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.





Jeanne Veillette Bowerman said...

There's no right way to grieve. You are so right about the backlash of ignoring the grief. I've buried myself in work for the past 18 months, doing just that, yet the moments when I stop working, the pain comes back as if it was yesterday... and so do the tears. Thank you for reminding me I can't bury it forever.

Friend Grief said...

You're right, Jeannie.
I've known people who buried the grief for years - decades, even. We're all in such a rush to "get over it" and feel "normal" again, that we force down any feeling that is remotely sad. Sad is okay. We wouldn't be sad if we didn't love them and miss them. Isn't that a small price to pay?