Everyone has a personal before, during and after
Several years ago, I published my book Living with Loss, One Day at a Time, providing daily thoughts supporting those suffering a loss. It was written for an isolated population of people seeking emotional support and connection after experiencing the death of a loved one, receiving news of a dreadful terminal diagnosis, or experiencing a hardship.
Now fast forward a few years, and I would never have imagined the entire world would experience such a profound loss that would affect us all so differently. For most, the pandemic created a lifestyle change and transformed relationships, resulting in an abundance of gifts for some while presenting extreme hardships for others. All aspects of our daily lives were affected by the year of lockdown, including interaction with our friends. As we reengage with each other this spring, defining our priorities is important. Our before and during phases of the pandemic will be challenged by defining our after.
When my husband passed away many years ago, I spent an enormous amount of time defining my after. I titled it BR (before Rod’s death) and AR (after Rod’s death), describing my behavioral changes that occurred due to this life-changing event. I struggled with the memories of the before as his death changed my reality. The during was too painful to spend all my time reflecting on the past so I had no choice but to move to the after (with a lot of love and support, of course). One area I struggled with was questioning where all my friends had gone. The feeling of isolation was yet another loss for me. Only in hindsight had I realized my friends had not left me, but instead, my lifestyle had changed due to his death. The passing of time allowed me to appreciate how difficult hardships are for the one experiencing the challenge and those close by who are unaware of the best way to show support. Although friendships are usually straightforward, they can get complicated when we struggle to understand and “fix” a friend who is experiencing a personal hardship. Even all these years later, I question whether I am providing the appropriate support for others.
When writing Living with Loss, One Day at a Time, my goal was to focus on all aspects of loss, including the feeling of isolation felt from your before friends, which I share on Day 147:
Where Have My Friends Gone?
They have gone back to their daily activities and responsibilities. While you may feel as if they have deserted you physically, they have not in their hearts. Your friends have returned to carpooling, vacationing, parenting, and their normal routines. The difference is that your normal routine has changed, and you feel the void.
Remember, your friends don’t know how you are feeling on a daily basis, so be cautious about taking it personally if you don’t hear from them as often. To help with the void, ask them for help. As a friend of a griever, there is nothing more fulfilling than being asked for support. They are just a phone call, text, or email away.
In terms of the pandemic, our lives were disrupted not by choice but by circumstance. With the shutdown of schools, offices, extracurricular activities, religious gatherings, life milestone celebrations, travel and the lack of personal touch, ultimately, our friendships transformed. With the unknowns of Covid, we Individually developed a personal relationship with the virus, creating a distinct set of fears, beliefs and risk-taking. Unfortunately for some of us, certain personal viewpoints and judgment of others’ choices created the during phase of our friendships. It is only natural to connect with people who think like you do and understand your perspective, maybe because they walk a similar journey. These during connections may become lasting friendships or possibly fill a void that is essential and rewarding.
During the pandemic, as with any loss, we learned that our personal needs vary based on family circumstances, availability of support from others, and our ability to manage the hardship. As much as we think we know what happens behind someone’s front door or possibly understand their needs, we actually don’t know. The lockdown forced us to spend more time at home with our immediate family, streaming programs, catching up on reading, cooking and connecting with others electronically. All of this filled the immediate void created from the abruptness of our lifestyle changes. As we began to find our way and the novelty of the pandemic wore off, we developed new relationships based on our children’s needs, the impact of being first responders or essential workers, the shifting of relationships with co-workers, the feeling of isolation and personal safety and fears generated by the spreading of the virus. No doubt, these friendships created new social circles based on during lifestyle needs.
Over the year, many of us had the opportunity to engage in personal reflections, determining what is most important to us as individuals and for our family moving forward. For some, this will result in a re-alignment of priorities. One friend recently shared with me she is moving closer to family, while another has found spending more time alone has changed her perspective of after, limiting her evenings out. I have spent the year pondering what my after will look like. While there will always be a challenge when juggling before, during and after friendships, individually we have the opportunity to decide where our time is best spent. Like my husband’s sudden death many years ago, the pandemic has proven that our circumstances can change in a heartbeat. I will spend my after embracing meaningful time with people who bring me joy, connection, happiness and an opportunity for personal growth.
Rachel Kodanaz is a heart-minded professional helping her audiences to Embrace Life’s Challenges. Rachel has been speaking passionately to national audiences of all sizes for over 20 years, addressing all aspects of change, growth, and acceptance that come with life’s transitions. She is also available for virtual one-on-one consulting to help individuals with their current challenges.
Rachel has published numerous articles and has appeared on Good Morning America. Her books Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time, best-selling Living with Loss One Day at a Time, and Grief in the Workplace have received international acclaim. Learn more at rachelkodanaz.com.