I lost a very close friend to cancer a few years ago.
The kind of grief I experienced was incomprehensible. I thought I was accustomed to deaths, having lost relatives who were close to me over the years, but nothing prepared me for this loss.
She was the friend who was there for every significant moment in my life — birthdays, university graduation, wedding, baby showers, divorce; name it, she was constant. Our friendship was warm, stimulating, fun and therapeutic. She turned up every single time I needed her, even those times when I didn't know I needed her. I've felt a major sense of loss since her transition. Losing her brought to the fore the importance of friendships in my life.
Friendships are voluntary; unlike family, we choose them. Meaningful friendships are necessary in our daily lives and a conscious effort to nurture them must be made. Finding time to engage our friends physically and staying in touch when we are apart is important to keep friendships alive. My sister friends are often my lifeline and I do the same for them as they do for me.
They are open, genuine, and trustworthy. For women, our sister friends often bring us back to life when we are at our lowest. The quote in Toni Morrison's Beloved, “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order,” succinctly describes what my friend Scarlette was to me. She gathered me when I was broken and brought me back to my wholeness by simply being there to listen. To comfort. To support. Sometimes saying nothing at all, simply holding my hand.
Sister friends are those friends who are unafraid of being honest and open with you about your decisions, but assure you in the same instance that they will be there regardless of what you choose to do.
Strong friendships can take you through difficult times. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it an opportunity to connect with my sister friends who, in normal times, were busy getting on with their lives. When the “new normal” became overwhelming, my sister friends were a constant assurance that all would be well. In our most vulnerable times, good friends are there.
One of my closest friends shared how she survived the death of her youngest brother through the support of her sister friends. They did everything for her during her time of grief — from planning the funeral to serving food, they turned up and their presence eased her pain. The song made popular by Whitney Houston and Cece Winans came to mind as she shared her experience:
Count on me through thick and thin
A friendship that will never end
When you are weak, I will be strong
Helping you to carry on
Call on me, I will be there, don't be afraid
Please believe me when I say, count on me.
Good friends are not just there for the tough times; they are there for the laughter and the good times. Sister friends will turn your most embarrassing moments into laughter and make you feel good about yourself. Sister friends become increasingly important to our health and happiness as we grow older — we lift each other and show up when the need arises.
Coleen Antoinette is a lover of culture and people. She is currently the Director of Marketing Communications at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Share your experiences with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.