A New Core Anchor for a Different Voice: Connection

A New Core Anchor for a Different Voice: Connection

Schaefer writes about a woman who loses her best friend, Julia, in an accident. She was “bothered by some people not understanding how important Julia was to her, as if you weren’t supposed to mourn best friends with the intensity you do family members. ‘I have gotten the sense with different people that they don’t really get it.’, she says. When she asked for time off from work to help her deal with her grief, she didn’t feel like the company was particularly supportive…’It’s easier for people to say ‘Oh my gosh, you lost your mother, you lost your sister’, she says. ‘It’s hard to communicate to people who don’t know or understand, ‘This was my best friend for my entire life. I think there is a need to justify why this is taking a toll on me. Because I want to make sure people don’t misunderstand. It doesn’t matter if they do or not, but it feels invalidating when they don’t.’” (Schaefer, 2018, p. 153)

My friendship with Rebecca did not survive the relocation. I tried hard to move through my feelings of loss and betrayal, which I knew, although valid for me, were unfair to Rebecca. She had every right to make a move that would benefit herself and her children. I believed, as her best friend, I needed to support a move that she believed was in her and her children’s best interest. However, Rebecca was unable to tolerate my sadness and as time went on, I became aware that I was more attached to her than she was to me. She had immigrated from Israel at age 5 years, which had been traumatic. Her parents had a rocky marriage and divorce and Rebecca’s own relationship history had been fraught with trauma. Her children had different fathers and both men had been active drug addicts. Although bright, talented and highly educated,
Rebecca had had her children young, before she was really capable of supporting them. She had always needed financial help from her parents. She had geographically relocated her family several times before moving to her father’s building in Boston and had not kept up her friendships from her previous communities. She did not allow herself to form emotionally intimate relationships with men, only sexual relationships.

For Rebecca, the close friendship with me had been something of an anomaly. Perhaps we had more emotional intimacy than she could tolerate; she seemed to have an avoidant attachment style. I reflected she had a long history of maintaining distance in her relationships and she was now creating more distance in our relationship, both emotionally and by moving. In fact, despite all her reassurances that “we would stay as close as ever”, after she moved to Delaware, Rebecca only called me twice over a two-year period. All the responsibility for maintaining the relationship fell on my shoulders. I had to initiate all the phone calls. I was always the one to take time off from work and make the six- hour-long drive to Delaware to visit her and her kids. On the rare occasion she came to Boston, she would see me for an hour and spend the rest of her visit with family and “friends who never visit Delaware.”

One time I learned she had been in Boston and hadn’t even called me. When I told her that hurt me she stated “I know I will see you, Suzanne, because you always drive down to Delaware. Most people don’t visit me, so I want to have a chance to see them.” Her statement angered me. I felt she was taking advantage of my efforts and not reciprocating. I began to visit her less, hoping she would step-up her efforts to connect with me. She didn’t, and over time the friendship fizzled out. I wanted more reciprocity. I no longer felt angry; I just didn’t want to be the one doing all the work. Although I have moved on, when I think about what happened I still feel sad. We haven’t spoken in years. I don’t see her family often, although her children occasionally contact me. She has no idea that my father died, my step-mother overdosed, that I am almost a doctor in psychology, that my step-son with TBI made it through college, that my mother has Alzheimer’s disease or that my brother suffers from Parkinson’s disease. It is very sad when a friendship and community disappear.

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About the Author

Suzanne Brennan NathanDr. Suzanne Brennan Nathan is a clinical psychologist, clinical social worker and group psychotherapist recognized as a clinician, program developer and instructor in the treatment of trauma and addictions. For forty years, she has practiced psychotherapy in Boston and Newton, MA. Currently in full-time private practice, Dr. Brennan Nathan has been the clinical director of several group practices specializing in the treatment of addictions. Suzanne has been on the clinical faculty at numerous social work schools in the Boston area, including Smith College, Boston University, Simmons College and Boston College. She was the founding director of the Family Crisis Team (Child Sexual Abuse Team) at The Cambridge Hospital and was a Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She divides her time between Boston and Northern California.

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