Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

What Do You Grieve When You Grieve Your Friend?

Serenading people on line in Central Park
That was not a stupid question.

The simplest, most basic answer is that you grieve that they are physically gone from this world. Whether you believe in heaven or reincarnation or another consciousness after death, you still mourn their loss.

But what else do you grieve?

Maybe you found out about their death much later, so you missed the funeral.

Maybe you two weren’t speaking, and so were never able to settle your differences and part one last time as friends.

Maybe you didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

Maybe you never told them you loved them.

Maybe you were too embarrassed to tell them how they changed your life.

Maybe you didn’t get a chance to help them when they were dying.

You might call these regrets. You might be consumed by the ‘what if’s’.

I wrote last summer about the stark differences in the musical tributes Paul McCartney offered in his concert. One, full of affection for George Harrison, proved that they’d been able to express their love and appreciation for their long friendship. The other, full of regret, left you with the pain he felt at not expressing his feelings to John Lennon.

You can’t change what happened between you and the friend who died. But you can affect the friendships you still have. It might scare them – and you – but take a moment to tell them how much you appreciate them.

The night before his heart surgery, a friend told me I was on the short list of people to call if something “went bad”. We’d had a long, very complicated, difficult (at times) relationship, but we’ve been on good terms for years now, and I fell apart on the phone.

He was surprised by my reaction. “Why are you upset? I knew you’d be more pissed off if you weren’ton the list.” That was true, and we both laughed about it. But for the first time in decades, when we hung up the phone that night, I told him I loved him. After a moment, and with a catch in his voice, he told me he loved me, too.

You don’t have to write a long letter, or pour out your heart. Just a quick “God, you’re annoying, but I love you anyway” or “I don’t know what I’d do without you” is probably enough, and more than they’ll expect. You won’t scare anyone that way.

So this weekend, give it a shot. The first one will probably be the hardest, but after that, you’ll get the hang of it.

Which song would you prefer?