Today we are blessed and honored to have my sweet friend, Steph Jamison sharing with us. Here’s her post:
Being friends with someone who is suffering can be difficult. It’s most difficult for them of course, but it can be pretty easy to make it about YOU instead. I know. I’ve done it.
Jackie has been through two pregnancies with me. It took two years to get pregnant with our daughter, Anna. Jackie helped shepherd me through some of those hard days and shared our joy when we found out that our prayers had been answered. That was before she and Bryan were trying to start a family, so that experience was much different than with my second when she was truly in the trenches of infertility. Curry’s post gives more insight into this.
Curry’s baby and my youngest were born 10 weeks apart, so you can imagine how Jackie was feeling during that season. She co-hosted a shower for Curry, but a few months later when it was time for mine she let me know that she had decided not to attend. I knew her reasons before she even explained, but I was hurt. My first thought was that maybe we weren’t as close as I had thought. After all, she had gone to Curry’s shower. Why couldn’t she come to mine?
And somewhere along the way I realized – Steph, it’s not about you.
She had celebrated my pregnancy with me in many more personal ways than a public shower. Of course she cared about me! Her decision not to come had nothing to do with our friendship. It was about her trying to avoid a huge stumbling block that could possibly lead her more into despair, and a lot had changed in a few months.
Her entire calendar was filled with something fertility related. Every day mapped around medications, ultrasounds, egg measurements and all kinds of other stuff that I STILL don’t understand. Around that time I felt that she was frustrated with me. I probed a bit and found out that she was hurt because I hadn’t asked her about the latest results of a procedure. I was immediately defensive. Seriously? I’m pregnant, chasing around an 18 month old, just trying to keep my head above water and you expect me to memorize your ovulation schedule? Aside from that, she had specifically told me that it was getting increasingly more difficult to talk about it all the time. I was even more confused and frustrated! She wants to talk about it, she doesn’t want to talk about it. I felt like I was constantly in a no-win situation. I felt guilty for letting her down, but I hated feeling that way so I turned to bitterness instead, blaming it on her for being so confusing. Eventually, we talked about things, confessed, repented and moved forward – and I started putting reminders in my Google calendar of days that she was getting results so I’d remember to ask! Again, the important lesson – it’s not about you.
If you have a friend walking this road, you may feel like you can never do anything right. Know this – you can. Keep showing up. Acknowledge that your friend has a battle raging on inside her and probably doesn’t need all the “right answers” – just a safe place to vent, process, and fail. If they constantly feel like they have to edit what they say or do because you’re always getting your feelings hurt or taking things ubersensitively, there’s a good chance they’ll stop coming to you.
Please hear me. This doesn’t mean that you’re just collateral damage as your friend suffers. They don’t have permission to treat you badly just because they’re in pain. There should be an open dialogue and there should definitely be words of truth spoken. Through these experiences we are given the opportunity to practice grace and to preach the gospel – to ourselves and to them. We are privileged to stand like Aaron and Hur (Ex 17:12), holding up the arms of our friend in their weakest moments. I’d like to be Aaron, Curry can be Hur:) I have been blessed to stand in the gap and walk this road with Jackie. And although it’s not all about me, I sure have learned a lot along the way :)