“You find out who your friends are, somebody’s gonna drop everything.  Run out and crank up their car, hit the gas, get there fast, never stop and think ‘what’s in it for me,’ or ‘it’s way too far.’ They just show on up, with their big ole heart.  You find out who your friends are.”    – country song by Tracy Lawrence

Whenever the above song comes on the radio I get a little choked up.  Happy tears, actually.  I have the world’s best support team behind me and I have no idea how I could have made it to this point without them; from being unable to walk down to the mailbox to writing a 31 day series on how to survive chronic illness.

Some of you are very hurt right now.  Not just physically but emotionally. Because the very people you thought you would be able to count on, the people you thought would walk every road with you, left you behind.  And you just can’t understand how they can be that insensitive, that uncaring.  Didn’t your friendship mean anything to them?

Let them go.

And I don’t mean that in a “What-eh-ver, you don’t like me? Fine, I don’t like you!” kind of way. We want to believe that our current set of friends are the same friends we will have for the rest of our life.  But the truth is, friends come and go.  And sometimes they come back again.  Each person enters your life for a season, to share life’s joys and teach you something about the world and yourself.  Embrace those people in your life today.  Savor every smile, every laugh, every tear.  But when that season is over and it’s time for them to leave you…

…let them go.

When you’re suffering through chronic illness or pain, there are a few reasons why “friends” may disappear:

  • They don’t realize how sick you are.  In the early days I was unwilling to admit even to myself how sick I was, I wasn’t about to admit it to my friends. All this did was delay their understanding, leaving them confused. Have you explained to your friends exactly what is going on with you physically?  Have you shared a list of symptoms with them?
  • They don’t know how to help. After one of my many surgeries, Bree wanted to help but she didn’t know what to do. Besides laying in bed and resting there wasn’t much I needed however, there was one thing I wanted: mashed potatoes & gravy from KFC. Crazy right? But I couldn’t yet tolerate heavy foods and it sounded comforting.  I let Bree know that’s what I wanted and guess who showed up at my front door with mashed potatoes & gravy?  It made me feel good because it was what my body was craving that day and it helped her feel like she was being helpful.  Have you asked your friends for their help or or you waiting for them to just show up and magically know what you need.
  • They are walking through struggles of their own. Just because you are in crisis doesn’t mean everyone else’s lives go on cruise control.  Maybe they are new parents or on the brink of divorce or dealing with their own illness. When you are suffering from pain or illness there may not be much you can do for your friends but there is one thing you can do: cut them some slack.
  • They can’t relate.  If they have never suffered any serious illness they are going to have no idea of what you’re going through. One of my other close buddies suffered a miscarriage and had a tough time recovering.  Over the course of her recovery she experienced the hormone crash that follows miscarriage and she called me crying, “I’m so sorry that you feel like this every day!” It wasn’t until that experience that she began to understand what I was going through. She was able to empathize and offer a new kind of support.
  • They need a break.  Being the care-giver can be tiring; physically, mentally, emotionally.  This is why it is important to have a whole team of people helping you.  Give your friends a break when they need it.
  • They just don’t care.  Ugh.  This is the hardest one to reconcile in our hearts.  It is gut-wrenching to have a “friend” walk away while you are in your greatest time of need for no other reason than your illness has become inconvenient to their desire to have a good time.  It isn’t mature, it isn’t right. But sometimes is true.

I think most of the time friends disappear it is a unique combination of the above but no matter their reason for being absent or for walking away you have a choice to make. You can lash out, call them out on it and verbally attack them for your perception of their behavior.  Or you can sit and stew about it, allowing the bitterness and resentment to fester and ferment which will only prolong your emotional and physical suffering.

Or you can let them go.

Be grateful for the time you spent together as friends.  Remember the fun times without any hint of resentment for the present situation. In your heart, thank them for their friendship then release them to live their own life, their own journey.  Understand that they may need to leave in order to allow space for someone else in to your life that can better aid you along your road to wellness.  And if their path should bring them back to you someday, welcome them with gratitude, no resentment or revenge.