Your child died. His best friend didn’t. How now do you relate to his friend’s parents? It is different now. And so are all your other relationships. Your own best friends may be great with the new you who is learning to walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” or not so much. Some of your old friends may not make it into the category of new friends. It’s true. Some people just can’t stay with a grieving person. Some people can’t stand to be around so much pain. I’m not sure why. But I have some guesses: it hurts them to see you in so much pain, they can’t deal with the thought of death, they don’t know what to say. (Who does, after all!) These are all just excuses. But you really don’t have to spend the energy that you don’t have, to try to maintain a friendship with someone who can’t be with you where you are in life. You may have to just let some friendships go. People with whom you have just a nodding acquaintance - like the grocery store clerk, the post man, even some of your neighbors, even some people at your church - may avoid you. God has recorded this very behavior in Psalm 31:11-12, a psalm of David.
Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends— those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
As they did in the days of David, people are still crossing the street, or going the other way in a grocery aisle to avoid you. I’m sorry.
Relationships are different in your extended family too. Some of them are probably just like the people I have already described. Or they may be the ones who are giving you the most pressure to “get back to normal!” or to get on with life! Or to get over it! Again, I’m sorry. The general population just does not get how deep and wide and painful and life-changing grief is. Because of this lack of understanding, it is lonely.
It’s also lonely because only you lost what you lost. Even in a couple when the husband and the wife lost the same child, they lost some different qualities in their unique relationships with that child. In some ways, the dad’s relationship with the child was different from the mom’s. In subtle ways, they lost different things. Add to the uniqueness of the loss, the fact that each one is a unique griever, and their grief will be different! It’s a fact: only you can grieve your grief. In your couple, try to encourage one another; try to give one another as much as you can, in your present state of depletion. But know, you can’t take away their grief and they can’t solve your’s either.
In a couple, different things are going to help heal each of you. In every couple, one partner likes to look at the pictures, and the other just can’t. I know a couple who shared that one was energized by being with people and the other needed a lot of solitude. This great couple consciously chose to give one another as much as they could of what the other needed. The wife who needed solitude took as much opportunity to be with people with her husband as she could bear. The husband took as many walks in the wood with his wife as he could bear. And each gave the other permission to be in the context that helped them most, even without the spouse.
It’s lonely because people don’t understand grief and they avoid you. It’s lonely because friendships change. It’s lonely because only you lost what you lost and only you can grieve your grief. It’s lonely because generally in this time in history, kids grow up and most parents have not experienced the loss of a child. In many ways, you are alone. But there is One who has promised to be with you, always.
Jesus said “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Mat 28:20) God often promised in the Old Testament “Do not be afraid, I am with you” (Isa 43:5 is one example). The Holy Spirit was given to be with you: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—.” ( John 14:16)
Psalm 31:1-5 talks about that intimacy this way:
In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; …
Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
Lean into Him because He is with you. Grief is lonely, but you are not alone.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18