Today, I’d like to shift the focus just a bit to answer the question a different way. Because when you grieve the death of your friend, you’re also grieving a part of you.
Friends come into our lives at different times: the first day of school or a new job, in a play group or on a sports team.
I think it’s safe to say that Shakespeare was right when he insisted that “all the world’s a stage, the men and women merely players”. We may not consider ourselves actors, but we are different people at different times in our lives.
I was a different person in high school when I was two lockers away from Corinne than I was doing plays in college with Michael.
I was a different person when I sat on a small theatre’s board of directors with Carol than I was listening to Dennis sing in the church choir twenty years later.
So, even as we mourn the death of our friend, and perhaps the circumstances, too, we also mourn the part of us that died with them.
We mourn the memories of what we did together. We may mourn the fact that now there is no one else left in the world who was there when we walked into our first audition, joined the mother’s club, or chaired our first meeting.
They remember us when we were pretending to be brave, but scared to death. Their presence calmed us down and maybe even made us laugh at ourselves. They accepted us, but didn’t hesitate to tell us we were full of shit. They were almost always right.
In the business world, it’s called “institutional memory”: people who have been around long enough to remember the way things used to be. Our friends are like that, too.
You may say, ‘well, that may be true, but their death isn’t about me’. We don’t just grieve a person, we grieve a relationship, and every relationship requires (at least) two people. One of those people is you.
The longer we live, the more friends we’ll lose. We’ll mourn them first. And then we’ll mourn who we were when we were with them.
Every death brings with it related losses...sense of self, who you were with the person, shared memories. Then there are the less tangible losses like the loss of trust and a sense of safety.
That's right, Susan. It's funny sometimes the things you miss. But I think the thing that surprises people the most is that loss of self, those shared memories, as you say.
Thank you for this article. It's very uplifting, practical and emotional.
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