of their own, there are people whose life circumstances open up my own wounds. I try to remember that my own circumstances probably do the same for others.

I guess it is different when you feel you have established a friendship though (can I admit that I have no idea what "skype" is?) Is it too trite to say that honesty is the best policy? I would imagine that most of the friends you have made here understand what it is like to need to distance yourself from painful reminders.

Aunt Becky said...

I think that you have to look deeply into why you want to avoid these people. If it's a matter of self preservation, there is nothing at all wrong with that. It's simply not fair to yourself to have the wounds reopen or fester just to make someone else feel better. Life is hard enough (some days) without having to revisit old scars. And your sanity is important, too.

I wish I could come and hang with you and eat stinky cheeses and drink bad wine. Really, I do.

Anonymous said...

I really do think that if you need to step away, step away. Some friends will understand and some won't. You may be able to continue some of these friendships later, but maybe not. And really, that's okay.

Anonymous said...

My grief is different (smaller, I venture to say) and I am different (larger, most likely) but I think there are seasons to step away. I personally love those friends who won't give up ... because now they're helping me step back, and letting me. I'm finding now that the salt is the next part of the healing ... but that's just me. Where you are is wherever you are.

k@lakly said...

I think the best thing for a friendship is to give it a break sometimes. I think the real friendships survive the seperation and become new again when the time is right. I think it's easy to get lost in a friendship, to count so much on the friendship that you forget how to count on yourself. It can be scary, when you're faced with a life altering experience and your friends can't guide you or save you or really even help you, to suddenly realize no matter how many friends you have you are ultimately on your own when you have to deal with life's shit.
But I still wouldn't want my friends to be gone from me. At least not all of them. To be honest tho, I have, in the past, walked away from friendships without even offering the courtesy of a good-bye. I don't do well with confrontation, when I'm done, I'm done.
You have to do what's right for you, you're what matters right?

I hope I make the cut tho:)

Anonymous said...

With online friends I basically put it out there that if you have good news I won't be able to be there in full force. I mean I know only a hand full of people can deal with that and not think you are a raging bitch. The good people know that it is totally necessary to pull back because if you don't you might have to toss yourself over a bridge.

There are blogs now that are dear, dear friends and they are knocked up and I am no longer and I just sort of graze their news and I HAVE to move on.

Like I said- the good people get it and don't hold it against you. The ones that get offended- well who needs 'em.

I say whatever keeps you healthy is what you have to do.

Which Box said...

Interesting post and interesting follow on. You are awfully hard on yourself. I can't tell if you'd like to re-establish any contact with IRL people. I bet there are some relationships that can be salvaged, at some level, if you wanted. maybe you don't.

I'm not as abrupt as you, but I have groups of friends for different purposes. I'm almost not in contact at all with my college friends. My friends who helped me through the first crisis in my marriage are not helping me through this, my second. I let few people even know about my pregnancy losses- no one knew about the first, and the second was a very small group.

I don't know. I think tired of hurting yourself is your key phrase. I also think honesty is the second piece. Everyone you've met online has suffered in some way. (god, remember the bad things people said to you comments? Some have suffered many times in thoughtless ways). So I'd say everyone here understands. Understands grief and loss and moving on and not moving on, good days and bad days and really really bad days. That's what's so powerful about blogging and the internet.

So give yourself a break. And just put it out there, the good and the bad, and it'll continue to shake out.

thrice said...

I'm not sure that I understand. On one hand you say "I cut every single one of them off with no explanation and no remorse." But then you turn around and write "I feel enormously guilty that I've been completely unwilling to let them do the same for me."

As a mother of twins and someone who blogs about my twins, I would completely understand if you told me to get lost. I'm so sorry that you are in the pain that you are in and the last thing that I would want to do is cause you more pain.

And while your at it, it's not pity or sympathy that attracts people to you. Someone who has your talents is clearly not not defined by your losses.

Aurelia said...

Sigh, as someone who is currently a source of pain for others, being all knocked up and happy about it---I don't know the answer.

I wish that others could still read me and feel happy for my bizarrely amazing good fortune. But I know it most likely can't happen. And since I'm on and off my meds, I screw up posts & comments constantly and say the kind of stuff that most likely does rub salt in the wound.

