Coping with the death of a friend

When your friend dies, the sadness you feel can be overwhelming, yet those around you may not understand what you’re going through. This can leave you feeling isolated and alone, but we want you to know we’re here for you.

On this page, we’ll talk through how the death of a friend can affect you, and we’ll explain why it’s important to remember that your grief and your feelings are valid.

We’ll also share tips and advice to help you cope after your bereavement, and highlight what support is available if you need it.

How do you cope with the death of a close friend?

The death of a best friend can be devastating. It can leave you feeling abandoned and lost, particularly if they were the person you shared your deepest thoughts and feelings with. It’s likely that you would have experienced significant moments in life together, and their death can leave you grieving the plans you’d made and the moments you thought were still to come. 

If you were in touch with your friend regularly, it can feel like your daily life and routines have changed forever. You may still find yourself wanting to call them up, share things with them or ask their advice. And at times like Christmas, birthdays or big life events, you might wish they could be there with you. 

Even if you didn’t see each other often, their death can still bring about similar feelings of longing and sadness. That’s why it’s important to be kind to yourself as you come to terms with what has happened. 

Learning to live with the death of your best friend is likely to take time. Try to give yourself the space you need to grieve and be honest about how you are feeling with those around you. This can help them support you in a way that’s sensitive to what you’re going through. 

What the death of a friend can feel like

Having to come to terms with the death of your friend can be shocking, even if they were ill beforehand. You might experience a range of emotions, from sadness to confusion or guilt, and you might find that these feelings change as you try to process what has happened.

The pain that comes with grieving for a friend can sometimes be overwhelming, and you may cry a lot at first. Or, you might feel like you’re coping OK, and then suddenly find that strong emotions hit you out of nowhere. This is completely normal, and all part of the unpredictability of grief. 

If your friend had a terminal illness, you might find that you feel a sense of relief now that they are no longer suffering.

This feeling may be particularly significant if you were their carer, as you no longer have that responsibility. It may feel odd to experience these types of emotions while you’re grieving, but it’s important for you to recognise that it’s OK to feel this way.

All friendships are unique and so your grieving process for your friend will be too. It will be influenced by how close you were, the role they played in your life, and lots of other factors. If your other friends knew the person who has died, they may react differently to you, and that’s OK. You’ll each have your own journey of grief to navigate. 

I honestly feel losing Kerrie has been as tough as losing mum, maybe even tougher.

Grieving my friend: Helen's story

Remember that your grief is important

When your best friend dies it can feel like you’re grieving for a sibling, but those around you might not realise this. They may not recognise the depth of your friendship, the impact they had on your life, or their importance to you. In fact, it’s common for the death of a friend to be seen as less significant than a family bereavement. Yet for many people, friends are their chosen family.

This lack of understanding can make you feel like your grief doesn’t matter as much, or that it isn’t as significant as the grief of those who are related to your friend. These feelings are known as disenfranchised grief, and it can leave you feeling really isolated - particularly if you didn’t know or get on with your friend’s family.

For example, you might find that you aren’t given the chance to take part in the funeral or memorial in the way that you’d like to, or that you’re excluded from that process entirely. This can all add to the hurt you are feeling, but try to remember that your grief is important and valid.

How to support yourself after the death of your friend

Coping with the death of a friend can be incredibly tough, and it can be hard to come to terms with what the future now looks like.

In the moments when things feel especially difficult, try to take one day at a time and put yourself first. This might be through doing something we’ve mentioned below, or it might be through doing something else. What’s important is that you do what feels right for you.

Talk about your feelings

Opening up about your grief can help your family and friends support you in the way that you need. It can feel scary to be so honest, but communicating with them about what you need can ease some of the pressure you feel. Grief can be isolating, but remember that you shouldn’t have to go through it alone.

If you don’t feel comfortable going to a family member or friend, you could consider joining a grief support group. We’ve got more information about what grief support groups are and how to join one, either in-person or online.

Share your memories

Taking time to reflect on special moments throughout your friendship can help you to feel connected to your friend as you grieve. You could meet up with others who knew and loved them, or you could set up a digital space, such as our memory box tool, to share all your photos and memories.

Find ways to remember them

You may want to think about a meaningful way for you to honour your friend’s memory. For example, you could make a memory box, plant a tree or flower, visit a place that was special to them or support a cause they cared about.

Write about your feelings

If you feel like you have things you still want to say to your friend, or if you find yourself wishing that they were around at certain life events or moments, you might want to consider writing to them. This could be a quick text every now and then to let them know how you’re feeling, a journal entry, or it could be something longer like a letter that you write every year.

Take care of yourself

Grief can be exhausting, so it can feel even harder if you don’t look after your physical health. This can be hard to do when you’re grieving, but it’s important to try to eat well, get the sleep you need and move your body each day. It may take a lot of effort to get out of the house, but going for a walk or sitting outside for a few minutes can help you feel better.

Choose the right bereavement support for you

We’re also here to help with a range of Online Bereavement Support services. Our Online Bereavement Community is a safe space to talk to others who understand what you’re going through. You don’t need an account to read what people are saying, but you will need an account if you want to share your own experience.

As well as our Online Community, we also have lots of information about the grieving process on Grief Guide and our supporting yourself through grief pages. Plus, our Online Bereavement Counselling Service offers free and professional video counselling to help you process the death of your friend and what it means for your life now.

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