In Gratitude for My Husband’s Friends

5597863793_c5ee08acee_b My husband’s best friend got married today. It was a beautiful wedding on a beautiful day to a beautiful woman. My husband would be thrilled. After all, he’d been asking for years when his friend was going to “put a ring on it.”

But my husband couldn’t be there. He’s a little tied up in the St. Patrick cemetery and couldn’t make it to the festivities. So my husband’s best friend asked if my 14 year-old would stand in his place.

This couple was so extraordinarily gracious. Not only did they include my 14 year-old, but they asked my 12 year-old old to usher and my 5 year-old to be ring bearer.

I assumed that they asked the boys to participate for my benefit, to make sure I didn’t feel left out.

Then, at the end of the night, as we were saying our good-byes, the groom thanked me for letting the boys be a part of the wedding. For a moment, I thought he might cry. As I was driving home, it hit me. He’d lost his best friend, and I have no idea what that feels like.

Come and see, is there any sorrow like my sorrow?

That line is a variation of one we say during the Stations of the Cross. I think it’s actually “behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow” but I figure my version is close enough.

I have to say that this line has run on repeat in the back of my head for probably the last five years. Seriously. It’s like the undercurrent of my life for years has been “Woe is me! No one grieves like I grieve!” That reads overdramatic, but it really does a fairly good job of summing up my mental state.

At the wedding tonight, it occurred to me how selfish – or least self-centered – that attitude was. I’ve just assumed that, as his wife, no one could possibly feel his loss as acutely as I did.7326770288_0c5511a245_k

And maybe no one else could, but maybe other people have grieved just as deeply and I’ve been flippant about their feelings. My husband’s best friend is one example.

My husband had a tight group of friends. They texted each other daily, gamed in the evenings online and saw each other more weekends than not. They would hang out on the porch and shoot the breeze for hours. I may have been my husband’s wife, but they were his inner circle. And I never really gave much thought to how they felt after he was gone, me being too wrapped up in my own black hole of grief.

Filling the gaps for my kids

After my husband died, most of his friends seemed to vanish. They came out of obligation to help me move a few months after his funeral, but it was obvious they couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. I never heard from most of them again – despite all the reassurances of help they’d made when Tom was still alive.

His inner circle continued to check in on me occasionally, but even they seemed to drift. Tom was our only link and with him gone, there was nothing to bind us together. I decided they just didn’t care.

But maybe that’s not fair…or even true. Maybe I’m the one who drifted away.

At the rehearsal dinner, one friend asked “I don’t understand why you’ve never called.” I didn’t really have a good answer.

Until tonight.

Seeing my husband’s inner circle together without him hurt. It was a painful reminder that he isn’t gone on some extended vacation but rather has been permanently ripped from the world.

I think I haven’t called because his friends remind me of him. And then it dawns on me that maybe that’s why I never hear from all those other friends who disappeared after his death. Maybe it’s not that they don’t care; maybe I’m a painful reminder to them of a missing friend.

Despite the pain, the wedding tonight highlighted just how much we lose when I let those friends slip away. As a groomsman, my 14 year-old son spent the day with his Dad’s inner circle. They regaled him with tales of his Dad that he would never hear from me – that he could never hear from me, because I don’t know them.

Tom’s friends fill the gaps. For that, I am grateful.