How a Man Can Grieve for a Deceased Friend

by A Manly Guest Contributor on October 19, 2011 · 124 comments

in Friendship, Relationships & Family

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Marcus Brotherton. 

How unexpected—and yet not—this late night phone call from Shannon, the wife of my close friend Paul. “Come to the hospital,” Shannon said. “Come say goodbye to your friend.”

Paul had already beaten cancer. He had gone through five rounds of chemo. After his hair fell out, after he had thrown up for months, after his fingers tingled with the aftershocks of radiation, doctors announced remission. Paul had won. But as soon as victory was claimed, an infection wormed its way into his body. It wouldn’t go away. It spread from his lungs through his kidneys and lodged in his brain.

I didn’t sleep after Shannon phoned. I felt scared, like a big exam was before me and I hadn’t studied. Early next morning I cancelled appointments, got on the freeway, and drove five hours to the hospital in their city.

The last time Paul and I had talked was three weeks earlier. On the phone he had taken shallow breaths between sentences, gasping like a fish on a riverbank, but his lung infection was only a setback, we all thought. When you’re sick for a long time you have your ups and downs. In the days that followed, Paul drifted in and out of consciousness, unable to communicate except to point at an alphabet. One of the last phrases he spelled was: “What’s happening to me?”

I walked into the intensive care unit where Paul lay. Shannon hugged me and helped me put on a gown. Paul’s body looked yellow and twisted with tubes running in and out. A ventilator was taped to his mouth. Other friends were there, Shannon’s sister, and her dad. “Take some time to say whatever you need,” Shannon said, and everybody filed out of the room except me.

Nothing prepares you for this. Nothing is rehearsed or written down. I sat on the edge of Paul’s bed and touched his arm. He didn’t move. Doctors didn’t know for sure what Paul was able to grasp by then. Maybe nothing. But they said hearing is often the last function to fail. So I spoke.

I asked Paul if he remembered being in college together, about the trip we took to the Grand Canyon just after graduation. I talked about motorbikes and music, things he loved. I told him all would be looked after; he had nothing to worry about. I said I loved him, and that I was proud of him.

The mechanical ventilator rose and fell, rose and fell, rose and fell.

We were alone for about 10 minutes before Shannon’s sister came in and asked me to come out into the hall. She needed to walk me through a decision the family had made. A few minutes later we went back inside and all gathered at Paul’s bedside. Shannon played a tape his young daughters had made for him. Little ones to him belong, sang his girls, and a nurse lowered Paul’s blood pressure medication. I stood near his shoulder, my hand stretched on his. It was over in minutes. Perhaps they fell, I don’t know, but Paul’s eyes drifted from his wife to me, then looked ahead. They never closed.

We stayed in the room for some time speaking in low voices, giving hugs, passing around tissues. There would be piles of get-well cards to box up, a wall of colored pictures to take down. But that would come later. Shannon cradled Paul’s head one last time, kissed him, and lifted a sheet over his face. He was 36.

What do you do?

How does a man handle the death of a close friend, particularly when the friend dies when he’s young? The processes I followed were neither straightforward nor tightly defined. Here are three things I did. Your experience will undoubtedly look different.

1. Walk

The evening after Paul died, I went to a marina and walked as long and vigorously as I could. His death was uncharted territory for me, his life so unfinished. For hours, it was just me walking in the dusky moonlight with wind and waves and a pile of emotions for which I had no words. I learned that physical exercise is imperative in grieving—and it wasn’t just for that one night. In the months that followed, I walked nearly every night. I ran. I jogged. I did push-ups. I went to the gym far more than usual. Instead of turning to a substance or harmful habit for relief, it’s necessary to go somewhere you can move. Let the emotion work itself out of your body.

2. Remember

At Paul’s funeral was a table with mementos from his life: his Martin guitar, a pair of Sperry Topsiders, Mt. Dew and Doritos, his favorites. Friends assembled a slide show—Paul at the beach, Paul on his wedding day, Paul with his children. As the slides ran, I had to consciously breathe to keep myself from falling apart. Ready, inhale, concentrate, exhale. Remembering was agonizing, and I didn’t want to go there, but I needed to. The memories were coming whether I wanted them to or not. In the weeks that followed, memories snuck up on me at the strangest times, at unexpected places. Months later in the middle of a workday I was driving down a road when memories hit me anew. I needed to pull to the shoulder and sob.

