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When You Lose Friends Who Share Your Diagnosis

Chronic illness sets the stage for the grief and loss. Its vice grip closes the curtains for a scene I never wanted a part in. I can only guess what is occurring on the other side. My world is enveloped in a shroud of opaque darkness. Nobody is clapping.

Since getting sick, I mourn my past. I anguish over the abilities I no longer have—eating, working out, the spontaneity of last minute fun-filled plans, and the future opportunities I will miss out on due to poor health. I ache over the former dynamic of relationships that were not insurmountably strained by my symptoms. Typically, I am proficient in accepting this sort of grief — used to it, even. However, it has been difficult lately. Because now I have to mourn my friends who know the struggle of chronic illness firsthand.

It isn’t often that a doctor diagnoses a rare condition and the patient sits there in complacency. Instead, most make a desperate attempt to find someone, anyone who understands the painful life we lead. So, that is how I “met” many of my best friends. Although I did not meet the majority of them in person for years, we connected during a particularly challenging period after being diagnosed. There is an online community brimming with support. Through the internet, our worlds of isolation collide.

Friendships are almost like our consolation prize—the silver lining, the greater good, a positive in a hardship marked by suffering. Those of us who are chronically ill share a special bond that forms the basis of our friendships—one of understanding and unconditional support that comes only from fighting the same demons. The fact that we have not met in person and probably never will is irrelevant.

But our small community has recently suffered immense loss. Every time I log on to my social media accounts, I am informed of another passing. Sometimes I am close to the life too soon departed, while others are the occasional comment, daily Instagram story, or “like” on a Facebook post. Regardless, the loss is regrettable nevertheless.

When someone with a mutual diagnosis passes away, the entire community undoubtedly feels their absence. We sense the emptiness of a friendship that is irrevocably different touched by death. We miss the conversations, longing for the inside jokes that might seem silly to the healthy population, yet are exactly what we need to keep going and to continue the fight for the care we all deserve.

When someone with a mutual diagnosis passes away, we also think to ourselves, “Why wasn’t it me?” The next thought that often hits is, “That could have easily been me.” They are no less worthy than the patients experiencing similar complications with better outcomes. We are just as prone to the weaknesses inflicted on our bodies by these medical conditions. Each death, occurring for various reasons, is a reminder that we are not invincible. Our friends—strong, resilient, determined, and faithful—seemed to be, but weren’t.

Announcing the latest tragedy, the social media channels that once brought us together make us feel suddenly alone once again.

And I don’t know which is more petrifying.

This is just a reminder to cherish your friends in the fight.

To all of the beautiful souls lost – may they rest in peace.

The author and her friend laughing

Image Credits: Cheyanne Perry

This story originally appeared on Hospital Princess