I miscarried, while my best friend had a healthy baby. Is it time to move on from the friendship?

It’s hard to connect if you’re not really seeing each other, writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith, and there are only two ways of resolving it

After many years of waiting for the “right time” and then trying to conceive, my best friend and I became pregnant at almost exactly the same time. I miscarried at 11 weeks, while she went on to have a healthy baby.

I had to distance myself from my friend, as her growing bump was such a cruel reminder of my loss. I felt immensely guilty about it, because obviously she had done nothing wrong. At the time I thought she understood, but when I felt ready to reconnect after the baby was born, she made some comments that showed perhaps she didn’t get it at all. There was an accusation that I had abandoned her. It also felt like a selfish comment, because in all that time she had never checked in with me to see if I was OK, and I also could have done with a friend.

I think too much has changed now for us to reconcile. She has her baby, and I’m moving away. And yet the situation haunts me. I feel so sad that a 20-year friendship has been lost over life events that were no one’s fault. I fear that speaking to her could end up creating further upset and another bout of depression for me, as it did the last time. Is it time to just let it go and move on?

Eleanor says: First of all I’m so sorry for your loss. Any grief feels like it draws a curtain between you and the rest of the world, but this is especially true when a big part of the grief is for what could have been. It gets even harder to connect with people through mourning: harder to share memories of what you’re missing, harder to know the loss feels as concrete to them as it does to you. The isolation of the grief you’re experiencing makes it even more difficult to feel isolated from a friend as well.

It sounds like part of the problem is you don’t feel properly understood. An event that’s become such a big part of your life and emotional landscape doesn’t seem to take up the right amount of space in how she understands you; like the map you have of yourself and the map she has of you don’t match. That makes it really difficult to have a friendship. It’s hard to connect when you’re not even really seeing each other.

These kinds of mismatches happen in all kinds of relationships, over all kinds of loss – someone who loves us just does not clock how big something is to us, how much it still affects us, how near to the surface it always is.

The issue is, the reason we got into the mismatch is the same reason it’s unlikely to resolve on its own. The whole problem is that something just hasn’t occurred to someone in the right kind of way – it isn’t occupying their attention. So unless they get a new reason to see it, there’s not much reason to expect they suddenly will. Really there are only two options: speak to her, giving her that new reason to see what you’re feeling, or decide what to do if this never changes. It can be oddly emancipating to spend some time with the realisation that those are the only ways forward. To get to grips with the fact that she’s very unlikely to see it on her own.

I understand the fear that a conversation will just cause further upset, but on the other hand, it might be a huge relief to feel some of the connectedness and visibility you’ve been missing. You’ve described this to me in such a matter of fact, compassionate way. This is no one’s fault; she did nothing wrong; you felt guilty for needing to distance yourself; but now you feel so sad at the thought of losing her.

I have to imagine there’s a way to talk to her that comes from that place, instead of devolving into who abandoned who (you could just set aside the fact that she didn’t check in on you either). It could instead be sharing something, from a place of vulnerability, that you’d like your close friend to understand: of course you were thrilled for her journey with motherhood, but it was painful to be reminded of your own.

Often the people we love don’t realise how things are for us. If we’re lucky, though, that’s something they want to fix as much as we do.


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