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My Best Friend Died: A Real-Life Guide to Coping

Gabrielle Applebury
Woman crying

Losing a best friend may be one of the most difficult and heartbreaking experiences you have in your lifetime. If you aren't sure how to process that your best friend died, know that there are many healthy options when it comes to coping with this type of loss.

My Best Friend Died

Whether your best friend recently passed away, or it's been some time since their passing, you may not know where to start when it comes to processing this type of loss, or you may feel stuck in your grieving process. This is completely normal, and your grieving process will be unique. When it comes to working through your thoughts and feelings associated with this loss, there is no right or wrong way to go about doing so, and there is no set timeframe.

Know That Thoughts About Your Own Death May Surface

When a best friend passes away, it can be difficult not to think about your own death. Often, best friends are so close, it can feel as if you both are extensions of each other, deeply connected to each other's true selves. You may see yourself or aspects of your core self when you think of them, which can lead to thoughts regarding your own death. Know that this self-reflection is not self-centered, but is a natural response to losing someone so intimately close to you.

  • Give yourself permission to examine your own mortality
  • Journal or spend some time thinking about what death means to you and your feelings associated with it
  • Understand that it is totally normal to experience fear when thinking about your mortality

Donate in Their Honor

Donating to an organization that was close to your best friend's heart can be incredibly beneficial in many ways.

Volunteers at local food bank
  • Doing something for others can boost your oxytocin and dopamine levels, which can help you feel connected to others in meaningful ways.
  • Donating or volunteering for an organization that meant something to your best friend can help you feel close and connected to them.

Create a Memory Book or Photo Album

Doing an activity where you can sift through photos and recall special memories can help you process losing your best friend. This activity may bring up bittersweet emotions, and you may feel joy while thinking about certain memories, but you may also feel profound sadness and anger when you think about them no longer being with you. If you choose to create a memory book or photo album, do so at your own pace and be sure to give yourself breaks when needed.

Have a Day That Honors Them

When you feel up to doing so, create a special ritual that honors their favorite activities and foods. This can help you feel connected to them, while honoring their memory. You might:

  • Cook their favorite food
  • Watch their favorite show or movie
  • Listen to their favorite songs
  • Do an activity they loved doing

Create a Memorial Page

Creating a memorial page can help you feel close and connected to not only your best friend's memory, but to others who also loved them. Memorial pages can be created on social media pages, or on sites specifically meant for memorial content. Encourage others to share pictures and favorite memories and, if you're up for it, share some of your favorite memories or thoughts regarding them.

Write a Letter

Writing a letter to your best friend can help foster an intense emotional release for some individuals. On a day where you feel up to it and have time to cool down afterwards, you can write a letter and release your thoughts and feelings to your best friend. You can ask yourself:

Sad woman writing letter
  • What do I miss most about them?
  • When do I feel the most lonely and wish they were with me?
  • What made our friendship special?
  • What are my favorite memories?
  • What makes it difficult for me to cope?
  • How am I going to honor our relationship?

If this exercise works for your style of processing, you may also try reading your letter aloud to an empty chair and pretending that your best friend is sitting across from you. Again, this is an intense exercise for some, so while it's fine to push yourself, it's important to continue checking in with yourself and taking breaks when needed.

Connect With a Therapist

Losing a best friend is a unique type of loss that may not only feel absolutely heartbreaking, but can make you feel as if your identity is lost and tangled up with their death. This can feel like a double loss, one where you feel you've not only lost your main support person, but that you've also lost a part of yourself. This can lead to intense feelings that can be difficult and at times scary to process. Reaching out to a therapist for support can help you process what you're going through in a safe environment. You may:

  • Consider connecting with an EMDR trained therapist- EMDR therapy is aimed at assisting individuals process very difficult and disturbing thoughts and emotions
  • Look for a therapist who specializes in this type of grief
  • Find a support group, in addition to therapy, for individuals who have lost their best friends

Try Equine Therapy

If you aren't much for talk therapy, but feel like you'd like additional support, you can consider equine assisted psychotherapy. This type of therapy allows clients to freely explore their thoughts and emotions while spending time with horses. While your therapist may give you metaphorical activities to do with a horse or group of horses on the ground, they may also allow you to head out into the pasture and work through whatever you'd like, while offering you tools to help you process (painting on the horses, obstacle props, and grooming supplies). Be sure if you take this route that your therapist is EAGALA trained and/or certified.

Woman loving horse smiling at man

When a Friend Dies Suddenly

When someone you love so much dies suddenly, it can change your relationship with other friends and family members in your life. You may find yourself:

  • Leaning on certain friends and family members unexpectedly
  • Pulling away from certain individuals
  • Experiencing shifted feelings about your other friends
  • Feeling disappointed or surprised by certain individual's reactions to your grieving process

How Does It Feel to Lose Your Best Friend?

Missing your best friend who died is a perfectly normal reaction to this type of loss. Because every individual is unique, each person's reaction may differ. You may:

  • Feel numb for quite a while and not feel ready to deal with this type of loss
  • Feel a combination of different emotions, which may include sadness, loneliness, and anger
  • Feel confronted by your own mortality
  • Experience intrusive thoughts that you may find disturbing
  • Feel excruciating and prolonged pain
  • Feel like a part of you is missing or feel like your identity is now muddled

My Best Friend Died and I Can't Get Over It

If you feel like you're stuck in your grieving process, it can be helpful to reach out to a therapist for additional support. When individuals feel stuck, it is often because there are thoughts and emotions that feel too threatening to address. Doing so with the help of a professional who can provide support and is non-judgmental can be immensely helpful. If you are having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others, be sure to contact a crisis line immediately, or a trusted support person who can get to you right away. Seeing a therapist regularly or doing inpatient treatment are responsible next steps to ensuring your safety and wellbeing.

How to Cope With Losing a Best Friend

Losing a best friend to death may be one of the most painful experiences you go through. If you've lost a best friend, there are healthy ways to process your loss and seek support. While your life will not be the same without them, you deserve to grieve your loss and feel supported during this time.

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My Best Friend Died: A Real-Life Guide to Coping