Coping with losing cherished friends to new locales
I’ve been wondering if you’ve ever shared my recent experience. Over the past few years—and last year especially—my support system seems to have left the building. There’s been an exodus from Chattanooga of some of my nearest and dearest, and I’m left with, well, a bit of a local dry well.
No less than five of the folks who make up my circle of close friends have high-tailed it to Florida or California (ironically, the two states where I’ve spent most of my own adulthood). And certainly we can—and do—keep in touch via email, phone calls and texts, but it’s really not the same, is it?
There’s something about knowing that Joe or Mary is just down the street, or just across town, even if you don’t “need” to connect right now. Still, you know they’re there. Ever available to be present, quick to stop over for a good heart-to-heart, to head out together for dinner, or just to hang out, perhaps with pups romping around and enjoying the cool breezes on a backyard deck.
There are plenty of new folks streaming into Chattanooga. All sorts of people find our creative, scenic city appealing: from young entrepreneurs, artists, Internet wizards, and green-living advocates, to retirees who enjoy the weather, tax breaks, and highly-rated medical centers. So I know the departure of my friends isn’t a trend of bigger proportion; but it’s creating a lack, a space, in my personal world.
So what to do? All humans benefit from a robust support system of people who care for us and accept us just the way we are, with no conditions put on our mutual love and admiration. People with solid support in their lives are positioning themselves for a longer life, better health, less depression, and a generally higher level of happiness than those without support. So this is an important issue.
You’ve probably heard the expression about some people coming into our lives for a reason, some for a season, and some forever. As I ponder this credo, I reflect upon which category applies to which friends. And while one or two may have been “seasonal,” where we enriched each other’s lives for a period of time, having a memorable and by no means insignificant effect on each other, it’s really the last category of friends that I find myself grieving. Those with whom I have a long history, or an especially deep bond, or that warm, secure feeling of consistency…that the friendship is assuredly destined to last.
So, here’s what’s being done about it, aside from my being open to new, wonderful people entering my life (which is my usual belief system): We’re in the process of gathering phone numbers of sig others, a family member, or nearby neighbor, and sharing those among us. This way, if we don’t hear back in a timely manner after a text or message, we have another way to check up on each other. This accomplishes a few things:
We can each be reached whenever necessary.
We’re secure in the knowledge that we’ve taken steps to keep our bonds strong.
We’re committed to not letting a little distance get in the way of our connection.
Otherwise, we’re just keeping up our now long-distance support in whatever ways feel right. We may not be sipping grape on the back deck in person, but we can still enjoy ourselves. We now have new places to visit. We can travel to meet for holidays…or just for the fun of it. And we can feel reassured, deep down, by the peace that comes with a forever kind of bond.
Until next time: “The roots of a lasting relationship are mindfulness, deep listening and loving speech, and a strong community to support you.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Dr. Rick Pimental-Habib, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, author, minister, and educator in private practice in Chattanooga. Contact him at DrRPH.com, visit his wellness center at WellNestChattanooga.com and follow his daily inspirations on Twitter: @DrRickWellNest