No one talks about how painful it is when your friends leave. But prayer and putting yourself out there really help!
“We didn’t realize then that those were the golden years,” Mariyoli said the other night. I knew exactly what she meant.
A supportive community
Six years ago, I moved to a new town where six Catholic moms lived walking distance from my home, and several others were within a few minutes’ drive. We quickly formed a tight-knit group.
We were all in those exhausting trenches of raising babies and toddlers. Everyday life was harried and we were all sleep-deprived, but we had each other and that made it so much better.
I can’t describe how amazing it was having so many good friends living so close. It felt like the best parts of being in college, but with our crew of tiny tagalongs in tow.
After a sleepless night with a crying baby, I could always find someone who was up for an early morning cup of joe at the kid-friendly coffee shop down the street. Long afternoons at home became much more enjoyable when someone was always around for a last-minute play date.
We swapped babysitting for each other, and encouraged each other through pregnancies and potty training. We became regulars at all the local playgrounds, library story times, and the children’s area of the zoo.
We started a tradition of Friday night cook-outs: Each of us would bring a dish to contribute, Mariyoli made her famous margaritas, and the husbands would join us when they got off the train from work in the city. We relaxed, laughed, and enjoyed time together while the kids ran around and played.
Of course, we took any excuse for a girls’ night. We planned one every time it was someone’s birthday, whenever Mariyoli returned from a long visit to her family in Mexico, or whenever one of us was close to giving birth (a frequent occurrence). One mom would host craft nights and our Well-Read Mom book club was a highly anticipated monthly event.
And we took care of each other. Whenever one of us had a medical emergency (again, not an infrequent occurrence), someone was on hand to babysit in a pinch. We took each other meals and visited each other in the hospital and on at least one occasion we were there when someone went into labor.
It was really wonderful while it lasted, and just a heavenly way to raise little kids.
The community came to an end
But now the group has disbanded. Almost all of the other moms have moved away. Some moved out of the country, and almost all moved out of the state.
I am unlucky enough to live in Cook County, the county that has seen the biggest decline in population over the past decade out of the entire United States. I was not surprised to learn of this dubious distinction because my friends have been moving away at a whirlwind pace since I moved here nearly 10 years ago.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I’ll admit that I have cried (privately) more than once when a friend announced her upcoming move.
No one talks about how painful it is when your friends move away, or how much it hurts to be the one left behind when you live in a transient place. Being the last one left is lonely. It’s hard not to mourn something so good that’s now disappeared.
If your friends have moved away, please know that you’re not alone. I don’t have an easy solution or quick answer, but I am right there with you.
Rebuilding the circle
Recently, I was talking about all this with Mariyoli and she said, “We didn’t realize those were the golden years.” But then she added quickly, with her signature good humor, “But we can have more golden years. We can make now just as good.”
So here I am, trying to rebuild my social circle from the ground up. This summer I’ve been making a point to attend lots of meet-ups, play dates, and events, meeting women who are slowly turning into new friends.
It’s not easy! I joke that it feels like dating, as you see whether or not you “click” with someone new. Sometimes I come home from a play date that felt awkward and wonder if anyone likes me, if I will ever have friends again.
When I feel that way, I give it to God. I know he sees the desires of my heart and surely wants me to have the close-knit community I long for just as much as I do.
And I think I’m starting to get there. I recently had a breakthrough that made me realize I’m not alone in any of this.
Praying for community
Last month I invited some of my new friends out for a girls’ night. We were celebrating Mariyoli getting back from a long visit to Mexico, just like old times. We laughed, shared our hearts, and had such a great time.
At the end of the night, one of my new friends confessed, “I have to tell you guys something. I’ve been praying to meet good friends, to find a real community. I feel like this is an answer to prayer.”
All I could do was turn to her with tears in my eyes and say, “Me too.”
So if you’re in the same boat, trying to make friends, know that you’re not the only woman who’s feeling lonely. You’re not the only one who’s felt left behind when friends move away, and you’re not the only one who wants great friends to go through life with.
So go ahead and plan that girls’ night or text an acquaintance to invite her over for a play date. Everyone else wants an invitation too, and I promise no one is judging your messy house or rambunctious kids. (If they are, you don’t want them for a friend anyway!)
And praying for friends can bring amazing people into your life. I know God answers prayers, and I’m starting to see the fruit of those prayers in the new friends I’ve met this summer.
After all, like Mariyoli said, “These can be the golden years, right now.”