When a Friend Dies

BY: Laurie Mason, MSSA, LISW-S

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

What happens when friends grieve over the death of a friend? Typically friends are not considered immediate family and are passive participants in the rituals after death. Most emphatically, society dictates that the friend's grief must not seem to overshadow the grief of the family. These expectations can make it very difficult for the grieving friend to truly express the depth of their sorrow.

 As in every death, the nature of the relationship influences the intensity of the grief reaction. The more close and valued the friendship, the more intense the grief will be. Some people are more devastated by the death of a lifelong friend than by the death of some individuals in their own family.

 Men and women grieve differently. Men and women may also have different relationships with their friends. Many men seem to cultivate acquaintances that require less mental energy and self-disclosure than the new development of close friendships.

 Women often form rich social networks and utilize different skills to maintain and nurture those relationships. While there are no hard and fast "rules" for how men and women grieve, the outward expression of that grief may differ, and the death of a friend can appear to have a greater impact for a woman.

As a friend, you have a right to grieve, and it's important to honor the memory of your friend. Consider returning to a place familiar to you and your friend and use it as a place of remembering. Share memories of your friend, particularly with people who knew him or her -- this can be very healing. Give time or a donation to your friend's favorite charity as a way to honor your friend's life and passions. The death of a friend can be very significant, yet the relationship is not readily honored by society. This is why it is important not to be afraid to openly grieve the loss. Honor their memory and remember the life of this special person who so impacted you and your life. 

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