Michael: “Oh, Karen, I’ll come. And, you know… I’ll bring a date.”
All you really need to know about Delle Chatman can be summed up in one story. It was November, 2002, and she was in post-op after ovarian cancer surgery. Not all of the cancer could be removed, and the surgeon told her she wouldn’t live to see spring in Chicago. “What are you talking about?” she asked. “We don’t have spring in Chicago; we go right from winter to summer.”
From that moment on, I was on a mission to finish “Delle’s book”. But it wouldn’t be about her, or even about her friends. It would be about people who didn’t have the opportunities I had: to support her through her illness, to grieve her, to honor her. It would be about people who were left out: friends.
My book is not about Delle, although it would please her no end if it were. But she is the reason it exists. Our friendship was one of the great joys of my life, and her other friends will tell you the same thing. She continues to guide us and inspire us, and remind us of how precious life can be. Hopefully she’ll be pleased with the outcome of my promise to her. If not, I’m sure I’ll hear about it.
Friday: Your own personal “Big Chill” moment
It wasn’t the response you expected when you told someone your friend died.
You expected sympathy.
You expected the importance of your friendship to be respected.
You expected understanding.
A shrug and “well, it’s not like they’re family” wasn’t it.
You were shocked that they didn’t “get it”.
Welcome to Friend Grief. This blog will raise awareness of a powerful experience in all of our lives: the death of a friend. Millions of people each year suffer the pain of a friend’s death, and many of them suffer more because those around them don’t respect their grief.
I was surprised to find that there’s a name for it: “disenfranchised grief”. The term was coined by Dr. Kenneth Doka at the College of New Rochelle to identify grief that is not “openly acknowledged, socially validated or publicly observed.”
Most corporate bereavement policies don’t accommodate someone whose best friend has died. Friends have no rights – legal or otherwise – to visit a dying friend, to participate in their funeral service, to formally memorialize them. Even bereavement groups for “loved ones” may not appear welcoming to someone who has lost a friend.