Coping With The Death Of A Best Friend

Posted Thu, 06/24/2010 - 4:29pm by Kentin Waits

Filed Under:

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. — Ana Nin

Meaningful and deep friendships are a wonderful part of a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes, when we are quite lucky, one of these dear friends grows into best friend. A rare title, a best friend is our alter-ego, born of shared history, shared values, and ten thousand laughs. Our best friend becomes part of our chosen family — the first person we call to share a joy, the one we call at 2:00 a.m. in times of emergency.

Last March my best friend, Dale, died of sudden heart attack. There was no indication of heart trouble; I was literally laughing with him one weekend and attending his funeral the next. The shock still reverberates today and I constantly stumble over the realization that he 's gone. As I try to process his death, I have two recurring thoughts. The first: We didn 't even have a chance talk about this — and we talked about everything.The second: I have such a long time to live without him around; how do I navigate the years ahead? Strange the things we ruminate on when grief-stricken.

Dale and I matured into our friendship — connecting first in college, moving to the big city after graduation, building our careers together, detailing romantic misadventures with each other, processing joys and heartaches over countless cups of coffee. Volumes of inside jokes conspired to form a language that was all our own. Without him, it seems I am losing this language entirely. Much of who I am and the way I view the world was developed with him as my sounding board. He was a bit of me; I was a bit of him. The investment we had in each other was broad, deep, and intensely personal.

So how do we survive the loss of part of ourselves? The death of a best friend is different than the death a parent or spouse; there are no sympathy cards that quite fit the bill. There's no term for this loss and folks expect an abbreviated mourning period and offer a different, lighter brand of sympathy. The last four months have given me a crash course in coping and, although I do each imperfectly, there are a few points I keep in mind as I work through the grief. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of a similar loss, I hope these strategies can help you chart your own course in a territory largely unmapped:

1. Take time to mourn

It may not be readily offered, so take the time to mourn and don't worry about some arbitrary timeline as you process the loss. As your life marches on, take an hour here or an afternoon there to remember your friend. As with all grief, the worst stings will subside with time and be replaced by a softer ache. Talk with friends and family, let yourself cry, take trips down memory lane and let this process move forward naturally.

2. Create a legacy

When you feel ready, honor your friend's life through volunteer work or charitable donations in keeping with his priorities and passions. Dale was an animal lover — his cats were like his children. Making a donation to the ASPCA in his memory brought me a bit of comfort and will be the way I acknowledge special dates of our friendship in the years to come.

3. Seek support.

Family and close friends can help you cope with the grief. Don't be afraid to let others know how deeply the loss has touched you. People can only rise to the occasion when they truly understand how much they 're needed. You 'll be surprised how the smallest acts of kindness and empathy can change your entire mood at the toughest moments.

4. Preserve your memories

It may sound cliché, but scrapbooking memories can help tremendously in processing feelings. There were so many things about my friendship with Dale that I didn't want to forget, that the fear of forgetting became a stressor in itself. Document the important moments — keep a journal of random memories or scrapbook photos and mementos. As the years give way to years, you 'll be glad you took the time to preserve these memories while still fresh in your mind.

5. Realize your friend will never be replaced

Friendship is renewable, but people are not. Realize that no person or new friendship will ever quite replace the one you've lost. To consciously seek out a replacement only marks the loss more and highlights the comparative shortcomings any candidate for the title of "new best friend" will surely have. Give yourself time to develop new relationships naturally and let them take their own unique paths.

6. Open yourself up to new and different friendships

Loss rightly shuts us down for a time, but don't let sadness become your new companion. Though no friendship will look or feel quite the same as the old, new friendships can, over time, become just as profound and rewarding. Own your capacity to be a best friend and enjoy the journey toward new connections.

Day by day, I adjust to life without my best friend. On particularly bad days, I take it moment by moment. No doubt, Dale and I had a lot left to learn from each other, but I'm glad we had those 18 years. He will always be partly responsible for the man I've become — the humor I find in life's little absurdities, my ear for good music, my ability to see the best in people. He would have wanted me to write this and would have wanted me to eventually move beyond the grief and embrace new friendships with as much devotion as I embraced ours.

