You can never really be prepared for the death of a close friend.
When the news came that my dear friend Susan had passed away, it hit me like a punch to the stomach. Although she'd been fighting cancer for some time, there was no gradual decline. One week, she was hosting a house concert; the next, she was gone. The initial reeling shock of the news gave way to hyperventilating tears as soon as I could escape to my car.
In the first few days, I locked myself away in my office, prone to frequent tears, but still going through the regular routine of work and home. Within days, I took off for an out-of-town work event and made it my primary focus. The work was a good distraction. My grief felt like a weight too heavy to dump on anyone else.
In the weeks that followed, it wasn't sadness that dominated my life. It was exhaustion. There’s no downtime when a friend passes away. The moments of grief popped up unexpectedly, but a general tiredness was always present. While I still met my deadlines, personal and professional demands felt overwhelming at times. At night, my heart would race. I was experiencing textbook symptoms of grief and felt completely alone.
Dealing with the death of a friend.
After a loss, the hole in your life seems overwhelming. But the symptoms of grief are common to many people, and there are concrete steps you can take to help ease the pain as you cope with the death of your friend. Here are three things that helped me:
1. Ask for Help
The flurry of condolences and sad emoticons on Facebook were kind, but after the first few days, the expressions of sympathy stopped. Unlike a physical injury where your cast or crutches are visible, it's easy to forget that someone is hurting. Even those who remember may be worried they’ll say the wrong thing. Let friends know if you want to talk about your loss or if you’re not up for scheduled plans. If you can take a few days off from work, do it.
2. Connect with Mutual Friends
In the days that followed Susan's death, there was an outpouring of love and memories on her Facebook page. Beautiful tributes appeared online and in local papers. I read every single one of them and felt less alone. Soon, a Facebook Group was set up to share photos. Two months later, friends are still sharing newly uncovered photos and the stories that go along with them. Each new post makes me smile.
3. Find Comforting Rituals
Perhaps the hardest thing for me when Susan died was the fact that she wasn't a local friend. While I had planned to travel to the funeral, last-minute circumstances prevented me from making the trip. I wasn't alone. Susan was a much-loved individual with friends scattered across the country and around the world. Recognizing this, her family arranged for the service to be livestreamed on Facebook. The memorial spanned many hours, with friends and family sharing memories and a full line-up of musical performances. Being able to watch and connect with other long-distance friends brought a tremendous amount of peace and healing.
Dealing with the death of friend is never easy, but as the months go by, my memories of Susan bring more smiles than tears. I'm grateful for the friends and family who helped to make a difficult time easier with their kindness and support.
If you or someone you know have experienced a recent loss, our free grief recovery booklet may help. Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides complimentary grief recovery groups in all the communities we serve. Please call 1-888-564-3405 to speak with a bereavement coordinator about upcoming groups in your area.
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