Losing anyone close in your life is a terrible, tragic experience, but this loss is exponentially more devastating if you lose a close or best friend. A close friend might be as important or more important than a romantic partner. So, how do you deal with the loss of a friend? As terrible as loss is, it is also common. There are many time-tested ways to help you process and handle grief. This article will explore practical ways to mourn a friend’s death and honor.
Trust in Your Timeline
Everyone has a different experience of grief. Don’t compare your journey with grief to others in your life. Your timeline is your own, and the best way to help it along is to allow it to be what it is. Your relationship with your friend will also influence the way you grieve. If they were someone you spoke to daily, their passing changes your everyday life. Whatever the relationship looked like, losing a close friend is a devastating experience. Your pain reflects your love and care for them and the space they occupied in your life. People grieve on their own time; let yourself take the time you need.
Feel Your Feelings
This might sound trite (or terrible), but feeling your emotions is essential for them to move through you. Similar to the tip above, trust your experience. Or rather, trust that your experience of deep emotions, however they surface, is your way of grieving. It is likely very uncomfortable; there’s no denying that pain and loss can feel terrible and overwhelming. The safest way to move through grief is to experience it as much as possible. During grief, especially in the first few months when things are often the most intense, be careful with activities that can numb you, like drinking. Try to choose to feel or let emotions move through you intentionally. You can trust that the pain will ease, eventually, and that feeling deeply will hasten that ease.
Talking about your thoughts and feelings can be incredibly helpful while grieving the loss of a friend. Many people turn to therapy during a time of loss; therapists can be safe people to talk to and can offer tools for processing the big emotions and thoughts you might be going through during this time. Trusted friends and family members you feel safe with can also be good candidates for talking about your grief. Whether you choose to speak to another person or not, writing is also a helpful way to process your emotions and thoughts. Writing is safe-no one is judging you (other than yourself), and no one need ever see what you wrote. You can ensure this by deleting computer documents or burning handwritten pages. Burning might feel cathartic too. Consider using the voice notes app on your phone for people who hate writing. It might seem silly or scary, but simply talking (in a private place) can be incredibly healing.
A ritual is something that you do intentionally and with purpose. Many rituals around death are commonly performed, such as scattering a portion of your loved one’s ashes. Planting a tree in honor of your friend is a way to show them respect and honor their memory. If you have any of their ashes, you could plant a Memorial Tree. The tree becomes a living urn and allows part of your friend to be reborn into something new. Lighting candles to remember a lost loved one can be a comforting ritual. Rituals can also be personalized, such as cooking or baking something your friend loved to eat. Rituals allow you to do something with your grief; they are as much about comforting you as they are about honoring your passed friend. One way to honor your friend’s passing is with the Ecorial Memory Map. This map marks the exact location of their resting place. Many people find that giving to others in honor of their departed loved one, such as donating to their friend’s favorite charity in their name or physically volunteering to serve somewhere as a way to honor their friend, is very comforting.
Take Care of Yourself
Grief can make it difficult to do daily activities like grooming and eating. This is normal in the face of such a huge loss. While you’re grieving, prioritize (as much as you can) essential self-care like showering, flossing, and eating. Try to exercise if you can; it will help your mood and sleep. Even a short walk outside in the sunshine will help lift you up and boost your mood. If you feel any shame or judgment about letting some of the basics slide, try to think of yourself as someone with the flu. Sick people need the basics; they need to be clean, drink water, take in a little food, and rest. This is not the time to take on big projects or extra tasks. If you’re having trouble functioning for longer periods, consider talking to a therapist or psychiatrist. Many people also find activities like meditation or being out in nature to be healing.
Let Yourself be Supported
Whether you need to find support or have people offering it to you, please allow yourself to be supported. If you have friends and family who want to help, look at this as a practice in asking for what you need. Is it space? Food? Company? It’s ok if your social relationships look different while you’re grieving. Support is key for healing from grief. If you don’t have a support system, that’s ok, and you are not alone in this experience. There are many support groups for grief online, and your doctor likely has a list of support groups in your area. Do what you can to reach out to others for support, whether that’s an old friend or a therapist, or your doctor. And, if you do have the privilege of support, practice accepting during this time of crisis and loss.
There is no way to hurry the grief that comes with losing a close friend. Practice patience, self-compassion, and acceptance of where you’re at. Grief will ease in time, allowing the good memories of your friendship to shine through.
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