How To Overcome Grief When A Friend Passes Away

Post written by Suraj Shah.

Have you recently experienced the loss of a close friend?

Friends come and go in our life. Some of the best ones stick around for a very long time, particularly when life becomes difficult and they are around to help us see through the toughest of times.

However, when a person dies, society’s belief is that the immediate family constitute the rightful mourners, and only they are deserving of condolences and support. Unfortunately, this means that friends of the deceased are generally forgotten about.

When a close friend dies and you have been forgotten, what can you do about it?

1. Attend the public mourning service

By attending the mourning service, such as a funeral, wake or prayer meeting, you get a chance to pay your last respects, along with many of the other people that your friend knew.

2. Participate in the family’s mourning

You may also have the opportunity to visit the home where your friend lived and spend time with the family, supporting them at home with any chores, or being around to lend a compassionate ear. They may even ask you to take on a role to replace an absent family member (such as being one of the pallbearers at the funeral).

3. Organise your own memorial service with other friends

In case you didn’t find out about the death till it was too late and missed the funeral, hold your own memorial service to honour your friend’s passing. By involving other participants, you have a wonderful opportunity to find out more about your friend’s life and discover ways to support others who are grieving the loss.

Remember your friend, embrace their qualities

Even though not everyone will understand how important your friendship was, do take the time to reflect on magic moments  you shared together and your friend’s qualities that you can embrace and carry forward into your everyday life.

One Day Life Changes

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Heena Modi.

I wrote this poem when I was remembering my father. He passed away a few years ago. Perhaps it will help you understand someone else who has lost someone that they loved, will increase the compassion in you, or help you deal with your feelings about the death of a loved one.

One Day Life Changes

Fewer places to set at the table
Fewer seats taken in the car
One less person to cook for
One less person to eat with
One less person to look after
One less person to share things with
One less birthday to celebrate
One less anniversary to remember
One less parent’s day
Less future memories with them with them
No fewer memories from the


Are they still here?
Are they watching over us?
Are they helping us?
Are they holding us?
Are they giving us strength?
Are they manipulating us?
Are they fulfilling wishes which death robbed them of?
Are they finding their path to peace through us?
Are they learning the answers to questions they never dared ask?
Are they protecting us?

Will we ever know?
Will we ever see them again?
Were they not a soul in a body which was simply a tool to help us SEE that soul?
The body has died.
The soul has not.
So how do we recognise them now?
With a feeling?
A sensation?
A special energy?

A primary school teacher by day, Heena Modi writes about family, spiritual, and environmental matters at her blog.

How to support someone at their time of loss

Written by Suraj Shah.

Do you know someone who recently faced the death of a loved one?

What was the first thought that entered your mind?  What was the first thing you did?

Chances are that you first thought “oh no” (or “oh shit!”) and at that moment you stumbled because you had no clue about the best way to reach out to them.

Should I go see them, give them a call, send them an SMS, send an email, write a letter, write on their Facebook wall, send flowers and a card, or do nothing at all?

Then there’s the question about what to say?

Do I ask what happened, say sorry about their loss, ask them how they are feeling, tell them how I’m feeling, or say “It’s probably all for the best”?

In our society, death is such a forbidden topic, that it’s no wonder we stumble when really we have a chance to shine and be a pillar of strength and warmth for our friends and family at their time of greatest need.

What to say to someone who has faced a loss

Although there is no “right” thing to say, certainly avoid the following phrases:

  • “I know how you feel”
  • “Time heals all wounds”
  • “Don’t dwell on it”
  • “It’s in the natural order of things”
  • “It’s time for you to move on”
  • “Be grateful you had him so long”
  • “You’re never given anything you can’t deal with”
  • “It’s probably all  for the best”
  • “Don’t feel bad”
  • “He lived a full life”

All that these insensitive platitudes will do is that they will hurt and upset your friend who will feel that you haven’t really acknowledged their loss.

Instead, consider this approach:

  1. Simply and honestly tell your friend how sorry you are for their loss.  Your honest will give them a breath of fresh air, because most other people will be presenting them with the above insensitivities.
  2. Don’t be tempted to avoid saying anything.  It is horrible for the bereaved person to wrongly feel that you don’t care enough about them and not get in touch.
  3. Do what feels right in your heart that communicates that you are with them, so that they do not feel alone.  They will pick up on your kindness.

Supporting your grieving friend through Active Listening

Although you can not take away the pain of someone suffering from a huge loss, one of the best things you can do to “be there” for them is to actively listen and help them express their feelings.

The technique of active listening can be cultivated by letting the other person express his or her own feelings, whilst suspending your own judgements.

Advice is generally the last thing they are looking for, even if they’ve asked for it.

How to Actively Listen:

  1. Put your full attention onto them and listen to what they are saying.
  2. In your own words, repeat back to them what you have understood from that they said.
  3. Check with them whether you have understood them correctly.
  4. Ask them to fill in any gaps in your understanding.
  5. Offer a response ONLY once they indicate that they feel fully understood.

Supporting your grieving friend by helping out

If talking and listening aren’t your strong points, there are plenty of ways to show your love and support by taking on some chores.  Here are a few ideas:

  • cleaning and tidying
  • organising mail
  • fielding phone calls
  • cooking a few meals
  • chauffeuring
  • washing clothes & ironing
  • helping them pick out what to wear

Your role as a friend

Remember that through all of this, you are in no way responsible for making the situation any better or taking away your friend’s pain.  Only they themselves, through a steady committed path, can overcome their own pain.  The most important thing you can do is empower your friend to keep expressing his feelings.

Have you faced a loss yourself?  What did your friends do well?  What could they have done better?

(Photo courtesy of megyarsh)