Dealing With Distance

By Guest Contributor

I met my two best friends at a three week summer program about four years ago. Twenty-one days is all it took to develop close connections with them. I’ve seen my best friends fewer than 21 days since that summer. One of them lives in Virginia, the other in Taiwan. We have to communicate across state boundary lines — and even oceans. We try hard to keep in touch often, using email, text, Facebook and Skype. These forms of communication are not perfect substitutes, but that’s what we do to keep our relationship going despite the distance. And it helps me to see their faces and hear their voices even if it’s through a computer. Sometimes it can trick me into believing that my friends are sitting just two feet away.

Having physical distance from people you love creates one type of hardship and pain. And there’s obviously more pain when you’re separated from those to whom you feel more attached. Anyone who has been physically separated from their significant other knows how difficult this can be. Romantic relationships thrive on frequent communication and, usually, physical proximity. That’s one of the reasons why most high school relationships don’t last through the first semester of college. It’s also difficult to be fully present in the place you’re living when you miss someone so much.

I’m in a long distance relationship at the moment. We’ve been through it before, so we’ve learned how often we like text message updates about our days, how often we want to hear each other’s voices on the phone and how many times a week we hope to see each other over Skype. With us, frequent communication and flexibility are qualities that keep our relationship going strong. We recognize the limits that come with being so far apart, and within these limits we learn what the other needs.

Missing people can take other forms as well. One such form involves missing those who left you, whether it be a parent, friend or a former significant other. It’s hard to compare one of these situations to another because they’re all accompanied by different yet intense feelings of hurt. In my own experience, the hardest of these that I’ve had to deal with is someone breaking up with me. Sadly, this is one of the most common feelings in the world. Almost everyone experiences it, although when it happens to us we often think that no one quite understands how we feel. That’s true to some extent — no one knows how attached you felt to your previous significant other, but most of your friends and family do know the pain and agony that accompanies missing someone. Reaching out to your friends and family can remind you not only that you will get through it just like they were able to, but also that you have so many people who still care about you. This may seem obvious, but it can be hard to remember during those times that you feel rejected and alone.

One of the most heart-wrenching experiences that involves missing someone is losing them completely. After someone you love passes away, it can be practically impossible to accept that you won’t ever see him or her again. When I was in high school, an old gymnastics friend passed away at the young age of 19. Initially, feelings of shock and denial swept over me. Extreme sadness came next, not just for me losing her, but for her losing out on so much of life. Some other gymnastics coaches and friends, in addition to my own family, talked about this loss with me. It made a huge difference in my acceptance of her passing and in controlling and limiting my sadness. It also didn’t matter that my family didn’t know my friend the way I did. They knew me, and that’s how they were able to comfort me.

The mother of a close friend mentioned something this past summer that really stuck with me. In reference to the pain she experienced from losing her mother around the age of 16, she said, “It’s not something that ever goes away.  You just learn how to deal with it.”  People deal with loss and missing people in different ways, but comfort can always be found in those that are currently around us.

If you don’t feel that you can find this comfort in friends and family close to you, then there are other outlets such as the Middlebury Counseling Center.  You can contact Ximena E. Mejía, counseling director, or call 802-443-5141 to make an appointment. There is also now a Grief and Loss Support Group that meets on Wednesdays from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.. Contact Donna Stark at 802-443-5141 if you’re interested in joining.

Written by DANIELLE BAKER ’13 of Glastonbury, Conn.