Coping with the Death of a Friend

I could not believe that my friend had died. In life, friendships like ours are rare. One may have family, but friends arrive into our lives and can enrich them in a very special way. We had experienced so much together and I had taken for granted that we always would. I would miss the jokes, the laughs, the dinners, their smile and just being able to be myself around someone.

There are so many reminders of my friend, not only around my home but also in my day-to-day activities. I may have other friends, but our relationship was unique. No one will ever be able to replace my friend, my kindred spirit. If only I had had someone to confide in: someone who had suffered a similar loss and who could have understood my pain, someone who could have explained to me what I was going through and what was ahead for me, someone who could have helped me make sense of what did not make any sense at all.

It is my hope that my story and my experience of working through the grief caused by the death of my friend will provide you with some level of comfort, understanding, and an awareness of the multitude of emotions that you may already be beginning to face in the early days, weeks, and months after their death.

Your courage in taking the time to read this information is a testament to your ability and internal strength to move forward in your journey through grief.

Common Reactions

Some days I missed my friend so much. I would cry at one moment and then laugh the next, remembering some special time we had shared. Other times, I became angry that I had not been able to “do anything” to prevent their death. I tried repeatedly to make some sense of something that did not make sense at all.

The phone would ring and I would automatically think that their familiar and comforting voice would be on the other end. Then reality would sink in that my friend would not be calling me again. How could this be? It did not seem real.

You may experience a multitude of physical reactions when a loved one has died. You may feel as though you are on an emotional roller coaster. Once the numbness wears off, you may have feelings of disbelief and denial. Your energy level may be affected by either your wanting to do too much to keep busy, or by having a difficult time just getting through your day-to-day activities.

Reaching Out

I found it difficult at times to share my feelings; I was so afraid people around me would not understand. Sometimes I would be asked why I was upset. At times, those around me did not understand my loss and would make statements that would hurt. “After all, it’s not as though you’ve lost your spouse or a child!” They just didn’t seem to understand that I was closer to my friend than to some of my own family members. Losing a cherished friend can be so painful. I felt so alone. Abandoned. Lost.

You may be afraid that others will not understand, or that they will judge your reactions, your way of coping. You may want to retreat and be alone, which is natural when you are grieving. Many bereaved people find it helpful to reach out to others, to contact close friends, to join with others who know and understand their loss, to share their feelings. It may be helpful to tell people what your needs and wishes are. This information will let them know how they may be of help to you. The warmth and support of comforting friends and family is a precious gift. With such close supports you do not have to walk the grief journey alone.

Talk About Your Friend

I felt as though everyone tiptoed around me, avoiding the very name of my friend. I needed so much to tell others how much I had lost, how much we shared, how much our friendship had meant to me. My friend was the kind of person with whom I could be myself, never feeling judged. We trusted each other and enjoyed a very unique bond.

By relating memories and stories of your friend with others that listen in a caring and nonjudgmental manner, you are sharing your feelings. Not only might this be of benefit to you, but it also gives permission to those around you to discuss your friend’s life as well as their death.

Cherished Memories – Celebrating my Friend’s Life

The bonds of friendship can be extremely powerful and intense. When I was ready, I chose a special picture, framed it, and set it up in my office. Now, when people ask if this is a picture of a family member, I answer gently, “yes”.

In time you may decide to celebrate the life of your friend through writing a poem, planting a perennial garden or tree, starting a bursary in the name of your beloved friend, building a bench overlooking a favourite place or helping others through their grief. The way you celebrate is your own special way of showing your love for your friend.

Funerals and Rituals

My friend’s spouse asked me to assist in the planning of the funeral. We spent a great deal of time together, talking about how we could honour our loved one’s life. These moments were comforting, and a vital part of my journey into grief. The funeral was a celebration of life and of that very special person that my friend had been. We know it was the sort of celebration they would have wanted.

The funeral ritual not only celebrates the life of a loved one and acknowledges their passing, it may also allow you to pay tribute to someone who was very dear to you and loved by all. The support and care that you receive may gently enable you to move through the initial stages of shock and disbelief into acknowledgment and acceptance.

Taking Care of Yourself

You have experienced the loss of a friend. Your grieving will be unique to you, as was the uniqueness of the relationship that you shared with your friend. No one has the right to tell you how you “should” grieve or place a time frame on your grief.

Take comfort in other friends and family that support you. Tell them what you need or do not need. They will respect your directions and also feel as though they are helping you. Do not place too many expectations upon yourself; you may not be able to do all that you would want to do. Pace yourself and take care of your needs.

This period of time in your life might seem unreal; this is natural. Take comfort that someday you will resume the normal life activities in which you took pleasure in before your loss.

It takes courage, inner strength, the love of family and friends and the special memories of your friend to journey through grief and into healing.

The journey is truly your own.