3. Hurt

What I didn’t need to do was cheer up. What I didn’t need to do was look on the bright side of things. Rather, I needed to fully grasp that someone who meant much to me was no longer alive. I felt leveled, floored, struck by a bare fist. For months, I simply gave myself permission to ache.

Certainly there was more.

Many seasons passed before I arrived at any conclusions about Paul’s death. My questions were huge, and what finally made sense to me was this: I would stop trying to make sense of things. I would never know why Paul died as young as he did. Instead of asking questions, I would choose to believe reasons existed that I am not meant to know.

To this day, I hold Paul’s memory close. I honor the memory of a deep friendship now passed. I believe I will see him one day again in worlds beyond ours. And I choose to have faith.

Have you ever lost a friend? How did you handle it?

______________________________

Marcus Brotherton is the acclaimed author of Shifty’s War and other books. Read more from Marcus at his blog: Men Who Lead Well.

{ 124 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richard October 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Touching.

2 Jonathan Murdock October 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm

My best friend passed away a few years ago. He was 22 years old, and had a blowout on the interstate coming back from the College World Series, when LSU won in 2009.

I think the hardest thing for me is knowing how long all of us left here on Earth have to wait to see our loved ones again, particularly when it happens at such a young age. I never felt bad for Ben, because he is in a better place, but I hurt for his parents, his friends, all the people who would never get to meet him and have their lives enriched, like he enriched mine.

I still hurt sometimes, particularly when I got married a month ago. Ben would have been the best man, and it’s hard to go through these milestones we always talked about without him. But life, as hard as it is, will go on, and I doubt very seriously if anyone who passes wants their loved ones to feel sad the rest of their lives.

One thing the author wrote struck a real chord with me, because it was exactly how I explained things to my friends when they asked me how I was doing, on the anniversary of Ben’s death. I don’t know why things happen the way they do, but I HAVE to believe they happen for a reason, or I couldn’t keep going.

This was an excellent article, and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.

-Jonathan Murdock…

3 Steve Brettell October 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm

The last bit, about hurting, is very important. We are seldom allowed to hurt. There are drugs, liquor, and friends to keep us from it. Our own physical systems conspire to avoid hurt: much of the drama, the crying or cussing, suppresses the feeling.

One of my closest friends died the night before graduation. He was far from me, and we hadn’t spoken in months. We didn’t need to, there was plenty of time. Then there wasn’t. That was in 1971. I still see him on the street. He’s buried 100 yards from my mom. Completion requires that we feel the hurt, experience it.

4 J.R. October 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Last month I lost a pup. I know this is regarding losing a close person but this pup was like a child of my own because I helped deliver him to this world. He was one of the 10 pups my dog Terra gave birth to. I took care of them everyday and everynight for the ones who were to weak to feed from their mother. We planned to give them away to our friends who wanted a pup because we can’t afford to keep even one. Because I thought they were going to be adopted I didn’t bother to vaccinate them. I thought that their new owners will take care of it because I couldn’t afford to. Roscoe later came down with parvovirus, I took him to the vet and got the medicine he needed but it wasn’t enough to help him and he died a very violent death. His bowels let loose and he was convulsing violently in my arms. Finally he just stopped and gave a final breath that was followed by foul smelling puke. I got mad at myself for being cheap and dumb to not get him vaccinated. He never deserved this and he deserved a better owner. As penance I sold most of my time consuming belongings to pay for his vet bills and to get rid of the things that kept me from spending more time with him. I sold my game consoles and television a. As a pre-med student I made a presentation for my pre-health fraternity about parvovirus and the importance of vaccination. I also started doing more physical things to get my anger out. I’m running more and I punch the bag more often now. I can never forgive myself for being negligent and I don’t deserve Roscoes forgiveness if he is in a afterlife. I want to make sure I don’t make a mistake that would harm someone I love again.

5 Shriner Dan October 19, 2011 at 6:39 pm

I usually grieve just like everyone else. Tears flow. Funerals and wakes are attended. Kleenex is passed around and wifes and girlfriends are hugged. But I have one extra step I take. Memorials are tattooed on my back with their name, birthday and date of death. Everyone that sees my back will ask me about the people. I’ll go ahead and tell them. It’s a way to remember I guess.

