When a Friend Dies

Friends are an important part of our life. We share laughter and serious conversations, people and places, active and quiet moments. Friends keep us grounded and shape our identities. They may help us find jobs, homes, or even spouses. We trust them with our secrets.

Despite the important role of friends, they are often neglected in times of death. Friends are rarely mentioned in an obituary; sympathy cards are rarely sent to friends. The loss of a friend is another example of disenfranchised grief, when others do not recognize another’s loss. In effect, there is no socially acknowledged “right to grieve” over the loss of a friend. No matter how close the friendship, few businesses extend time off to mourn a friend, for example.

You may find it helpful, even essential, to attend a friend’s funeral and memorial service. The very best of these may be inclusive—clearly bringing friends to the center of the circle of mourning.

Because all rituals are not inclusive, you may need to find your own special way to mourn a friend. Understanding the unique quality of each of your friendships affects your sense of loss and the nature of your grief.

Developed from Journeys with Grief: A Collection of Articles about Love, Life and Loss, edited by Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D., MDiv., copyright Hospice Foundation of America, 2012.