We all have people in our lives who we depend on. Be they family members, friends or mentors (literal and figurative). And it’s so easy to be thankful toward these people because we can point to tangible or intangible moments within the sphere of our own, personal little worlds and say “look, see how kind, good, compassionate and thoughtful this person is? I’m proud to know them.”
So, what about those people who let us down? The ones that we turn to, at our lowest ebb, and beg for them to kiss our boo-boos and make everything better – only for them to turn away and ignore our plight? Can we be thankful to those who pull the rug from under us, after we already tripped and fell over it? Absolutely.
In my life, I’ve been lucky enough to have been picked up off the floor by friends and strangers alike, having even had old enemies showcase their humanity by overcoming their own dislike of me. These are all people I’m grateful to, whether I’m able to know them by name or not, and they’ll always be remembered in those moments of thankfulness because they helped me make my way into who I am today – even continuing to do so, now.
On the other hand, it’s fair to say that those who walked away can also have a major impact on us. It’s never been a pleasant experience, and can be seen as something akin to experiencing grief. To quote Daniel Handler’s Lemony Snicket “It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things“. Yet, it exists all the same, and comes with the same gut-wrenching heartache of loss, even when that person is still here and living their life, completely devoid of you and living in a way that is seemingly inconsequential of their loss of you in their life.
In other words, it absolutely sucks. And if that is something you’re going through, right now – particularly at this time of year where we’re supposed to be celebrating each other and the best of us all – then I am so sorry that you have been let down in this way. And I’m here to tell you that, like all loss, time will help to heal you and it does get better.
Once we have moved into acceptance – even without a complete understanding – we can begin to be thankful for our time with that person. Not only thankful for any positive memories they have given us, but thankful for the lessons that their presence can teach us. Whether that’s to become a little more introspective and work on those parts of us which we may deem to be less than worthy of love and attention, or to hold ourselves up and conclude that – actually – we didn’t do anything wrong. That their choice to walk away could not have been affected by anything you may have done differently. Sometimes, people just need to leave.
When someone we depend on lets us down, it allows us to work on our ability to help ourselves out of that situation or mentality. It might take a little extra time – after all, there is also the initial issue which we requested help with, to handle – but the resilience which comes through the hardship of lost relationships can help to create a more solid foundation for ourselves.
To put this into context, every time you hit rock bottom, building yourself back up allows you to raise the lower levels of the pit you find yourself stuck in. So, the next time you fall back to the floor, the climb up gets a little easier, because you’re closer to the opening. Sure, it hurts like hell, and you always come up for air with a few extra scars, but at least you know the right route, now.
And, if you’re reading this, having experienced the loss of a friendship or relationship in any context, know that it’s OK to be angry. To hurt and scream, to rant and rail at the unfairness of the world. But I can also tell you, that once you’re coming over the ledge of what was once felt like a bottomless pit, you’ll be able to look back at your journey, see the handholds you’ve made for yourself through your climb and be thankful to those who forced you to carve your way into the walls of the pit, and out of that dark place.
We can be thankful to those who don’t deserve our thanks.