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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships 84   

                           May 2009

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.




I have been thinking a lot lately about friendship. Since moving away from all that had been familiar for some time, to a different part of the country – more of that another time - there have been plenty of opportunities to consider the lasting qualities or the fleeting nature of different friendships.

As life progresses we encounter many people we would like to get to know better. Sometimes circumstance makes it too difficult for this to happen. Other times we befriend people and enjoy their company greatly for a period of time. But then one person changes or moves away and the contact is lost. There can be a feeling of guilt or loss around these transitional friendships but there is no need. We have exchanged kindness, laughter, support, love or sorrow but there is no rule that says we must maintain contact forever. Our contact will have been beneficial and enriching to both sides and we can take that wherever we go. But there are a few people we meet on our path through life that gradually become more important and closer. These are the friends we share all kinds of trusts and confidences with – and I don’t just mean telling a person our day-to-day worries.

For 12 years, while my children were at school, I lived in East Anglia. There I made several of the most enduring friendships of my life. In my late thirties I moved away, as did one of the other of two women that have stayed my dearest friends. We were all living several hours drive apart but kept in regular contact and visited each other whenever time allowed.

Recently one of my friends suffered a family tragedy. Her first grandchild died, aged one month, following a premature birth and resulting complications. She, like her son and his wife, and the rest of the family, had been so excited at the prospect of the baby’s arrival, but were left devastated by their loss.

My other friend and I have already been blessed with grandchildren and are able to talk of the thrills and spills of grandparenthood but my bereaved friend has felt that this conversation is not one she can join in on much. So there we were, miles away from each other and wishing that we could, as in the old days, be at her door in minutes to listen, support, do chores and generally be there for her.

Support is always there without a doubt, but now our lives have moved on it is at a distance. Yet I still find wonderful and unexpected things that show up in friendships.

We had talked about how hard it is for her to hear the phone ring as she was expecting it to be her son or daughter-in-law with news and decided between us that we would text or email, that way she could see who it was immediately. Through all of that painful month of shock, hoping, worry and realisation and subsequent loss, she managed to send texts or emails to keep the other two of us in touch and updated as to the ever-changing situation and condition of her poor brave little grandchild. She was grieving deeply and yet found time to do this for us.

Alongside what was happening directly to her son, this loss brought to the surface memories of older personal losses, closer to home for her and also for my second friend. Way back when we were young mums, both had lost babies and experienced the trauma and aching sadness and void left by the tiny soul who had already begun to take their place in a family world. This year’s deeply sad event brought back so many difficult memories. The mutual comfort and sharing of memories, no matter that they were painful, was a release and a source of strength for both of these wonderful and brave women. Not only that but both of them felt able to maintain contact with me and tell me of how things were for them.

I have chosen not to talk about the awful loss and shock there has been for the young parents. Their loss is great and they are dealing with it openly and with a great deal of love. It is the nature of friendship that has impressed me. We can feel cut off when moves happen and as we age our friends become more precious to us.

We need to consider the value of our friendships as life rushes on and find time to share and appreciate the best of life enhancing relationships. Friends support us during tough times, laugh with us in happier times and are always ready to give us a helping hand – if we ask. In asking, we show our friends that we trust them, giving them the opportunity to feel of use and to ask us for help when it is needed in return.


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.
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