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The loss or potential loss of a friend can be a huge source of grief. Often others minimize the loss of a friend, when friends can be as close to us, if not closer than our own family.
I lost one of my best friends to colon cancer a couple of years ago. I miss Alyse every day. We spooke almost every day during the last months of her life. Sometimes we would talk for hours. She would call sometimes and say, "Okay this is one of those I know I am going to die and I am not ready" calls. I would make sure I was in a place to be completely present and just listen with love, compassion and empathy. I would cry sometimes too. She told me that she would appreciate me sharing my emotions too instead of trying to be "strong" for her. She would then share her fear of dying with me and how much it ached her heart to leave her young adult children behind. She wanted to stay longer as she loved life and so many of her close friends and loved ones. She loved to laugh and she was so good at cheering others on when they felt lost and overwhelmed. She was strong and funny and fierce when she needed to be. She loved her children so much. When we had those deep intimate talks, I listened and listened some more and she cried and I cried. There were long periods of silence that felt so intimate as well. As if we were connected through a place far closer than words could ever provide. We shared such an intimate friendship in that very few do we really trust with our hearts and our deep feelings.
Friend loss seems so different than a family loss in that we are not often surrounded by those who share our same loss. A close friend is someone who we share so much with, our fears, our joys,
our dreams, our struggles, our worries, our inner most thoughts. To lose that person is to have lost a part of ourselves, a trusted confidant who knew us so well. This person became part of your spiritual chosen family built on trust, care and sharing. Losing my friend has been one of
the hardest losses I have experienced.
If a friend is dying, please consider reading this helpful article written by Alan Wolfelt, an authority in the field of grief and loss.
Helping A Friend Who Is Dying
Your friend is dying. This is an extremely difficult time not only for you, but for your friend and all who care about him. This brochure will guide you in ways to help your friend - and yourself - during the last days of his life.
When a Friend is Dying
You will probably come to accept the fact of your friend’s impending death over time, and it may not be until he actually dies that you fully and finally acknowledge the reality. This is normal.
For now, though, try to accept the reality of your friend’s medical condition, if only with your head. You will later come to accept it with your heart.
the Gift of Presence
Do respect your friend’s need for alone time, though, and realize that her deteriorating physical condition may leave her with little energy. She may not be up for company all the time.
Be a Good Listener
Allow your friend to talk about his illness at his own pace. And while you can be a “safe harbor” for your friend to explain his thoughts and feelings, don’t force the situation if he resists.
If you can listen well, you can help your friend cope during this difficult time. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools. Don’t worry so much about what you will say. Just concentrate on listening to the words your friend is sharing with you.
About Your Friend’s Illness
If you educate yourself about the illness and its probable course, you will be a more understanding listener when he wants to talk. You will also be more prepared for the reality of the illness’ last stages.
Never say “I know just how you feel.” You don’t. Comments like, “This is God’s will” or “Just be happy you have had a good life” are not constructive. Instead, they hurt and make your friend’s experience with terminal illness more difficult. If you feel the need to console your friend, simply tell him he is loved.
Offer Practical Help
If you’re not comfortable writing, consider sending video or audio taped “notes” to your friend. Or simpler yet, pick up the phone.
Support for Yourself
Many hospices offer support groups for friends and family of the dying - both before and after the death itself. Take advantage of these compassionate resources.
Your Own Limitations
Do not, however, avoid your friend altogether. People with terminal illnesses are often abandoned by friends and family, leaving them lonely and depressed. Phone rather than visit. Write if you can’t bring yourself to phone. Let your friend know that this situation is difficult for you while at the same time acknowledging that your friend’s fears and needs come first.
On the other end of the helping spectrum, don’t become obsessed with your friend’s illness or feel that you must be her only means of support. Do not emotionally overburden yourself.
Your Own Spirituality
Seek Hope and Healing
Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. Never forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.About the Author
Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is a noted author, educator and practicing clinical thanatologist. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado and is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School in the Department of Family Medicine. As a leading authority in the field of thanatology, Dr. Wolfelt is known internationally for his outstanding work in the areas of adult and childhood grief.
Don't be afraid to ask about your friend's vision of how they would like to die...
My Ideal Death
This activity is so helpful for those closest to the person dying as well as the dying person as well.
Ask the person to share verbally or in writing how they would like it to happen.
* Where would they be?
* Who would be around?
* What would they be doing?
* What are the people around you doing?
* What has been happening in the past days?
* What has been happening in the past hours?
* What is the last thing you do?
* What is the last thing you say?
This activity was taught to me in a class I took with Douglas C Smith, Tools to Assist the Dying, The Grieving and Those Who Love Them.
Helpful Books when someone we love or care for is dying:
Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness by Joanne Lynn, MD and Joan Harrold, MD
Quotes on Dying:
The nearer she came to death, the more, by some perversity of nature, did she enjoy living.
~ Ellen Glasgow from Barren Ground
Poems and Quotes on Dying:
I Give Thanks (for the Dying)
I give thanks.
I give thanks.
In the midst of my suffering, I give thanks for all gifts of comfort.
In the midst of my despair, I give thanks for all gifts of hope.
In the midst of my darkness, I give thanks for all gifts of light.
In the midst of the bitter taste of my dying, I give thanks for every sweet taste of life.
I give thanks.
I give thanks.
~ Douglas C Smith, MA, MS, MDiv, Spiritual Healing
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