Friendshifts: Keeping Close Through Life's Changes


Although we lived in the same city for just three years-- I moved back to New York, then to Connecticut-Joyce and I have kept up our close friendship. Friendshifts is a word I have coined for the way our friendships change as we go from one stage in our life to another, or even relocate from one school, job, neighborhood, or community to another. It is a variation on the old adage "Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver, but the other's gold." Whether the need to form new friends is caused by a change in interests, a move to another city, a promotion to another level or into another profession, or the death of old friends or even of a spouse, shifting to new friendships that serve current needs makes it possible to feel connected even if old friends are seen less frequently, if at all.

The variety of roles that we must play throughout our life--as student, worker, spouse, or parent--changes, as does the place that friendship holds in our life. But we still need friends, ranging from casual to close or best friends, and of both sexes. Friendship plays a continual role, although at different stages it will be less or more important to our emotional stability, depending upon the other primary attachments in our life.

When I gave the eulogy for my 83-year-old dearly beloved grandmother, I was saddened to look out at the small cluster of family members in the funeral parlor chapel. I did not see even one of the friends my widowed grandmother had cared about for most of her life, since they had already died or moved far away. But my grandmother also failed to develop new friends, and consequently she was lonelier in her last years than she had to be. She needed to understand the concept of  friendshifts so her later years could have been fuller; her family was too busy with their own lives, unable to give her the daily intimacy she so desperately needed.

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