It's been said many times: When bad things happen, you know who your true friends and family are. They stick around for the tough stuff, right? So, what might we do about these fair-weather friends and why are they so heartless to abandon us in our time of need?
Have you been through a hardship such as a divorce, job loss, illness, only to discover the people you thought and expected would be there, are nowhere to be found?
Is it difficult to understand why people who call themselves friends and family suddenly disappear when you need them most?
If you’ve ever experienced a tough transition without a feeling of solid support from friends and family it’s highly possible you may have also felt (or are feeling) levels of resentment and rejection.
You probably feel alone—even if you’re certain God is with you. It may feel impossible to breathe as you go about your day. If you want to know what to do the next time a friend leaves you alone to lick your wounds...read on…
When So-Called True Friends Ghost You
Over a decade ago I was faced with the divorce process and transition into co-parenting. My divorce was a mutual and healthy decision for our family. Still, I was in need of some major emotional care and a guide to help me see through my tears.
I’m grateful for the friends and family that were there for me. I got lost when I didn't know how to deal with those who weren't there for me—so-called friends who treated me like I had the plague and others who pretended I wasn’t even in the room. I seemed to have morphed into some scary disease circling as a ghost at times. Nothing fun about becoming an instant invisible death threat!
As with most divorces, I was hit with the loss of support from some long-time friends, people I had grown close to, and some family members who were nowhere to be found after I reached out to leave blubbering messages of neediness.
Where have all these pe-op-le gone, I sputtered to myself in between inhaling my bottom lip and blowing my nose?
I was devastated! It was hard enough to reach out for help, only to be rejected or ignored by those who supposedly love me. Boo-Hoo-Hoo became my daily theme for a while.
Begin to See Past the Woe-Is-Me
This period of woe-is-me didn’t help to move me forward in any positive way. What I discovered is this: Relying on our inner circles to rescue us, hug us, tell us everything is going to be okay can be a self-centered way to approach life and relationships. I've also found it's destructive to assume that everyone who runs away from us is heartless.
Thankfully, I grew past a need to rely on family and friends to help support me through my divorce. I began to appreciate and understand the differences among us when it comes to handling divorce and hardship. I began to see why some people might not be there for me.
I moved out of seeking comfort from friends and into seeking movement toward inner peace. I learned to no longer resent those who treated me like a deadly disease. I stopped feeling unworthy. I began to gain understanding…
Turns out, many people experience some level of FEAR where a major transition is concerned (whether it be their own or someone else's). When we don't consider fear as a possible reason for why someone might hide or run away from us in times of emotional pain we may stay stuck in a woe-is-me mode of thinking.
Have you noticed that we usually only view someone walking away from us from our point of view…as a definite example of hateful rejection in our mind? I mean, how DARE they turn their back on us when we are faced with so much uncertainty? Some friends they are! Guess we know who our true friends are! Or is that fair to conclude? Could it be these friends that flee are in some level of pain, discomfort, or fear themselves? Hmmm…Maybe they aren't unfeeling and heartless people after all! Maybe, just maybe, life isn't all about what we are going through!
When it comes to those who can’t or won’t support us we can choose to see it as an opportunity to understand vs. an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves. When these people ghost us we can learn to explore the situation outside of our limited point of view—we can choose to develop a higher understanding of where that friend (or family member) may be coming from.
Accept Soothing then Get to Moving
Those friends that do stand by us aren’t necessarily prepared to help us get or stay healthy over the long-term. They may hug us, agree that we have every right to cry, hand us a bottle of wine, and tell us this too, shall pass. If they’re especially committed to you they may leave the phone line open in case of a 3 a.m. sob-session.
I’m not downplaying this kind of support. I’m pointing out the common practice of family and friends to soothe vs. move us through tough times. A friend or family member may not be equipped to move you in ways that are transformational through hardship. When we can accept this we can appreciate and seek out new ways to feel supported outside of friends/family network.
I came out of self-centered neediness-woe-is-me thinking and into self-empowering focus toward my future and a better understanding of those I felt had abandoned me in my time of need.
Here are 3 Things to Do When Friends and Family Don't Come Through
Redefine Your Expectations
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I expect family and friends to come through no matter what?
Is it possible not everyone in my circle is equipped or comfortable handling what I’m going through?
If so, can I begin to shift my expectations of them to myself?
What do I expect of myself that will work to take me out of resentment and into the personal
restoration of my body, mind spirit?
How might this improve the relationships that still exist in my life?
A shift to recognize that each person is on their own journey can work to move you out of the expectation of others and into the compassionate understanding of differences.
Rest on The Fact that Each Person's Handling of Pain is Unique
Adversity, grief, life-altering change, a major transition is all experienced at a very personal level.
If you can begin to understand that a friend or family member isn’t always equipped to emotionally serve you in the way you wish, you’ll immediately experience a positive shift inside.
It helps to remember that not everyone cries at funerals and this doesn’t mean they’re not grieving with you--even if you're convinced they're not sensitive to your pain. At the same time, some people's fear may make them view divorce as a disease they may catch. For others, marriage may be seen as a solely religious commitment that if broken makes you a hell-bound sinner—and to some with this belief, you now become a person they will, for religious reasons, move away from.
Getting to know and acknowledge differences that exist when it comes to beliefs and emotional processing can relieve you of frustration when others choose to flee in your time of need.
Release the Idea that Others Owe You Something
It is possible you’re stuck in the idea that a blood relation owes you a level of support no matter what. Even if this is a collective family belief it doesn’t guarantee all family members are emotionally prepared to support you when your time of struggle arrives.
This idea that family owes you time, a shoulder to cry on or sympathy over the phone can lead to stress when they don’t come through. Worse, the devil of disappointment can work to burn you and spark long-term resentment. You may move into a very destructive need to control others—after all, you believe they owe you. This energy threatens to tie you in knots and keep you from healing or moving forward.
To raise your energy step outside the idea that anyone (including a parent) owes you anything. If you can't do this on your own: Here’s where you may need to proceed to seek out an objective professional counselor to work through your emotions and/or paralyzing attachments to expectation.
A professional coach (like myself) who is highly trained will be able to help you develop clarity, movement, and measurable transformation in situations that feel impossibly overwhelming or paralyzing. Whatever help you seek out, be sure to celebrate the fact that you’re moving out of disempowering energy. Be glad to move into self-empowering progress through objective measures. A professional counselor and/or a coach can help get you out of frustration and into future focus.
From now on, when bad things happen, you can feel more confident that some form of fear could be at play when friends and family flee in your time of emotional need. This person may simply feel too overwhelmed to be there for you.
Expecting family to be there no matter what can prove to be a very disappointing and stressful experience. It may be better to expect more of yourself through tough times.
Even if fear isn’t a factor in people scattering away from us, we must remember that we all move through life with individual personal beliefs, pasts, and perceptions. Knowing we all process these things differently can work to not only soothe your loneliness but move you in a direction of higher understanding of others, healthy support for yourself and transformation through tough times.
Amy helps health-conscious men and women who are stressed by unexpected major uncertainty learn how to raise inner peace and clarity so they can run forward without raising their blood pressure and at the same time create the life of their dreams.