So I shut up and comment less, or try to say nothing. But I miss them, intensely. And as someone who has been through infertility and loss, I know the journey isn't over just because I get to have a living child afterwards.

Like Julie said, you don't have closure yet. So, yes, I worry that you think that by cutting yourself off from the former friends that the pain will end. And cutting yourself off from bloggers who get pregnant the pain will end. It won't, really. Facing your pain, and the hard things around it, in a slow and gentle way, will help end the pain.

And all these sad posts in a row worry me. Are you assuming disaster for the surrogacy plan already before it even starts? Or is this about something else?

Maggie said...

Even if they are 'gone' to you now, you never know when you might change your mind. The ones who still email or call, even without a return, are just letting you know that they're still around for when or if you are looking for them.

I have a hard time letting go of people - not so much if it is their choice, but it's a decision I almost never make on my own. I am glad to walk away to improve someone else, but I can't seem to do the same for myself.

People grow, people change. Life happens. Friends do come and go, but there is always the ability to rekindle old friendships, when the time is right.

niobe said...

Thrice: People who blog about their children -- no matter how many they have -- don't bother me at all (for obvious reasons). Reading about people's pregnancies sometimes does hurt a little (also for obvious reasons).

On your other point, you're absolutely right. It probably would have been clearer to say that at the time I had exceptionally little remorse about cutting my friends off. It seemed simple self-preservation and I didn't give too much thought to how my actions may have hurt them. Now, I feel much more guilty when I ignore their calls and emails. Still not guilty enough to respond, though.

a- said...

I would not be so bold as to say what the right thing to do is but I think you have to give your friends some credit. If they are as half as intelligent as you, they will understand. Which one are you tired of more? -Hurting your friends or hurting yourself? Pick one.

Magpie said...


I feel as though you might run away.

I hope you don't

Tash said...

When I was in my cave a number of people IRL asked my husband what they could do, and he simply said, "be patient." And I am so, so overwhelmingly thankful for the ones that were and allowed me to come back to them on my terms. I think it goes without saying that people in this corner of the blogsphere are equally patient. If you were to "quit" someone, I find it hard to believe that you know definitively that you'd never ever go back. You just never know when your lives will overlap again in such a way that talking to them will be less painful, and even meaningful. (And this is coming from cynic queen.) Plus, I hate to say this, but you never know when the bad shit cloud will hit THEM. And they will be thankful that you are there.

Like someone above said, I was, at first, surprised that people who lost cildren and had no healthy ones read my blog. I could imagine to many I'm a big middle finger to their existence. But: I find so many commonalities with people who have lost babies, despite my toddler, and I'm thankful that they've chosen to read me and be there for me. Having said that, things change, interests change, people change.

In the end, do what you need to do. For yourself. Screw what anyone else thinks.

EmmaL said...

Gosh, I don't know what to say. I cut people out also and I feel myself doing it lately. One by one. There are people who have what I want and I just find it tremendously painful, selfishly painful I suppose, to interact with them. I just don't know. I've never let anyone be there for me either. I don't know how to accept support from someone - I don't even know what that is supposed to look like. When it comes to everything I went through - I couldn't deal with peoples' reactions to me. Never mind what I was going through - I didn't want to experience whatever it was they felt about it - feeling sorry for me or something. I think people would understand though. I think it's important to take care of yourself. People - friends, don't like the way I handle things like these damn follow-up appointments I keep having. But I have to handle it the way I have to handle it. Just take care of yourself and don't worry about everyone else.

painted maypole said...

i say be honest. say what you said here. "i love you. i want the best for you. I need to back off a little, for my own sake. I hope that you will not be hurt by this, but rather wish me well"

Jennifer said...

The rule of thumb is ~ always talk about your feelings.
Otherwise people can get misconstrued, self projected perceptions and assume crap that is not correct. And that's when dumb misunderstandings happen.
About url friends's so easy to turn the pc off and say...I'm not checking in today.

Katie said...

Not really a lot more to add to what others have said. However I do hope that your friends keep trying to stay in touch, because eventually you will feel able to speak to them, and if they're good friends they'll take you back no questions asked.

Anonymous said...

