We weren't friends when he died...

by G
(Italy)

My friend died 6 weeks ago. We weren’t really speaking when he died. I’m sorry, this might be a long post but it will really help to get this off my chest.

My ‘relationship’ with my friend was a complicated one. I can’t tell anyone about my grief. I couldn’t go to the funeral. I don’t know where his grave is so I can’t visit him.

I don’t feel like I have a right to grieve…as I wasn’t involved in his life recently.

We’re british, but live in Italy. N was one of the first people to be friendly towards us when we moved here. Only a wave and a ‘ciao’ in the street but as outsiders here that was great.
We met him properly outside the local bar one night, he bought us a drink and we asked him to sit with us. He spoke a little English, we speak a little Italian. We managed to understand each other eventually!
On one occasion when we were alone N told me that he had feelings for me. I was a little embarrassed and overwhelmed, but flattered. I told him that I was homesick, for british fish and chips in particular.

At a restaurant a few nights later, he ordered the local specialties for us to try, and then, british style chips appeared – turns out he had rung them in advance and asked them to make them. I was so touched by that. He mentioned his wife once during the evening, but in a way that made us believe that she might no longer be around, and neither of us liked to ask with our limited vocabulary.

We invited him to our house for dinner, he came alone and no mention of a wife, we had a good evening. At the end of the evening when my boyfriend wasn’t looking, he gave me a little squeeze around the waist as he was leaving.

A week later another local friend knocked on the door, he commented on the ‘cosy little dinners’ I’d been having. I asked what he meant. It turned out that N had telling everyone in the bar that we’d had dinner, he’d neglected to mention that my boyfriend was present and had told everyone about the little ‘cuddle’ we’d had.

I was so angry with him. I’m an outsider here, and finding it hard to fit in. Not only was N still married (though not happily, if the villagers here are telling the truth) but the gossip spread around the village, even with my limited Italian I understood the 2 women in the post office were talking about ‘N and I’ while we all waited in the queue. His wife ignored me in the street when I said good morning. People whispered or went silent as I walked past.

My boyfriend never spoke to him again when he heard what had gone on. We argued because I said hello to N in the street. I continued to say hello to him which I’m glad about now. He started to approach me at a festa in September but backed off when he saw I was with one of the older local women.

At Christmas a mutual friend told me that N was in hospital and dying. This mutual friend is a full time village gossip so when I saw N outside the bar two days later looking the picture of health I thought it was untrue.

I found out that he’d died by seeing the funeral announcement on the village noticeboard – I felt sick. The coffin passed by my house on the way to the cemetery.

The worst thing of all is that I had feelings for him too. I was embarrassed about that for so many reasons – he was married, he was older - his son is the same age as me, I have a boyfriend, and because of the way he’d talked about me in the village. I know now that he was just being an immature, macho idiot and that he meant no harm. I should have been flattered that he was that proud of our friendship. I also know that there was never realistically going to be a long term relationship there.

I still miss him terribly though, and regret so badly that we lost contact. I saw him 4 weeks before he died and I’m so glad that I waved and said hi to him, even though he was with other locals. It haunts me that he watched me as I walked past them, and he knew then that he was dying, and I was mostly oblivious.

I can’t talk to anyone about this. My boyfriend doesn’t understand why I was upset over his death. He died in February but it’s only just sunk in that I’ll never see him again. I feel guilty because I’ve laughed and had good times since he died and only just started to feel this grief now. I feel shocked by how upset I am so suddenly.

I can’t find his grave and there is no-one I can trust to ask where it is. I’m also scared of bumping into his wife or children there. I still look for him when I see a group outside the bar. This is a small village, there are reminders everywhere – I even live in the house where he was born.
On a happier note, I dreamt about him a few nights ago…we were walking together and he asked me ‘are we friends again now?’ Part of me hopes that dream was his way of getting a message to me.
Thank you and sorry for the length. It feels better to have written that down.

Comments for We weren't friends when he died...

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Apr 15, 2013
Thank you...
by: G

Thanks for your words of support and for taking the time to write such a lengthy response.

I just wanted to make a few things clearer that didn't come across in my original post.
I wasn't hoping for or anticipating any sort of relationship with N. I know that was never an option, it was something he was pursuing. I avoided contact to a certain extent when I became aware of his intentions.

At no point was he aware of my feelings for him, as I denied them even to myself for a long time so there never any encouragement from my side.
The arm around the waist incident happened so quickly and although I didn't expect it, I wasn't hugely alarmed as Italians are generally tactile people regardless of the genders involved. It was only when I learned of him describing it in the bar that I realised it meant more to him than I had thought.

My boyfriend is away working at the moment, so he is unaware of my upset, and this is probably why these feelings have come to the forefront now as I have time alone to think. He did visit the cemetery with me on the first occasion but is not aware that I especially miss N.

I really believed that I would have chance at some point, maybe during the festivals this summer to meet him in the street and say hello properly, and hopefully put last year behind us and continue being friends. I'm mourning the loss of a friend, someone who made me welcome when I needed it most and someone who made me laugh.

I think I'm so upset as I hate the thought that he might have died thinking that I hated him and I'll regret that always, though I hope that fact that I always said hello may have prevented that.

I feel like I need to see his grave in order to say goodbye...silly as that sounds.

We're moving to a neighbouring village in 2 weeks and that will help, as I'll lose the reminders that I have here everyday.

I'm also aware that these posts sound so incredibly selfish. I can't begin to comprehend what his wife must be feeling, happy or not he was the father of her children and I feel terrible that she was most likely aware of last years events. I hope that they don't tarnish her memories of her husband too much.

Thanks again for your support.

Apr 14, 2013
We weren't friend when he died.
by: Doreen U.K.

G I am sorry for your loss of a man who befriended you at a time you needed this and who was kind. Sharing a meal with him and your boyfriend was a lovely gesture.
This man touched you in a way which has left you with feelings for him after he is not in your life anymore.
It is not uncommon for a man to touch a woman's life in a way that leaves her feeling strong emotion and feelings for him. BUT. You knew he had a wife and you had a boyfriend. What you could have done was remove his hand, from around your waist and tap it and this would have sent out a message to him that this is wrong. Nothing can come of it. Your boyfriend would know then that you are committed to him and he would not feel insecure with your need to find out where this man's grave is or to want to find him. See this for what it is and knock it on the head. FORGET IT. Go see a counsellor or something. But do your best to forget this man. He is dead. Honour the man you are with and show him the care and concern he deserves. This was the past even if it be yesterday. Live in the NOW. And get on with your life. Feel flattered that this man liked you and leave it there. He was kind to you. You can pass it on by being kind to others also. DOING THE RIGHT THING is what is important.
I have had a similar experience. A man fancied me. I did nothing about it because I had a husband who I loved. I ended up having such strange feelings. But I did not feed them. I gave them to God and asked God to help me lose feelings for anyone other than my husband. HE DID. Sometimes we can fail in life and do the wrong thing. BUT. We get up dust ourselves off and continue in life to do the right thing. Don't fill yourself with guilt. Shake it off. You have done nothing wrong. Write out your feelings and then put them in a shredder each time this happens. You will soon learn that nothing can affect your happiness now except what you feed your mind with. It is up to you. Your story was a lovely one and well written. You come across as a person with Integrity who wants to do the right thing but these feelings are getting in the way. DON'T LET THEM. and remember your title. "We weren't friends when he died..." LET IT GO.

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