Death Niceties (how to be cool with a friend who’s grieving)

* This is a re-post to honor the life of my mother on the anniversary of her death 3 years ago. I feel you mama.

Chances are a close friend of yours has experienced the death of a loved one. Chances are you were kinda dumb about it. Here are some points to support you with your friends pain; especially if a holiday, birthday or anniversary is coming up. It’s still hard, but if you keep these rules in mind you’ll feel less like a shithead.

1. Be direct. You can say things like “that’s fucking horrible” and “I’m really, really sorry” and “When did she die?” You can say whatever comes out of your mouth. Your friend wants to talk about it, or at least wants to be allowed to talk about it if they want to talk about it, so please, feel free.

2, If your friend brings up the dead person in casual conversation, don’t ignore it. They are bringing them up specifically to see how you will react. Don’t gloss over. Stop. Look them in the eye. Ask a question about the dead person and let your friend be the one to move on. When you have a loved one die, one of the saddest things about the whole deal is how weird and quiet your friends get about it. So, don’t get weird. Ask a question. Simple.

3 .If it’s coming up to the anniversary date of the death expect your friend to be fucked; possibly even more fucked than when their loved one just died. All that is needed: a card in the mail or a phone call. Can you imagine SENDING SOMEONE A CARD! Do it. It’s fucking incredible. And if you do, honestly you are on their “stayatmyhouseanytimeforaslongasyouwantwhenyouareoldandaloneI’llbetheretohelpyououtofthetub” list. That’s a good investment.

4 Your friend is thinking about the death of their loved one pretty much all the time. So don’t worry that you are “reminding” them. If a thought about the deceased comes up, act on it “I remember when he was in the canoe….that was hilarious…and then he saw the bird and freaked out and…” whatever it is, don’t worry about talking about them. Talk about them. Talk about them. Talk about them. This is an honoring for your friend. This is an acknowledgment that person who died is still real. My friend recently told me that she noticed I had started doing my hair like my mom; it was so precious to hear that for some reason.

5. If you are the friend that fucked off a bit when it happened; didn’t send a card, didn’t call, didn’t check in a few times over the months- you’ve been most likely emotionally removed from your friend’s life. Your friend has a lot more to focus on than flakey behavior and the wheat has been shucked from the shaft (or whatever that farmer saying is). If you want, this can be fixed. You can send a card explaining how dumb you were and you can start checking in regularly. It might take some effort and you’re gonna have to want it, but your friend will forgive you.

6. Because with grief comes compassion and your friend is probably a lot more flexible and loving than they used to be. They’ve had to learn this fast and hard. “What doesn’t bend; breaks.”- (0ld school Ani reference).

7. Your friend may act weird sometimes now. They may cry more or break dates due to being overwhelmed or use you as a sounding board to rage about her cousin who said that WEIRD THING that was so OBVIOUSLY a personal dig (but kinda sounds like it wasn’t) but FUCK that dude, FUCK him with a pole full of nails. Yes. You say. Fuck him.

8. The thing about death is that it attacked your friend. Even when it’s expected,  grieving a loved one is like a bomb going off. So your friend has no real control over when he’s gonna get hit again and crumple. It’s a very vulnerable place to live all the time. He will not behave perfectly, but he does not expect you to either. He just wants to be able to be honest about it.

9. You will be where your friend is. Remember that. You will have a loved one die. Someone you really, really, really need in your life will die and you will have to deal with it. It could be in a week or when you’re 70 but no one gets out of this. So, practice with your friend now, practice not being scared of death, practice being scared, practice not knowing what to do and practice doing it anyway.

10. Thank you. Thank’s for trying, trying anything. Thank you for being uncomfortable beside your friend. Every little try is noticed, like a sponge sucking up water, it’s deeply felt.

Love,

Em

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