You and I are not much alike, from what I have read of your life. But in this, we are similar. When my mother killed herself, I decided that I had absolutely nothing in common with anyone that I knew. I moved to Europe, and I stopped taking their calls. I stopped responding to their emails.

I don't think that I realized how hard it is to recover from that big of a social circle loss. I am pretty sure that I would not do something so extreme again. But anyhow, even though I still miss some of those people, I find myself without anything to say or without the ability to answer the phone. Ten years on, even the most persistent have stopped calling. I regret it if I hurt them. But I didn't have it in me to go back on the decision.

When we lost our baby, I cut the circle of friends here even smaller. That was not quite such an absolute sweep, more that I decided who I could tolerate around me and who I could not. It was kind of self-selecting, to be honest. I found that generally the ones I could tolerate least were also the ones most afraid to speak to me. The resident icon of loss.

Lately, a lot of the women who helped me online after Disaster Pregnancy are now happily far along in new pregnancies or have actually given birth. I still like them, and I still feel as though they get it. But given that I've had repeated miscarriages this year, it gets hard to read about. I don't bother to tell them, because what's the point? I just am around their journals less. Or not at all. But it hurts me, and my jealousy clouds how I'm able to see them. Perhaps there will be a point when that isn't true. But it isn't there yet. I honestly haven't run into even one blogger or board buddy who hasn't gotten the reasons why.

Do what you need to do.

Caro said...

Do what works for you this is a process and no-one else can tell you how it should go.

Anonymous said...

Blogging and reading blogs takes a lot of time and energy. It should be going towards what helps you the most. I would send a kind email to the folks whose blogs hurt too much to read, so that they aren't hurt by your sudden desertion.

It is not really feasible to distance yourself partially on blogs. Either you are reading or you are not. And these seem to be blogs that hurt too much. That is totally legitimate.


thirtysomething said...

In life, I find, that we need to monitor the health of our own souls, our own hearts, and adjust our surroundings and behavior accordingly. A true friend is one who will understand and will not fade away even when pushed, but rather lie in wait, in the backdrop, until summoned again.

Niobe--have you ever read any Lexigrams? Truly soothing words, as I know you are a lover of words..perhaps you might find solice. Email me if you would like a direct web address or are interested at all...
Have a good day.

cinnamon gurl said...

If it were my friend, I would want honesty, and I think I would understand and not feel too hurt.

If I may be so bold, I don't understand why you're still cutting your IRL friends off. I understand why you did in the first place, sort of, but if it's been a year and a few of them are still reaching out... you'll seriously never be friends with them again?

Rachel said...

Once people are pregnant in the blog world, I have a tendency to back off a bit. I do check in to make sure things are still going okay, but once I am assured they are, I move on.

I haven't done the same IRL. I only have a few, close friends and I have managed to keep up with them. Only one of them has a child, however. But sticking with these friends is very important to me, and my friends have in general been very supportive.

But I haven't lost a child, I've only lost pregnancies. I think that's different. For me, I believe it's easier to grieve for lost first trimester pregnancies than it is to lose a child, even though I'm having to do it over and over again.

I feel cut off from the real world in general, and I want to feel connected to it in some way. My IRL friends and family are how I do it.

thailandchani said...

I think friends empathize and encourage you to take care of your tender spots.

I am not a "friend" of yours.. only a blog acquaintance. I am also too old to be concerned much with fertility issues. At the same time, I know what the sucker punch of disappointment is all about. That is the level at which I can relate.

And I do encourage you to take care of that tender spot. Whatever it takes. Friends understand. Even acquaintances do.

Rosepetal said...

I have also cut people out of real life and stay in touch with a very few people from "before". Some of those were because I was so utterly disappointed in their lack of support. But some of them were for no particular reason. They didn't do anything "wrong". The friendship just became.... irrelevant to me in my new reality. They tried to keep in touch for a while but I also ignore them. The difference is that I don't feel particularly guilty about it.

As for blogland, I think it's natural. Communities and sub-communities form and people come and go as their lives change. At some point in time you feel like you have nothing in common with them any more or the connection that was there is there no longer. Seems perfectly natural to me.

DD said...

I really thought through blogging that I would have life-long friends, or at least I thought that when I first started. I've realized though that just as IRL, many of my early blogging friends have become nothing more than saved emails and comments as they moved on.

