Coping with the death of a friend | Cruse Bereavement Care

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When a friend dies

At Cruse we know that the death of a friend can affect you very deeply, whether you were very close, or whether they were part of your wider circle of friends.

When a friend dies it can be incredibly painful. Some friends are like family to us and their death is a huge loss in our lives. Other friends may not have been as close, but will still be very much missed. Sometimes a death may come as a shock, or we may be taken by surprise by strong feelings of loss for someone we haven’t seen in a while.

Different feelings after the death of a friend

  • As well as shock, numbness or pain, we may feel regret, guilt or anger, depending on the situation and the relationship we had with our friend. 
  • The death of a close friend can be just as painful as that of a close relative, but others around us might not always recognise this.
  • For many people, friends are a strong source of support, be that practical or emotional. Or they could have been someone we relied on to relax or have a laugh with. Losing that connection can hurt very much.
  • Sometimes people are taken by surprise by how deeply affected they are when a more distant friend dies. But it is normal to be shocked and hurt after hearing the news, even if we hadn’t seen our friend for a while, or if we had lost or stopped contact for some reason.
  • If we knew a friend for a long time, perhaps even since childhood, we may feel a loss of connection with the past and sadness that someone we shared precious memories with has gone.
  • If our friend was a similar age to us, it can be a reminder that we too will die one day, and this can feel very frightening.

After a death it’s not unusual for the focus of any support to be on the parents, partner or children of the person who died. This may be what needs to happen, but it does mean that friends can feel left aside. Messages of sympathy are sent to the immediate family, and friends may not be included in making choices about funeral or memorial arrangements, what happens afterwards, and how the person who died is to be remembered. There can be a sense of being ‘left behind’ and not included. 

How to support yourself after the death of a friend

1. Talk to someone

Talking to other friends and family can be really helpful, even if it is over Zoom, the phone or even by text. You might also be able to talk to someone in your community, or to a faith or spiritual leader. If you're find you're struggling to cope after a friend dies, you can call our National Helpline for support – we’re here for everyone, whatever your connection.

2. Find ways to remember them

It can help to think of ways you can remember your friend, and keep them as part of your life. This might mean keeping a few special possessions, creating a memory box or special album of pictures, or sharing memories on social media.

3. Get together

If you shared a group of friends, or are close to your friend's family, it can be lovely to arrange times to come together and remember them and celebrate their life (when that’s allowed).

4. Plan ahead on anniversaries 

Birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations can be difficult after someone close to us dies. It can help to think in advance about how you are going to manage. Read our tips on coping with anniversaries.

5. Journaling and writing

Many people find that writing letters to a friend who has died can be a real comfort. Others find that journaling helps them to clarify their thoughts and record memories of their friend and work out how to live without them. Find out more about the benefits of journaling through grief.

When my friend took his own life, I experienced something which I can only describe it as a very painful, really twisted depression. I now know this to be grief. I was lost and my life came to a standstill. I didn’t know what to do and the only thing I could do for six months was to run every day until I threw up.

Adam, Cruse Volunteer

Read more


How to support someone when their friend dies

1. Stay in contact

If someone you know has lost a friend, try to stay in contact  and let them know you’re thinking about them. Because sometimes people focus very much on families and partners it can mean a lot if someone reaches out to the friends of someone who has died. If you're struggling to find the right words, take a look at our list of suggestions of what to say when someone is first bereaved or talking to a bereaved person

2. Let them discuss their feelings

When someone is bereaved, one of the most important things you can do for them is give them space to discuss their grief. Allow them to be open about their grief and about their friend – talking can be one of the most helpful things after someone dies. 

3. Be there for important dates

If you can, reach out at significant dates like birthdays or the anniversary of the death. Make sure to and let them know you are thinking of them.

4. Suggest useful organisations

Offer practical help if you think they need it, or let them know about the different ways Cruse can offer them support if they are struggling. 

You are not alone. We're here to support you.

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