The Gift of Friendship

Friday night I had a holiday Secret Santa party with some women friends. All moms. All divorced. All single. All unique! The youngest age 42, the oldest age 57. Collectively, we are the mothers of more than 20 children, ranging in ages 13 to 30. Our rather small group consists of women who work full-time, part-time, spend time volunteering, or have returned to school to pursue new passions or who were forced to begin new careers in order to pay the bills. The personalities of these amazing women are as diverse as their career paths, life narratives and their beverage of choice.

During the party, I looked around at the 10 gorgeous, intelligent, courageous, eclectic group of women and I thought about the crazy and wonderful stories we had shared over the last few years since we had formed our little posse. Stories of obstacles and joys, worries and regrets, accomplishments and love gone bad, of faith and profound heartbreak. I wondered about all they had experienced that were in part, what had eventually led them to be seated in my living room, surrounded by holiday decorations, laughing and gossiping, playing Cards of Humanity, and having a few cocktails as we celebrated the season.

The next day my phone was pinging away as texts from each arrived to thank me for hosting and for having a jolly good time. And included in all of the texts was a similar version of the sentiment, “I am so thankful for our little village….you all feel like family.” I suddenly realized the common denominator of our group; true compassion and understanding of the heartbreak of divorce. Similar to childbirth, a woman really doesn’t know what it’s like unless she’s experienced it. Women can be supportive and compassionate, but true empathy and understanding comes from the shared experience.

Most of us in our group have stories of friendships suddenly gone belly up and of being excluded by people we thought were friends in the post-divorce confusion and dust-settling. People take sides. It’s what happens. And it hurts. In this season of celebrating family and friends, perhaps we can expand our idea of what ‘family’ is to include those people in our lives who give unconditionally, who don’t judge, who accept us for who we are with all of our dents, our limitations, our vulnerabilities. In this season of giving and receiving, we have discovered we have been given one of the greatest gifts of all; the gift of true friendship.

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