I keep myself relatively distant now as I know that no amount of emails and phone calls with someone I've met on line will make them "BFF" until I reach old age. Eventually I will become just a fuzzy memory to them...and you...too.

Unknown said...

Though I still have friends from "before", its still hard to stay in contact with them because I am not the same person, and thought they want to try to understand, they don't.

I do totally understand peoples good news being too hard to be close to. I think that it is ok to move on Niobe. I think that it is ok, but also it would be ok if someday you and those friends somehow came back into each others lives, even if it is yars down the road. It seems ok to be open to that right?

At least for me that it how I think. There are those that I just don't bother to really keep my friendships with right now, but maybe someday I will again.

Beruriah said...

I don't have much to add to the others above, so I will just speak to our personal blog connection.

It meant so much to me that you stuck around through my pregnancy. When I saw that "Niobe" had commented, I always felt happy and grateful that you were still reading. Even still I always understood that you might decide at some point that it was too hard. And I'll still understand if you stop now for whatever reason - be it Samuel or just the fact that I'm getting boring.

You have to do what you feel you have to do, but I am very, very sorry for those for whom it is now too difficult for you to stand by. Especially those with whom you've established a real life connection.

Suz said...

My husband has had the same close friends since kindergarten, something that I've never quite understood. I wrote as an infertile blogger for a year before I got pregnant with the boys. During this year, I routinely unsubscribed people from my bloglines who got pregnant and just hoped that they would understand. Some of them probably did; some of them probably didn't. I didn't loose too many IRL friends over infertility or pregnancy because I didn't have that many to begin with. I made other infertile friends, too. When I got pregnant, I honestly hoped that those whom it bothered wouldn't read my blog anymore. I don't want to offend and bloglines are too long to read anything out of obligation. Those blogs I read, I read because they're interesting, beautiful, or speak to me in some way.

Furrow said...

I've been on both sides now (to paraphrase Joni) and it hurts to leave and be left, and I've come back to most of my old IRL friends, because they never really hurt me in the first place, except by getting pregnant (repeatedly and easily). I was always amazed (and grateful) that you came around to my place and encouraged me, but if you need to go away for a while (from whomever), you should. You work so hard to take care of everyone else. It's your turn. But keep your options open for a return.

Coggy said...

I think you have to put yourself first. It's bad enough to be hurting anyway without rubbing salt into the wounds.
I would want my friends to be happy. I wouldn't want to be around them if I knew it was making them unhappy. It would hurt me too much to have them there, especially if deep down they didn't want to be.

There are some people in my life I have deliberately distanced myself from. I have told them I find it too hard now to speak or be around them. I feel bad sometimes, but most of the time I don't feel any different. I don't miss them as much as I thought I would.

Betty M said...

I would step away if I had to but I hope that I would let people know why. I also hope that they would understand if overtures to me later were rebuffed until I felt I could go back again. I have however always been too much of a coward to sever a friendship suddenly instead just letting it fade.

Heather said...

I'm not sure what the 'right' thing to do is. I know that I find sympathy to be more than I can take - in any situation. For whatever reason, (IRL) particularly, there are only a handful (well, one or two to be honest) of people that don't repel me by reaching out. When they do, I do the same thing - cut them off, back away. I can't even stand to hear the words 'I'm sorry.' It sounds awful to say that, and I don't know why it's so, but it is. I understand.

meg said...

I did the same thing you did Niobe, after my twins died. Just cut the few remaining friends out of my life. It's what I had to do at the time.

As for me...I'll never be calling you and telling you that I'm pregnant. salt in your wounds from me.

Waiting Amy said...

I loved what Furrow said. You do need to take care of you. And I will be here anytime you need me and I can help.

I think when it comes to some of your IRL friends, I sense you DO want to reconnect with a few of them. You say its not enough to do anything different ... yet you keep talking about it. Maybe you need a little push? Here -- *shove*

Hoping you are okay.

Grad3 said...

To respect and honor our friendship enough to be honest with me. Friends will at least try to understand even when it's not 'logical'.

