I think about loss from time to time, as you probably know if you’re a regular reader over here. I’ve discussed recovery from loss of a baby and other people’s reactions. But, we don’t only struggle or grieve over the loss of a person – whether they were fully-formed or not. Sometimes loss is part of growing into the person we have become, sometimes it leaves us feeling like something’s fundamentally missing, sometimes we can’t remember what it was like before we lost whatever it was. In this series of posts, I’ve asked some of my favourite blogging colleagues to write about a loss that they’ve experienced and how it affected them. You can find the full list here.
This post comes from Tom at The Doubting Thomas.
Does Losing Friends Mean You Should Lose Yourself?
When I was asked if I wanted to write a post focusing on our reactions to losses, I had to think long and hard about what I was going to do; I guess I’ve been fortunate enough not to lose too many people close to me so far in my life.
However, when aimlessly scrolling through Facebook a number of days ago, I couldn’t help but thinking back to the amount of people I once called friends that I have lost contact with over the years; so intentionally or not, I’ve managed to find quite a plausible topic for my post!
When it comes to starting and building friendships, it’s reasonable to conclude that it starts as early as nursery and early years of school ages; you might not know it at the time but some of those kids you play with could end up being your friends forever. However, it’s most likely that over time they will find themselves at different schools or maybe just drifting from you as you find a new group of friends to latch onto. For some people, making friends is difficult enough as it is without being able to split your time between lots of different groups of people.
Fast forward a few years to your secondary or high school days and this is generally where you start to make those friendships that will last.
I mention this, because I had one of those moments the other night; one of those moments where you stumble across an old friend on Facebook and from then on, find yourself trawling through person after person of whom you might remember from your school days.
I’m sure we’ve all done that, right?
Now, a lot of people have set themselves up on social media so you can only see who they are friends with if you are friends with them in the first place; fair enough, privacy is very important.
However, for absolute stalkers like me, there are a few people I was able to have a look at and, you know what? I was genuinely shocked by some of the results.
I had absolutely no idea how many people were still friends with each other from the old days.
Now, there is of course a distinct possibility that they might have been Facebook “friends” for years and years and just never cleared them out. Personally, I have never seen the point in that; if you don’t have any genuine interest in their life why bother having them around?
But then I thought……maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong?
For a little bit of context, I’ll tell you where I’m at. I currently have one person from school across all of my social media accounts, and this has only been for a couple of weeks. Apart from that, there is absolutely nobody from my past that I remain in touch with.
This doesn’t extend just to school friends either; this is also the case for people I have previously worked with at an old job or even people who have left my current place of work over time. I had a Facebook hiatus for a few years and when I created another account in January 2020, I didn’t really see much of a point in connecting with people I had previously been friends or acquaintances with; as far as I was concerned it would have just felt a bit like a numbers game and I wasn’t really interested in adding people just for the sake of it.
However, being a right nosy arse the other day, it’s clear to see other people have had a different viewpoint to me and to be honest, it made me feel a bit down.
Have I passed up potential friendships by dismissing people I used to know?
To tell you the truth, for the most part I wouldn’t be able to tell you why I would have removed all those friends I had if you were to ask me about individuals. I don’t remember leaving school under any sort of cloud and nobody did anything to me that made me not want to be their “friend” anymore, I guess I just felt as if I had moved on.
Trouble with that is, I think I had that same mentality with the majority of people I lost contact with and now I find myself at 31 years of age without very many true friends to my name.
I guess I had a couple of reasons for feeling a bit down the other night.
The main reason was that I saw so many people still maintaining active friendships with others and it made me wonder if I had done the right thing.
The other reason is that I sort of now feel a little too anxious to do anything about it.
Do you know how hard it is to see someone in the street that you used to know quite well and either have that 2-minute conversation about everything they’ve done in their life since you last saw them? Or alternatively, do you know how hard it is for them to see you and you to see them but you neglect to stop and have a chat because you don’t know what on earth you’d say to each other?
I’ve never been very good at the “let’s catch up and swap stories about where we’re at with our lives now” moments; for the most part they absolutely terrify me.
However, I do still feel sometimes like I should have made a lot more effort in maintaining friendships and not dismissing people so easily just because they were no longer someone I would see every day, or even that often.
The question I asked myself in the title of this post was “does losing friends mean you should lose yourself?” – and I guess to answer that more clinically I would need to work out what it is I think I’m missing.
I have a lovely little family, one man I would consider a very good friend and people I would refer to mainly as colleagues with whom I might socialise on a very rare occasion. I also have a good group of people I interact with on social media (who will hopefully have stuck with this post for long enough to read down to this part!).
I never want to downplay the importance of those people, especially those members of my family. However, I also sometimes do look back on some of the people I have left behind and wonder if more could have been made of those friendships.
Especially now as we’re all grown up.
To all those who have maintained strong relationships with friends from school or from other areas, I truly do commend you; it can’t be easy to do what with people growing up and/or moving away etc.
For me? I think I need to work out whether it’s worth putting myself out there a bit more to reach out to people; I don’t really feel comfortable doing so, but you never know I might surprise myself!
Losing friends is not the end of the world, but losing myself would be far worse.