My best friend just died: what do I do now?
I have recently lost my best friend. I don’t know what to do or where to start.
I’m so sorry for your loss. When we lose special relationships we can feel like we have lost part of our identity and it is important to let yourself feel what you need to feel - and to honour your loss. There is a famous saying ‘The pain of grief is the price we pay for love’.
The cycle of life teaches us a very simple law – everything changes. Understanding this can help you realize that eventually you’ll come through your tough time.
Please know that grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. We all do it differently. There is no right or wrong way.
You asked where to start so here are some practical ideas that may help in this painful period of your life:
Start by crying and allowing the sadness that you feel to be expressed.
Accept that your life has changed and adapt it little by little to your new situation.
Don’t give more importance to death than to life.
Give your pain a constructive outlet.
Manage your memories.
Practise self-care, don’t let yourself go.
Compensate for your suffering - regenerate yourself. In the same way that in a long-distance race you need to be hydrated and nourished, you need to regenerate yourself, because grief is a long-distance route.
Here are some practical ideas to help you cope.
When a loved one dies, sadness takes over and relegates the rest of our world to the background, including ourselves and our needs.
Sleep well, because the body and brain regenerate themselves during sleep. Sleep as much as you need, (no more than nine hours). Have a nap if you need to.
Eat well. Don’t stop eating. Trying to eat in a balanced way, without seeking an escape in food. Don’t stop making your own food, and try not to eat compulsively. Eat, because food is the best guarantee of balance that we have.
Distract yourself. Thinking a lot about the absence of a loved one doesn’t mean that you love them more or that you miss them more. Visit family and friends, go to the theatre, go for a walk, read, travel, do whatever you like, but distract yourself, because this will allow you to recharge your batteries, finding the energy you’ll need to cope with the difficult process of grieving.
Physical activity is a precursor to a good mood, because it releases endorphins, distracts us and allows us to connect with our natural environment.
Talking is good for the heart, because it lessens the weight it is carrying and it gives shape to the sadness that invades us. Don’t keep what you feel inside to yourself. . . Speak up, share it with someone else and, when you share it, you’ll see how it slowly takes on a gentler and more developed shape.
Here is one person’s personal experience of grief which may be of help to you:
‘I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter’. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.
Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life.
Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float.
You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and whip you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function.
You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything .. and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas.
You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.’
I have talked about death, but any loss, not just death has grief attached to it and it’s important for all losses to be validated so that healing can come. Any changes in relationships or places can cause grief. So can moving house or school, separation, major financial changes as well as intangible losses like illness, loss of drugs/alcohol, loss of trust loss of freedom etc.
It’s important to know that we all experience grief differently. There is no timeline and all losses are experienced at 100% intensity when they occur.
If you are going through or emerging from a major transition in your life, I would love to hear from you.
Simple breath work can help in your distress. You may like to try this.
TAKE A BREATH, COUNT TO THREE
Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of three.
Let the breath leave your lungs as slowly as possible.
As you breathe out, let your shoulders drop and feel your shoulder blades sliding down your back.
Once again notice the sense of release.
Appreciate the simple pleasure of exhaling.
Notice what it’s like to let … it ... go.
Try this exercise throughout the day and see what difference it makes. Try it when you’re holding tightly to something – some hurt, resentment or blame that is draining away your vitality. Just breathe, hold and exhale. Try saying silently ‘letting go’.