Comments

1

Thank you so much for

Submitted by Nina on Tue, 04/05/2011 - 10:06pm.

Thank you so much for writing this... I have been going nuts trying to figure this lnr\ew life out without my friend,,,

Again, Thank you

2

i am going through the same

Submitted by Alexis on Thu, 10/11/2012 - 7:13am.

i am going through the same thing that you are doing only thing is that i am 16 years old and my bestfriend cherelle clarke had commited suicide in 2009 i have been blaming her death on me because i had thought that maybe there is something that i could of done to prevent this and i couldn't she had ment the world to me and now she is not here i had so many things planned for me and her to do and now i cant do anything because i rezent myself for letting something like that happen to her and i couldn't help her and now i feel like i was nothing because i didn't

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Submitted by baz on Tue, 01/08/2013 - 3:39am.

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Submitted by Destiny Toler on Fri, 05/20/2011 - 7:40am.

Hey, I am really in alot of stress at the moment. Due to the fact that my bestfriend, Drema Walls, died in a car accident on Monday. She was a girl that was quiet, but friendly. She made friends really fast with everyone. She loved her friends, but we were very close. People are gossiping and it is all over the news about her relationship with Dustin Justice. They were bestfriends and even I could tell you that. She had a personality like no other person will ever have. I cant except the fact that she is really gone. I dont know how. She will always be in my heart. She made an impact on my life, and i told her that a day before she died. Maybe she took that thought with her. She was amazing. Shew, I feel all alone because none of my other friends think that I should talk about her to them. I dont know what to do. Can you please help me?

28

Hi all,   I just lost my

Submitted by Dave on Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:57pm.

Hi all,

 

I just lost my best Friend Michael "Bart" Bartholomuwe a little over a week ago, one weekend we were watching the football playoffs at my home and the next weekend he's dead of a heart attack. He has taken a hugh piece of me with him and I can't seem to function without it, curently broken. Working to fix the hole in my life.  So many people loved Bart he will be greatly missed, I'll never be the same man I was before his death, not sure I want to be. I love him and miss him so very much.

 

Dave

29

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Submitted by Kham on Sat, 03/31/2012 - 7:49am.

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Most of them are very much similar to my own feelings... I lost my BFF of 25 years last January.

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 I know exactly what ur

Submitted by Lana on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 12:11pm.

 I know exactly what ur going through. I lost my bestfriend in april 2012 due to brain cancer. She was still so young and im having trouble copeing. I feel all alone  no one i know understands what i am going through. Just thought you should know you are not alone 

34

 My best friend since 7th

Submitted by Steve on Wed, 04/18/2012 - 12:07pm.

 My best friend since 7th grade died unexpectedly 13 days ago.  A part of my heart is broken.  It helps to see what you folks have written, to know that it's natural to be knocked off center in such a way.

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My best friend just died

Submitted by Guest Mary on Sat, 06/02/2012 - 11:56am.

My best friend just died suddenly of a heart attack.  I am having to work through thinking I could have prevented it & could have argued with the doctor he saw recently that he should be given a full check-up, if I had googled a medical symptom he had, before instead of after he died. Maybe the doctor was right, maybe he wasn't. I'll never know.

I hate the categories people seem to put you into at a time like this - if you loved someone I don't think it's relevant whether you were a friend or a couple.  You loved them, you've lost them, that's what matters.

I keep thinking I'll tell him what I think of the family of his that I've now met, his other friends & contacts, the joking about it......I think of the kind of conversation we will have, I look forward to it....& then remember it won't happen.

Thank you so much for this article. It really helps. 

36

My best friend for life.

Submitted by Bryan on Sun, 06/17/2012 - 9:50pm.

My best friend for life. Just died in a motorcycle accident last night. I am devestated. He saved me so many times.  Thank you for writing this. I have never been so devestated with a death in my life.

