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Coping With The Death of A Friend

Coping With The Death of A Friend

Danielle Mahoney

Previously on we have covered the topic of grief with an article on coping with the death of a grandparent and the topic of grief in general. Although losing a grandparent can be a deeply upsetting and traumatic experience for us, there is somewhat of a natural order of it. At some point in life we expect it to happen.

So, how do you cope when you’re presented with the most unnatural order of losing a young friend in your teens?

This topic is something deeply personal to me as I experienced it myself when a classmate and friend of 10+ years died suddenly when I was in 6th year. It was something that shocked me to my core and it took me a very long time to process it all. 

There’s no right or wrong way to deal with the grief of a friend or classmate dying, but I do have some experience to share about coping with the death of a friend and classmate that I hope will be of some comfort to you…

Nothing Will Prepare You…

So many times recently I’ve turned on the news to an utterly tragic headline of young lives lost and what so many of them have in common is the suddenness of them; one minute life was as it was supposed to be and then the worst happens. Time becomes split into before and after. 

For me, I found it jarring that I had shared the last class on Friday with Sarah, but our first class on Monday was cancelled as we gathered to try and make sense of her loss. How was she there on Friday, but not here on Monday? You don’t expect that in life, especially when you’re young, but life isn’t fair.

I don’t have an answer to this one exactly, but the shock of it all can be immense. I remember being very despondent and confused in the week after. And I was very checked out for months after. Trying to process grief in the midst of shock is a difficult one, the only thing that helps is time.

Guilt Is A Weird One

The guilt I felt during my own personal loss was a weird one to me. I wasn’t exactly friends with Sarah anymore, we drifted and it was fine in life, but so confusing in death. I found it hard to reconcile my grief. Did I deserve to be so sad when her best friends were also suffering? Why did this have to happen? Why does life get to go on as normal for other other? And on and on…

It took me a long time to process everything that I was feeling at the time, but I can see now that my feelings were valid and my grief was valid. Even if you’re not super close with the person there is still a grieving process for you and you are entitled to that. There’s also the guilt about life going on without them, it just seems so unfair. But this is also a normal thought process.

The Return To ‘Normal’ Is Hard

I personally found the concept and practise of life going on after very jarring. It feels unfair, but life does go on and it tends to drag you with it. I am incredibly conscious of what some of the Leaving Cert students involved in recent tragedies in Ireland will be facing over the next few weeks with CAO offers and starting college; it’s ok that things will begin to move on. It’s ok to have the highs of the start of new life, and it’s also ok to still be grieving. And it’s more than ok to just be so confused.

Grief Comes In Many Emotions

I vividly remember going back to a friend’s house after the funeral where we watched some Gossip Girl and then went out on the trampoline. When we got out on the trampoline we really got into it and after a while we just couldn’t stop laughing hysterically. It’s an odd one on paper, but I also remember sitting down on the trampoline after and having a very grown up DMC about how we were all feeling and the consensus that still sticks with me to this day was that we needed that release; we needed to just let it all out. Laughter is good for the soul and it helps. It doesn’t change anything, but after what we had been through it was needed. I remember feeling this bubbling inside me that I just couldn’t get out. Sometimes crying helps, but sometimes laughter helps too.

When that comes for you too, it’s ok. It’s ok to laugh, to cry. Grief is a rollercoaster of emotions. I remember that I cried so much at one point that I was all cried out. I actually wanted to cry more because it oddly felt good to get it out, but I just couldn’t.

Cherish The Memories

I often think of the quote from Harry Potter. “”Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I don’t think happiness is necessarily the right word in these circumstances, but there will be moments of remembering happier times during the grieving process and it’s ok to laugh and be silly in remembering the person, because that is the ultimate testament to their memory; the love and memories that they leave behind. So, cherish them, embrace them, hold on to them.

Lean On Those Around You

You are not an island. So many people around you will be feeling the exact same as you, lean on each other during these difficult times. And extend that into the weeks and months ahead. 

Talk About It

I know people say this a lot, but talking really does help. Talk to your friends, your teachers, your parents…your dog. All the conversations that you have will help give you a different perspective. Sharing grief does make it slightly a bit more bearable. Bottling it all up in your own head makes it so much worse. It also helps those around you. I wish I had had more conversations with people about my grief, particularly in the weeks and months after.

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Write It Out

If you find talking hard or that you just want to make sense of some things privately, write it all out. Pen to paper and just spill it all out. It won’t change things, but it can be a great release to you. Maybe think about writing a letter to the person you lost? This can be incredibly helpful when you feel like life is moving on without them. Write a letter to them telling them about the changes you’re going through and imagine them reading it.

There Are So Many Services Available To Help

If you feel like you need to talk more or that you need more help processing things please do reach out to someone.

Your school and college will have many resources available to you. We also have a list of helplines. Don’t suffer in silence. Your grief is valid and the only way to deal with it is to talk it out.

There’s no to-do list that you can tick off when it comes to grief

I wish I had the words to make everything better, but I don’t, and no one does.

Grief is the price we pay for love, but it is a horrific experince. We slowly trudge through it, and ever so slowly over time it changes. You will always miss that person and love them, but it does become something that you live with. Grief changes shape, but it never ends. 

Coping with the death of a friend or classmate is a truly horrible experience, just give yourself and those around you love and patience.

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