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Losing Friendships... How to Cope?

Last updated: August 2023

As a heart failure patient following a widow heart attack (at 35), I too have lost friendships along the way. I wanted to share how I have coped in case this helps other people in similar situations.

For me, the loss of friendships happened at once, as well as gradually. There were people who did not visit me during my stay in the cardiac ICU or on the step-down ward, and these were folks I TRULY expected to step up for me. I even had people tell me that they would visit, and then somehow never quite made it there.

The losses have continued as I came home, and some friends kind of gradually faded out. There were people who I would call, to stop by for a visit since I did not really have the energy to get out and grab a drink like I used to (and could not drink), and they just never called me back. It HURT...A LOT... And this was on top of just feeling like poop, and still trying to wrap my head around my diagnosis. Again, I would have loved to have seen these people. And now years later, it is still happening, although now I am Teflon. LOL.

Here are my thoughts on the matter!

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Why does this happen?

A diagnosis and heart attacks may scare some people

I remember that a few people who showed up asked how they can prevent this from happening to them, then started quizzing me on the science behind it. This was BEFORE they asked me how I was holding up.

People may not know how to respond

I think that a lot of people may be uncomfortable, do not know what to say, and do not have the tools to communicate after that. It would be nice if people admitted that they were at a loss for words and were uncomfortable, but most are not that direct. People naturally do not like to feel uncomfortable and/or do not 'lean' into it, so their answer is to flee.

I have stopped fighting that. For example, I cannot tell you the number of people who have asked me, given modern medicine, when I am going to be cured and I flat out say never. That is the truth. Even if I get a heart transplant one day, there were still be a ton of medicine, being careful, transplants can fail, etc. I will never go back to having a fully functioning native heart.

Our abilities and activities change

Lastly, sometimes our abilities do not match other people's interests. Not everyone is flexible and kind enough to compromise. I cannot do everything I used to do. If you want someone to grab a cocktail with, I am not really your girl anymore. I would love to live in a world where we all do the right thing, but that is also just not reality.

Coping with losing friendships throughout my heart failure journey

I have come to peace with all of that because truly it is their issue, not mine. It is NOT a reflection on me or my value at this point. It has taken therapy, and time, to get there, but I had crappy experiences with humans before my heart failure diagnosis, so I get that a part of this is just humanity for better and worse.

I also choose to foster and focus on the people who do have the tools to show up. And honestly, that's it, some people have the tools and others do not. When I foster and focus on the good, there really is a lot out there. I realized that I have limited energies, so I refuse to spend ANY of it ruminating on thoughts or people that drain what I have left.

It sucks when friendships change or end, perhaps for reasons that are tough, but it's part of life. I think that people walking away over your health is very hard because it is more personal than when people simply drift away. The more time you spend ruminating, the more time you are wasting, because it is what it is. Some people are not what you thought they are, and there are other terrific people out there. It's okay to cut your losses and move on :) Focus on the terrific people in your life and expand your circle as you can.

Also I have come to realized that some of this is on me. Now, if people act in ways that are not in alignment, I do not dwell over that either. This is a positive that has come out of this. Now I have to strength to let people go as well. And honestly, that has brought additional peace into my life.

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