37

Seems strange to say but my

Submitted by Bud on Sat, 07/14/2012 - 8:50am.

Seems strange to say but my best, dearest friend of over 50 years died in Nov 2011 and I just found out about it two days ago. Hadn't spoken in years because of of an issue which was totally my doing. My pride and embarrasment kept me from contacting him. We grew up together, walking to school every morning as children and sharing our lives throught high school and first year of college. Talked him into joining the Air Force with me, with the plan of joining the CHP afterwards. He was my best man at my wedding. Our families would vacation together and we watched our children growup. We learned to fly together and worked at a hospital for awhile while finishing school and waiting to go into law enforcement. He was a loyal, trusted friend whom everyone loved. I realize with him gone our unique memories, that only he and I shared, are a memory only in my mind. We can no longer look at each other, say a word to rekindle a memory and laugh like hell. We were the witnesses to each others life. Being 68 years old, I have experienced the passing of friends, parents, family and others in my life. None of these losses compares to the heartbreak of the loss of my best friend. There is a hole in my heart. I loved my friend.....

38

My best friend that I have

Submitted by Diane on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 8:46pm.

My best friend that I have known since we were 8 years old died suddenly last week.  Just typing these words are hard. I still can't believe it. I've noticed that people don't seem to understand the depth of my grief. She was the one who I was supposed to grow old with. We've been together through husbands, accidents, family deaths, high school. I feel like a big chunk has been taken out of my heart. My chest literally aches. Thank you all for letting me write this and for sharing your pain. It helps to know someone understands.

39

My sympathy, I do know what

Submitted by Kathy on Sat, 07/28/2012 - 6:27pm.

My sympathy, I do know what you are talking about, my chest actually aches too, my best friend since grade 1 just passed a month ago from cancer, she battled it for 4 years, I foolish thought I was somewhat prepared as she had been sick for so long......not the case.  I feel so off balance right now, will break out crying anywhere anytime, cannot control it, she has left a huge void.  I do acknowledge what you said that generally people do not understand the depth of grief.  Her and I were suppose to grow old together, retire together, not sure what to do now, the pain is so overwhelming.  Thanks for listening

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 I lost my best friend on

Submitted by Linda on Tue, 07/31/2012 - 5:51pm.

 I lost my best friend on Dec 23, 2011, and I am still having a very hard time with it, we were friends from the age of 3 and we also have been through school, marrage, we raised our children together, she divorced twice and she finally met the love of her life and he got along so well with my husband that we felt so lucky to have them  and now her boyfriend passed,  also from cancer in March 2012, Now we have lost them both and I still can't believe they are gone.  I never write to anyone on the net I usually just do research, but I had to respond to you because you sound so much like me. and I must tell you that even if you had time to prepare as I did, ( She was sick for a year and a half) and after her first operation I reall thought she was going to make it, I couldn't imagne my world without her, I don't remember my world before her I was only 3. But still even thought she was sick for so long it still is very hard to deal with it, and I totally understand you. the other reason I had to respond to you is because my friends name was Diane.  I'll say a prayer for you, Bless You, Linda

41

 I've read all your

Submitted by steph on Fri, 08/03/2012 - 9:41pm.

 I've read all your stories, and they are just like mine in a way, I also lost my bestfriend. He past away four years ago and till this day I shed a tear every know and then... Its so diffucult to talk about it with the people around me, about how i really feel still..i tried going to therapy the year he died but i couldent stay their..sometimes i just want to scream!!!!!  its so hard to let go, and i wish i could just move on. the night after the accident i had a dream about him that he huged me, and it was so wierd because we never huged because we thought it was odd..but anyways im so glad i was able to write this tonight because i just want to get it off my chest.. 

42

 I just lost my best friend

Submitted by Rose on Sat, 08/04/2012 - 12:34am.

