I asked what people want to hear when a friend dies. It’s not really that different than what anyone who’s grieving wants to hear: a simple “I’m sorry” or “I’m glad to listen if you want to talk about it.” But those comments require a certain amount of empathy, basic human compassion. And frankly, not everyone is capable of that.
So, how to respond when someone says something stupid like “it’s not like they were family”? I suppose, if you’re like me, your first reaction is to want to smack them. It might even provoke a sudden burst of tears. But in talking to people and thinking back on the times I’ve grieved a friend, I discovered that the answer is really very simple.
If we are to expect respect from others, we must give voice to that respect ourselves. How can we expect others to understand the grief we feel for our friends if we don’t express it? That means we have two very simple things to do:
First, tell your friends you love them. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable saying the L word, but do it anyway. Tell them what a difference they made/make in your life. And tell them while they’re still here, so you don’t have to add a layer of guilt onto your grief when they die.
Second, tell others that you loved your friend. When someone is dismissive of your grief, just say “They were my friend and I loved them. Why wouldn’t I grieve?” If they’re stupid enough to persist with comparisons of those they deem more worthy of your grief, stop them with “I love a lot of people, and many of them are friends.”
The size of our family may be limited; our circle of friends is not. But the loss of one is still deeply felt. And deserves every tear we shed.