Do you want to be a good friend?
Remember your trials, your suffering, and hold onto it. I'm sure that seems like bizarre advice. The worst times are what most people would rather forget. But if you forget then you cannot empathise.
As we move through the different phases and stages of life, we run the risk of our past experiences becoming a blur. We forget the pain. We forget how bad it was. Then we become indifferent towards others who are currently going through similar trials because we can't remember. When we can't remember, it is harder to offer comfort.
One of the hardest things I've found about being a new parent is the lack of empathy from some older parents. I've heard ladies in their fifties and sixties say, "I don't know why my daughter/daughter-in-law is so stressed." They've clearly forgotten how hard it is to have babies and young children. The memories have become hazy. They don't remember that they were that frazzled young mum thirty years ago.
Some of the best comfort I've received is from mums with children slightly older than Rory. They remember all too well what it was like navigating the early days of parenthood.
I want to be able to genuinely relate to and empathise with my friends. Sometimes they will be going through things beyond my experience, so all I can do is offer tea and sympathy. But other times they will be going through issues that I have faced in the past and I want to be able to give them a hug, cry with them, and offer a reassuring voice from several steps ahead that it does get easier.
The longer I'm married, I run the risk of forgetting what it was like to be single. Nowadays I find myself envious of single, childless people having a coffee together, enjoying uninterrupted conversation. When single people express their desire for a family one day, I often want to scream, "NO! Enjoy what you have. You have freedom to do what you want, when you want. You have a full night's sleep. Nooooo!" That's when I have to stop and remember. Being single wasn't a walk in the park for me, and it isn't for many of my single friends. I remember days of loneliness, sitting, hoping and wishing for a husband and children to share what I have. I need to offer empathy, comfort and friendship to those who are single because that's what I wanted when I was in their shoes.
Now that I'm married and a mum, I want to remember the struggles I've faced with Rory and having postnatal depression. I want to go out and help other first-time mums - hold their babies for them so they can have a shower or a sleep, cook a meal for them, clean their house, offer adult conversation because I'm so, so grateful for those people in my life who have done that for me.
Hanging onto your hurts doesn't mean hanging onto the bitterness; it enables you to reach out, relate and help your friend through it.