6 Zack October 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm

You left out one important tool, prayer.Whatever God you worship, talk to them and talk often. The bible says to lay our problems and our sorrows at his feet. Ask him for strength and for increased faith during this period, he will help you get through it. When my grandfather died I did all of the things that this post said to do, but the impact was small compared to the impact of prayer. It was the only thing that truly put my mind at ease.

7 Eric October 19, 2011 at 6:45 pm

This is almost exactly the same story I have about an old friend of mine who lost his fight with cancer at 40. I’ll admit reading this article brought back memories of his death followed by a few tears; however, I believe it is one of the best written articles on the grieving process and I hope it helps others in the future should they have to deal with this in the future. It becomes easier to accept they’re gone as time passes and eventually you will only occasionally feel a small amount of heartache, mixed with good memories to ease the pain.
Thank you for writing this.

8 brian piercy October 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for writing this. Eloquent and to the point. I hope I’m ready when I have to endure the same ordeal.

9 D October 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I lost my mother to cancer and much like Paul, I saw her body decay over her last few months. I spoke to my mother but not as boldly as I could have.

Grief is a heavy thing and there are no words. And that is okay. Sitting quietly next to someone can be very healing.

My father lost his wife and his life’s compass. The funeral is often the beginning of the pain for the widower. I call him often to tell him he’s been a great father and continues to teach me what it means to be a man. I no longer save words for deathbeds.

10 Sarah_Winters October 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I lost a friend 2 years ago. She was one of those friends you have when you’re 12, the ones who know you better than everyone else because they knew you before you were really you. Weirdly, a year before she passed, I got to see her, hug her, swear to keep in touch, etc.
I think of her everyday. When I found out she passed on I sat in my apartment, alone, immobilized, crying for hours. A few weeks after, I visited her family and we reminisced about all those great times we had – I think it helped them and it helped me.
In her honor, I try not to take anything for granted. I try to be a better person. But it really shook a lot of things up in me. And yeah, give yourself permission to hurt – it’s not dwelling, it’s dealing.

11 Billy H. October 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm

I lost my Dad this year, completely out of the blue. He was a best friend to me, along with the best damn father a kid could ever want. I had talked to him three hours before he passed. He said he felt great, even after a bout of nausea and pain in his jaw over the weekend, which we now know was a heart attack. Getting the call was one of the most devastating things I have ever been through. I had never lost anyone close to me…not a friend, not a family member, with the exception of one dear pet. I cried harder then Ive ever cried, and I cursed not forcing him to go to the hospital that instant he told me about the pain. At the end of the day, he was his own man, and he took the decision to not go. I thought he knew better than to take such a risk. There was nothing I could do…we were all just shocked. I immediately went into care mode for my Mom and my sister. I knew I had to take over everything from this point on, and make sure my Mom would be taken care of. I quickly became the man of the house, so to speak. Get the bills paid, organize the final preparations, handling of the estate, etc. It was tough, but I was the one who could handle the pressure. My Dad raised me to be the man that I am today… to get things done, to do what you say you’re going to do. Its up to me to carry on the legacy of my family, and this process was a part of it. I know he lives on in our hearts and minds, and that he would be damn proud of me. Most people would say that they wished they had said I love you more often, or gotten more hugs from someone when they were alive. And damn it, I wish I could too, and I would give anything up for one more day with him…but I take comfort in the fact that every time I talked to him, I made sure to let him know how much I loved and appreciated him. Never a goodbye without a big hug. I made sure of that. I never have taken someone I care for, for granted. Losing him was the hardest lesson of my life, but it was something that was inevitable, and something that we all go through at some point in our lives. It was what we learn and inherit from the ones we love who have passed that makes the difference. My father raised me to be a real man, and that I shall continue to be!

12 Charlie October 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Marcus, I offer my deepest sympathies for your loss.

The last line of the introduction story hit me hard: “He was 36.”

