I have always struggled to make and keep friends. This struggle has only become more pronounced in adulthood as everyone around me, including myself, must balance the demands of family, work, and other responsibilities. When I had my mom around, I didn’t feel the absence of friends. My mother was my best friend—the one I vented to, gabbed over coffee with, and saw all the best movies with.
During my late 20s, my mother’s health began to decline rapidly. As an older mom, she had overcome a bout of polio as a child, so her body began to display post-polio syndrome. Within three years, she lost the ability to walk and eat on her own.
On top of that, she developed dementia and the conversations between us naturally dwindled. The almost daily phone calls I came to expect from my mom stopped coming as she was unable to pick up the phone—even if she had called, there would not have been much to talk about. During the last three years of her life, I thought I had accepted that the mom I had known, my best friend, had quietly disappeared.
But when she suddenly died from a heart attack a year and a half ago, I finally had to confront the lack of friends in my life. I could no longer deny my loneliness. I thought the grief would not be as difficult to traverse because she was already declining mentally and physically before her death, but her absence has only amplified the lack of presence I feel from others.
Don’t get me wrong. I have friends, but most don’t know me beyond the surface. And I don’t know them beyond the surface either. We smile and talk about our day-to-day life. A smile can hide a lot of feelings from the world, and sometimes it can even make me forget for a brief time what I know is happening in my heart and mind. Nevertheless, I don’t have a girlfriend who I can vent to about anything anymore. I don’t have someone who can drop everything to go to a movie with me or get coffee with me. Every talk and every outing must be scheduled days or weeks in advance. It gets exhausting. Any other introvert can relate.
Last night, I woke up and realized what word describes my life now: phantom. I feel like a phantom, someone without substance floating through life and going through all the motions. When someone knows you completely, it makes you feel whole and stable. I feel adrift without my mother.
I pretend I’m fine when a part of me feels like my life is over. I’m only 35 years old, so to feel like my life is over seems melodramatic, but I keep thinking that the prospect of 40 years on earth without my mom around seems bleak. Having a husband and young daughter is what keeps me motivated and moving forward now.
As a child of God, I know He does not want me to feel this way. I believe I am in a time of transition, but who knows how long the transition will last? My hope is that as my daughter grows up, we can have the type of friendship my mom and I had. I believe God gave me a daughter because He knew how lonely I would be.
During this time, I know I need to lean into God and let Him be the best friend I’m lacking. I strive to step out of my comfort zone and try to be open and vulnerable with others, believing that God will bring me another best friend like I had in my mother when the time is right. Until then, I must press on with hope and notice with gratitude the blessings surrounding me.