 I just lost my best friend 7/30/12 she died unexpectedly....autopsy results not in yet.  I miss her so much, we used to text or talk everyday. Even though we hadn't seen each other in years, I'm having a hard time, every time I get a text or the phone rings I think of her.  I guess it's still hasn't sunk in.   It's so hard for people to see just how close we were.  We knew each other all our lives and had a lot of history together.  Our mutual friends think that we had a casual friendship and don't realize how hard her death is for me.  I hope she knew that I cherished her.    She taught me patience, unconditional love and to never give up.   I know I will never have a friend like her again.  I love you and miss you my beautiful friend Virgie, love Rose

43

 I lost my best friend

Submitted by Cocokaz on Sun, 08/05/2012 - 5:38pm.

 I lost my best friend about a month ago for four years we did and shared everything . She helped me come out of a depression I was in all my life and actually helped me feel happiness and pride again. I thought we would have years more to build our friendship but she died, she just died. She is gone and I'm still here petrified I will forget her, terrified I will slip back into deep depression and numbness as before and terrified that i will forever feel this loss and guilt. She did so much for me why couldn't I save her, she was healthy had just had a check up a few months ago. 

44

I posted here about 3 weeks

Submitted by Kathy on Sat, 08/11/2012 - 4:56pm.

I posted here about 3 weeks ago, my best friend in the world died June 24, her name was Sue, I knew her all my life, I am not sure what to do with out her, she has always been there, I dont remember a time without her.  I still get short periods when I forget and go to call her, and for just one moment, its like she is still there.  I miss talking to her and laughing, she always knew just what to say to make me smile.  I think things will not sting so much with time, but right now, its overwhelming.  I think I am going to join a grief support group, hopefully it will help somewhat

45

I lost my best friend on

Submitted by Jerry Fitzgerald on Fri, 08/17/2012 - 7:06pm.

I lost my best friend on 08/15/2012. She was in an auto accident on 08/03/2012. She faught so hard. We have been best friends for 29 years. Since early childhood. I do not know how to cope with the loss. It is worse than any family member ive lost. I have planned her service, cremation, paid for everthing, even the obit and tomorrow on the 18th I will speak at her funeral. I feel like all of these things are the last thing I will ever do for her. She was such a beautiful light. My heart is falling out of my chest. What can I do? The worse part is that her daughter was 19 and driving the car. Not only am I at a loss for my friend, but I am also trying to keep her kid from going off of the deep end. Ive tried so many time to pick up the phone and call my BF to let her know whats going on and get advice, but she doesnt answer. She never will again.

46

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Submitted by Guest on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 9:36pm.

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 Sorry for the loss of your

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 09/30/2013 - 3:56pm.

 Sorry for the loss of your best friend lost my best friend a year ago april 8 we were best friends for 34 years

Raised ours kids together talked everyday for me it hasn't gotten any easier this past 1 and half years 

48

I just found out last week

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 08/20/2012 - 10:09am.

I just found out last week my best friend (18 years) has inoperable pancreatic cancer.  I miss her already and she is still here.  I dont want her to suffer.  I will put in my favorites because I will be back on here thoughout the process.

I cry alot, but I cry alone most of the time.  I just cant stop my heart from breaking.  It feels like I cant breathe sometimes.

She is a very independant woman, she doesnt want you to do for her.  I just hope I can help her through this without hurting her.

Until next time, me

 

 

 

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 There is a saying:  I

Submitted by Jane on Tue, 01/28/2014 - 10:59pm.

 There is a saying:  I breathe but cannot catch my breath.  

50

 thanks for sharing

Submitted by Surviving on Sat, 08/25/2012 - 2:32am.

 thanks for sharing this...

i lost my best friend to lung cancer this past june 2012.  she fought her cancer for two years.  then we got the news that it spread to her brain.  with in a month she was put in hosipice and given weeks to live.  i miss my friend, she balanced me out.  i feel off center now a days and think that i need psychological help.  and then i can hear her voice saying...what are you doing!  she was a one of a kind and i need to keep moving because she would have.  she fought her cancer all the way, she made me proud...she never gave up.

miss you e

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