grief when friends have babies23 Sep 2022
the other day i was in a convo where someone was expressing some guilt about feeling grief in relationship to a friend who was having a baby. it reminded me that this is something i’ve thought about in the past and prompted me to write about it so here we are.
my practice of uncling is one of the most important parts of my life these days. as such, i have reoriented myself towards babies in all sorts of new ways. one of those ways is being very intentional about staying in relationship with friends as they move through the process of trying to get pregnant, getting pregnant (and sometimes getting unpregnant), and then delivering a child and becoming parents.
one thing i have noticed in that arc is that there is real change in the nature of the relationships. and whenever change is afoot, there is loss. two of the most significant things that get lost in those friendships, in my experience, are:
- freedom/flexibility: when a person begins to orient around being a parent, their previous ability to be flexible shifts dramatically. it doesn’t go from like 100% down to 0%, but it just changes. there is lots of freedom in the context of what the child(ren) need(s). outside of that, things get real tight (at least for the first few years).
- focus/attention: when a kid is around, ålmost everything else is deprioritized. rightly so, for sure, but when our friendship goes from top priority to anywhere below that, it can be hard.
so given that i’ve been through this at least five times, here a few things i’ve learned:
- as a friend, it’s NORMAL AND GOOD to feel that grief. grieving your friendship relationship as it was is important. it’s good to acknowledge all that it was and held before. this is what makes space to step into a new version of the relationship. without the grief, resentment and frustration can take hold. and then you’re not only not in right relationship with your friend but you definitely won’t be in right relationship with their kid.
- your friend is also grieving. in my experience, people go through all sorts of grief as they become parents and, in america, very few people get support on this.
- as you go through your grief, it can be wonderfully connective to grieve WITH your friend about how things have changed. sometimes, this will look like those conversations remembering the old times. sometimes this will mean holding space for your friend as they lament all the things they can’t (or feel like they can’t) do anymore (or ever). doing this work together can ironically strengthen your friendship.
- as you grieve what used to be, space often opens up to reimagine your friendship. in my experience, this most helpfully looks like stepping into relationship with their child! as i have made space to be in relationship with my friend’s kids, i have found all sorts of new layers with my friends. these aren’t the same layers that existed when we were in college or early career days but they are beautiful layers that feel really good once i have settled into them.
phew! there’s more to say on this front but i gotta get to work! ciao.
words / writing / post-processing
552w / 15min / 3min