What happens when you lose a good friend?

Friends are the people that we let in to the inner sanctum. They make our lives sweeter during the good and difficult times. Friends are our supports and reality testers. There can be challenges but we rely on each other knowing that it’s safe.

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At 51 Lena was a divorced, successful professional. She raised two children singlehandedly and now that they were both off to college Lena was looking forward to savoring more time with friends, family and caring for herself.

Now more than ever Lina knew that every day mattered especially after overcoming her brush with breast cancer.

What experiences have you encountered that shook you to the core and made you WAKE UP?

Just as Lina learned that she was in the clear she discovered that her dear friend Anise learned had breast cancer–but hers was Stage 4 and highly aggressive.

Anise’s cancer quickly spread and even an amazing attitude could not spare her. In three months she was gone.

Lina had suffered other terrible losses but this one was the hardest blow of all. Unlike when we lose a family member where certain rituals are in place for mourning this isn’t the case when we lose a friend.

Losing a good friend can be life altering.

Losing a friend is poorly understood, overlooked and not adequately acknowledged by others—even though these relationships can be our lifelines. I remember when my best friend from childhood died at age 35 of breast cancer. My mother delivered the message to me after her funeral. To this day I think of Barbara and our crazy antics and her three beautiful kids and never having the chance to say goodbye.

Getting the support your need during this difficult transition is not built into the ‘system’ and is something that you must put together.

How to care for yourself after a devastating loss:

Be good to yourself. While no one else knows exactly what you need—you do! Don’t wait for someone to take care of you. Give yourself the unconditional love, support and time that you need to grieve.

Connect with others who shared a love for the friend that you lost, even if she or he is not in your inner sanctum. They are more likely able to get the magnitude of your loss. Sharing stories, celebrating the life of your friend and mourning the loss together can be healing.

Ask for support. The truth is that you cannot always get what you want from others. You can however ask for what you need and express your grief. It took me years to move beyond the loss of Barbara. Had I talked about my deep sadness at the time I would have mourned back then rather than years later when I discovered that this was still unresolved for me.

Friends are not replaceable or interchangeable. Expanding your world and letting well chosen others in helps. Connecting with others when the time is right brings new energy and possibility into your life. This will not be a substitute for the loss but it does allow you to move forward even in the face of pain.

Self-compassion and patience. We all grieve differently. Honoring the importance of your friend is a process. You won’t forget your friend and chances are that you already know how she/he enriched your life.

What I know is that each friend matters and continuing to nourish these vital relationships makes every day a little sweeter.

What have you done to help you through the loss of a dear friend?

As always I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.