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Friendship and Loss: When The Loved One Who Dies Is A Friend

Published: August 18, 2021 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
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Friendship and loss is a topic often not spoken about but the loss of a long-time friend can be very painful as this reader suggests.

QUESTION

Dear Dr. Levine,

My dearest best friend of 35 years died in March. She had Alzheimer’s disease, so it had been several years since I was able to have a conversation with her, but I could still visit and see her. Her death has devastated me.

Before she became ill, we spoke almost every day, and often met for a cup of coffee, lunch, shopping, visiting a museum, or seeing a show, etc. She wrote a book that is carried by many museums, and we used to get a kick out of seeing it in their bookshops. We lived only 15 minutes apart. Our husbands even liked each other.

We shared so many things: a love of art, literature, humor, clothes, gossip, and much more. In all those years, we never had a fight—maybe a slight disagreement, but never a fight. I now feel bereft and totally alone, even though I am happy to be with other friends. But now, I have little desire to. When I do, it feels like I’m just “making do”, and I feel terrible for even thinking that. How does one readjust from this kind of loss? Or, maybe you just don’t.

Sincerely,
Lindsay

ANSWER

Dear Lindsay.

It sounds like you found and lost a kindred spirit in your friend. Given all the experiences and emotions you shared, there must be constant reminders of the friendship—tinged with even greater sadness because you watched your friend slowly deteriorate.

Perhaps, you need to allow yourself a fallow period before you can reach out to other friends. When you do feel like being with other women (which you will), resist the temptation to compare other friendships to this one.

Remember that each friendship is unique and this one-of-a-kind friendship has helped you become the person—and the friend—you are today. You are fortunate that you have savored what few others have in a lifetime. More pleasant memories will surface when the sadness recedes with time.

One other thought to consider: If your sadness isn’t confined to your friendships and you’ve lost interest in things that were once pleasurable, you may be feeling depressed. Sometimes depression manifests itself as a sense of hopelessness; difficulties concentrating; or changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or energy levels. (Click here to see more about the signs and symptoms of depression). If this is the case, talking to a mental health professional might help you get over the hump.

Recovering from the death of a loved one is never easy. In this case, the difficulty may be compounded because few others can understand the closeness of your friendship and the pain of your loss.

My thoughts are with you.

Warmest regards,
Irene


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Updated 8/21

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Comments (3)

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  1. Kris says:

    Lindsay, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. As a Guest Poster, I wrote about the loss of a close friend of mine to ALS (Oct 8).

    Every friendship is unique, and they are not replaceable. The emptiness you feel is, in a way, evidence of how special this friend was to you. What a privilege it was for you two to have known each other, and played such a meaningful role in each other’s lives.

    I was at first blown away by the extent of my own grief when my friend died in August. I had lost both my parents the decade before, so I knew about grief, but had no idea that friendship loss could be so painful. Still today, I can’t even drive by her house.

    One comfort, though, which I will pass along. I do often feel her with me, as the beautiful Martina McBride song says,”Like an angel standing guard, There you are.”

    Whether it’s real or just a fond memory, it’s a true comfort. Sometimes when I am confronted with a situation that requires her kind of courage or sense of adventure, I ask myself, “What would Debbie do?” And I make great effort to keep her memory alive, with her family and our mutual friends.

  2. Serene says:

    Lindsay, I’m sorry for your loss.

    My mother is one of my closest friends, and I know that when she dies, I won’t only be missing my mother, but my friend. This is also one of the hardest things for me when romantic relationships end.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I had a very dear friend and because of some selfish person she is no longer the person I once knew. I know her for 26 years and it seems she does not want to accept the fact that the person that drove us apart is not at fault. Each time I run into her she thinksi t’s like nothing is wrong. I really struggle with is issue and I am so hurt . What is our advice on this

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