Dealing with the Loss of your Best Friend
Friendships are Important
Friendships and relationships are such an important and wonderful part of our life. There are many different categories of friends, such as casual friends, close friends and best friends. But whatever the category of friend, true friends can be a source of self-esteem, affection and great times. In bad times those true friends are still there to offer assistance and hope. True friends are there in both good and bad times. These friendships are based on honesty, loyalty, love, really listening to each other and having ideas in common. True friends actually improve our lives in so many ways. These relationships are important as they affirm and validate us beyond our romantic and family relationships.
A Best Friend
While all friendships are important and shape who we are, if you are lucky, one of those will turn into a best friend. Best friends are rarer then the other categories of friends and not as easy to come by. This relationship is built on shared values, shared memories, and a long history, along with thousands of laughs and tears. A best friend essentially becomes a part of your family, as you become a part of theirs. This is usually the first person we call when something wonderful happens to us and the one we call in the middle of the night with emergencies. If you are fortunate to have a very best friend, work hard to keep this relationship strong. Make sure your best friend always knows how important they are to you and how you feel about them. You just never know when it might be too late.
My Best Friend
Last November, I lost my best friend Roxine to a sudden heart attack at the young age of 41. She had no real indication of heart trouble and was a complete shock. We were literally laughing together theee days prior to her sudden death. The shock of it still reverberates today as I constantly stumble over the realization that she's gone. Out of habit, I consistently think about how she would feel about something I say or do, then realize I will never know. For years we talked about everything, but we never talked about her or I going away. It's dealing with her loss that I need the most help with and she's not there to offer assistance, or even a listening ear.
Roxine and I met more then 15 years ago through another mutual friend. The mutual friend I would place in the category of close friend, but never a best friend. However Roxine and I instantly clicked and quickly came to rely on each other. We built our careers together, being there for each other through countless interviews, jobs, career moves and choices. In addition to our career successes and failures, we were there for each other through a number of romantic adventures. She was there through my divorce to help me pick up the pieces. I was there through several of her failed relationships until she met her current husband. She was there when I got remarried. We were there for each other through the trials of our 2nd marriages. The list goes on and on. We processed several joys and heartaches together, whether over chocolate cake, or a drink, we processed these together. We came to have volumes of inside jokes conspiring to form our own language. Without her it seems I am losing this language entirely. Much of who I am and the way I view the world was developed with her as my sounding board. Basically she was a bit of me and I was a bit of her. The investment we had in each other was broad, deep and very personal.
So how do we survive the loss of a part of ourselves? The death of a best friend is quite different then that of a spouse or family member. There are no sympathy cards for such an event. There is no real term for this loss and it seems people expect an abbreviated mourning period. Sympathy is still rendered our way, but seems to be a different, lighter brand of sympathy. While her family is still in tremendous grief, its not expected for the best friend to be. As I try to be there for her children, I keep a few points in mind while continuing to work through my grief. I hope some of the following strategies can help any of you that find yourself in the unfortunate position of a similar loss.
Strategies to Deal With Loss
The first and foremost point is to make sure you take time to mourn. Don't worry about other's timeline on mourning, take as much time as you need. As your life moves on, take an hour here and there to remember your best friend. Reminisce about happy times you had together. As with all grief, the worse hurt will slowly subside and be replaced with a softer ache.
Make sure to talk with other friends and family and let yourself cry. Family and other close friends can help you cope with your grief. However these individuals can only help if you let them know how much you are hurting and need their help. You will be surprised at how even the smallest acts of kindness can change your entire mood.
Another helpful strategy is to create a legacy for your friend. When you feel ready, honor your friend's life through volunteer work or charitable donations in keeping with their interests and passions. Roxine's number one passion was her children. A trust was set up for them and donating to that gives me some comfort. I feel like I am able to help her most important asset, her children.
In addition to creating a legacy, preserving your friend's memories can help tremendously. There are so many memories that I don't want to fade, or forget completely. I created a scrapbook full of pictures and mementos of events and things we did together. As the years go by you will be thankful to have this legacy of a very important friendship. As my children and hers grow up, I will be happy to share some of these memories with them.
The most important point is to realize that your best friend will never be replaced. New friendships can certainly be created, but people are not replaceable. No person or new friendship will ever quite replace the one you've lost. To seek a replacement will only mark the loss more, and any potential friend will be compared to the friend you lost, never measuring up. Its important to give yourself time to develop relationships naturally and let them go where they will.
Ensure you are open to these new relationships. Initially the loss shuts us down, but don't let sadness become your new companion. Just understand that no friendship will look or feel quite the same. But over time new friendships can become just as rewarding. Know that you are capable of being a best friend and enjoy the journey towards creating new friendships that could lead to another best friend for you.
I hope that some of the strategies and helpful tips are of use to you. I find that day by day I adjust to life without my best friend. On particularly hard days, I simply take it moment by moment. There is no doubt that Roxine and I had a lot to learn from each other, but I am thankful for the time that we did have. She will always be partly responsible for me becoming the person I am today. She is the reason I am able to see the best in people, the reason I can find the humor in life's little absurdities, and she's behind my dedication to seeing things through. I truly believe she would have wanted me to write this and eventually move on beyond my grief, while embracing new friendships with as much devotion and love as I embraced ours.