Sunday, January 26, 2014

Random Thoughts on Friend Grief

Last week, there was a horrific crash on I-94 near Michigan City, Indiana. Four dozen vehicles – including 18 semis – were involved in the accident caused by icy roads and whiteout conditions. Three people died.

A story that came out today was about one of those who died. His family was notified by someone at the coroner’s office who recognized him when the body was delivered.

Now and then we hear stories of first responders who arrive at the scene of a tragedy, only to find that they know a victim. This was someone who wasn’t there, but I imagine the shock of recognition was just as great.

As I research the next book on the military, I hear stories about troops whose friends die in front of them – during battle or on the way to medical help.

I don’t want to designate a hierarchy of grief. Everyone who experiences the death of a friend grieves in their own way, often deeply. But seeing your friend die – or seeing their body soon after – must surely be a special kind of hell.

I thought I was prepared when a friend of mine died this week. He was older – 89 – and had lived an amazing, full life. He was not afraid of death.

When he died on Wednesday, I was much less prepared than I expected. Oh, I knew I’d grieve, probably cry. But the depth of the grief has taken me by surprise. I’ll write more about him here, but not now; maybe not for a long time.

What I’m not going to do is try to ignore it, “get over it” so I can feel better. I’ve learned – as you probably have, too – that ignoring grief just means it will come back and bite you in the butt later.

It’s all right to be sad when your friend dies. Don’t listen to the people who dismiss your grief as unimportant. If you didn’t love your friend, you wouldn’t feel the loss so deeply.

And that’s okay.




Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Update on Friend Grief and AIDS

One of the benefits of self-publishing is the ability to revise your books at your discretion.

The second book in my series, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends, has been well-received. It recently earned a 5-star review on Readers Favorites and continues to generate impassioned – and positive – reviews on other sites.
When I wrote it a year ago, the statistics and resources in the back of the book were current. Time for an update.

Around March 1, I will re-release Friend Grief and AIDS with:

  • Updated statistics on HIV and AIDS around the world
  • Additional books and films for those who are interested
  • More links to organizations devoted to education, prevention, treatment and advocacy

If you have already purchased a copy, or plan to purchase one before then, thank you! I will post that updated information as a free pdf on the Resources page here in early March. That way those of you with the original book can see what’s new.

An added note: that new version is a reward for a Kickstarter campaign happening right now. The Last One is a documentary about the AIDS Quilt:

Stigma isn’t silent. Whether it’s spoken at the pulpit or spoken under one’s breath, in political rhetoric or private conversation, it is loud. It is insidious. It is lethal.

In The Last One: The Story of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, we follow the AIDS Memorial Quilt from inception to the present day to uncover how stigma has fueled the growth of the greatest pandemic in human history.

So, that’s what’s going on right now with Friend Grief and AIDS. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you will – either now or when the updated version is released. Whether you remember the dark, early days of the epidemic or not, I think you’ll find the stories in the book both disturbing and inspiring.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Being Loyal to a Dead Friend

Yesterday I was watching a little French film called Delicacy, starring one of my favorite actresses, Audrey Tautou. She plays a young woman whose world is turned upside down when her husband, Francois, is killed suddenly. She throws herself into her work, so she doesn’t have to feel.

But after several years, a most unlikely co-worker develops feelings for her. One night he winds up at her apartment, where a small party is taking place. All of the people there were friends with her husband, and they don’t respond well to this new man’s presence. “This is the first time they’ve seen me with anyone,” she explains.

Maybe you’ve been one of those friends. The spouse/partner of a deceased friend has found someone else to love. Is that too much to ask for you to be happy ?

Sometimes it is. People can be very judgmental about those who grieve. Why do they cry all the time? Why don’t they ever cry? When are they going to move on? Why are they rushing things?

It’s only natural we want the memory of our friend to live on, but sometimes we expect a lot. We expect time to stand still because we don’t want to feel like that friend is being replaced.

You can’t replace your friends. It’s only natural, especially as you grow older, that your circle of friends dwindles. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make new ones, as long as you think of them as “new” and not “replacements”.

When you look at your friend’s partner, you think of your friend. It may be that you have only known them as a couple. But now that couple is no more. And you are left wondering what to do.

You want to remain loyal to the friend who died, and in your mind, that means expecting survivors – including you – to maintain their memory.

But just as you are bound to make new friends, so their spouse/partner is likely to love again. It doesn’t erase the friendship you had before, nor does it discount their partnership.

So while it may be a shock to hear that friend’s spouse or partner has learned to love someone else, take a deep breath. No one needs to remain stuck in their grief.

Remember your friend, appreciate the time you spent together, and be happy that their love allowed others to be able to love again.

Here is Roger Ebert’s review from 2012.