Anonymous said...

there have been so many thoughtful comments here, I don't have much to add. I'll just echo what others have said about taking care of you. and about being honest with yourself. as for fellow travelers, I don't think you owe any explanations. anyone who has been through i/f will know it just hurts too much.

as for others, again, be honest with yourself about what you need. as you said its self-preservation. people always say a real friend will understand. and it sounds like you've got some of those, whether or not you choose to accept them back into your life someday in some way. but many people just don't understand. and if you want to be relieved of the ongoing outreach, you could always say something as suggested about your need to step back and that you hope they can understand...

I guess I had more to say than I thought...

take care of yourself.

susan said...

Hmm...interesting question, and interesting comments. I think you should take care of yourself, first and foremost. Relationships shift, and friends should understand that.

But, but, but, there's something in my head that I can't quite figure out how to say, which is pretty pointless to leave here in a comment, but I will say it anyway just so you know I have been and am tossing this all over. Not that my tossing will make a bit of difference to you, of course, but your words move me.

Maddie's Mom said...

I cut people out for a long time to save myself. I knew that if I kept being surrounded by all the happy, perfect preggos I would never come out of my darkness. I couldn't take it. I had to be alone or with other people that were suffering too or had suffered. It took me almost a year to get back to anywhere near where I needed to be to be around those who had what I want so much. It took forgiving myself before I could "forgive" my IRL and online friends. My friends gave me all the space I needed and once I was ready to come back they were right there for me.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to do what is right for you.
I LOVE babies, pg women and talking about peoples pg. (even before this pg). But i know how I am is not normal and most cant do this.
I know many probably wont read my blog anymore. I understand. I have done what I can to make my blog a safe place for all to read. Im not sure what else I can do.
If thats not enough, then I understand. Many probably can't stand the thought of 'knowing' a pg person. Even if they dont have to read/hear the news. I understand that as well.

Huge hugs

Amelie said...

To me it seems that your dilemma is you'll always end up hurt -- obviously if you see the others happy, pregnant etc., and also because now you feel bad about cutting off all contacts to your friends and do not want to cause this pain to both them and you again. There is no easy solution.
I'd like my friends to be honest, and tell me if they need to step away. I'd hope that they can return after a while, but of course I also want them to be happy and not hurt by the luck I am experiencing. Also for your IRL friends, although it is hard to break and then reestablish the contacts, maybe you want to try it some day, when you feel ready.

LIW (Lady In Waiting) said...

I think that you have to do what is best for you. "You don't deserve to be tortured," as my wonderful therapist once told me. People in the IF world will understand. Well, at least I know that I would and I know that the bloggers I am closest to would as well.


KH99 said...

Your post really hit home. I have a similar situation with a close friend. We bonded through IF, but she was successful and I was not, and now I'm having a hard time seeing her baby. I am thrilled about what you wrote about standing too close to their happiness and how much it hurts b/c that is exactly how I feel. The friend doesn't understand and is mad at me. All I ask for is a little empathy. That's what I would want. However, I have to take care of myself because no one else will, and if that means avoiding the situation until I am a little stronger, then so be it.

Unknown said...

I think you do what you have to do to look after yourself and keep yourself on an even keel. If that means stepping back then you do that.

I have done pretty much what you did; I don't see a lot of my old friends, I don't email them or call and I avoid them as much as possible when they try and contact me. I find it very difficult to accept what I expect will be pity. I hope that I will come out on the other side of this, maybe when I'm 50 and their lives are less kid-focused and mine has been determined. I hope that the friends with whom I shared a deep bond will understand and will still be there but at the moment I can accept that I might have lost them.

Look after yourself, that's all I would say. I can understand people stepping away from me if that is what they need, because of a pregnancy announcement or a frightening loss, so I would just want my friends to understand that sometimes distance is vital.

Anonymous said...

Everyone said it so well, not much for me to comment on.

In short I agree most when they said that the good ones, the caring ones, the understanding ones will get why you abandoned them and just take you back.

I've been there, I'm still there, trying to get "them" all back slowly but shorly. Some are not interested, I won't allow myself to get upset about that, the ones that took me back with open arms, I love even more than I did before. They just get it, no explanation needed. I was pleasantly surprised at how many more "got it" than didn't.

Grief and guilt go hand in hand, you don't get one without the other, not much you can do about that.

Love to you :) XXX

Monica H said...

I so get this post. Sometimes I wanna run away.