13 G. Zapata October 19, 2011 at 7:07 pm

A good friend of mind passed away at the beginning of September, this year. He died young. He was a great guy, and had many friends so needless to day it hit a lot of us hard. One of the first things I did, was call up a couple buddies and we went to Denny’s. I know that might sound strange, but it’s a special Denny’s that my friends and I have a long history with. In that long history we spent many a late night hanging there with our late friend after several club and bar hopping excursions. Many good memories were made there with our friend so that’s were we went. My friend was a jovial guy, and we new the last thing he would want would be for people to be sad. So the entirety of his friends gathered, and we laughed. Like you mentioned in your article no one tried to avoid the hurt of his absence, and inevitable tears were had. But for the most part we laughed. We all took turns sharing stories of our experiences with him. We celebrated and remembered our friend…and we’ll never forget him.

14 Geoff1731 October 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I think exercise for men is so crucial in dealing with emotions. Whether I’ve gone through a breakup, was angry, or needed to clear my mind to make some decisions… Exercise has always been a great outlet. It’s almost like a drug, addicting…an escape. Plus, you gain confidence with it too. Of course, shedding a tear in one’s private time or talking it out with another man is also great and necessary at times too.

15 Horse October 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Same with a friend as it was with my daughter. I never have dealt with it other than everything happens for a reason and sometime we are not meant to know or understand what it is. Cold comfort really

16 Alex Devlin October 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I think that everyone has lost someone close to them at some point in their lives. Whether it was a person or a pet, the loss is still felt the same because the love was just as strong.

Getting over their death is different for everyone. I used to drive to a nice quiet place where I could look at the mountains or the ocean or a lake or just anything that you find beautiful. And there is where I do my thinking. I might walk like the author did. I never turned to drink because I don’t want to not feel or not remember. I don’t want to dumb down the emotions I’m feeling for my loved one.

One of the things I try and do is to remember everything I can about that person. Both the good and the bad. The fact that there were times when you felt angry at that person for something they did or didn’t do and then let the anger pass as you forgave them, shows that you felt love for them. And I try to remember both the things I loved about them and the things they did that annoyed the crap out of me. I try not to remember them through rose tinted glasses as that was not them. And I tell stories about them. I will always tell stories about them. If I’m talking to someone about an adventure I had when I was younger and that person was part of it then I will mention them and what they did but I won’t mention that they are now gone. That to me is the way I remember them. Keep them in my heart and in my life and in my memories and let others know about them and what kind of person they were.

17 Randy October 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm

What are your thoughts on how best to handle the death of parents at a relatively young age? Are the steps the same? Is the grieving process the same? Well, let me rephrase that… is it similar? I know the process is never the same from one loss to the next or from one person to the next.

18 Marcus Brotherton October 19, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Randy,

Both my parents are still alive, although I would imagine the grieving process is similar, particularly if you’ve been close with your parents. Grief knocks you flat, either way, and the death of any loved one takes time to work through.

I’m not sure we ever “get over” grief, either. Like, we go on with life, sure. But I think we always wince when we remember a loved one who’s died.

I work with a lot of WWII veterans, and they say similar things to this. Their buddy might have died 65 years ago, but he’s still close to their hearts even today.

19 Don October 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Kevin was my best friend. He was my roommate in college and we shared an apartment after graduation until the time I got married. We spent summers at his parent’s lake house, went on spring break trips together and spent every Saturday on the couch watching football.

He introduced me to the woman who is now my wife, and when the time came when we knew we would be married, there was no doubt who the best man was going to be. I assumed I would be his as well when the time came, however as the result of a car accident I ended up as a speaker at his funeral later that year. He was 25.

There are some many little things that will jolt a memory, sometimes a song or driving back by the places we used to hang out. Today, the better part seven years later, the good memories of the times we had together far outweigh the hurt of his loss. Though I don’t think a day goes by he doesn’t cross my mind.

The spring after he passed my wife and Iearned we would be having a child. From the time we found out it was a boy until he was born I don’t think we ever discussed names; we both just assumed it would be Kevin. I’m sure someday he will ask why we picked that name. I look forward to telling him.

20 Jay October 19, 2011 at 9:09 pm

I lost a good friend on New Year’s Eve 2009. I found out 15 minutes before the new year, and it hit me like a punch in the gut. I echo what some of the men on the comment section have previously said. Letting your emotions take their course is essential. It’s okay to grieve, cry, be angry, et cetera because it’s going to happen eventually. The key thing to do is to express it in a healthy manner.

The one thing I’ll give advice on is that people’s timelines on grief and loss are like fingerprints: completely unique to that person. Don’t try to compare your grieving process with another person. I’m a chaplain at a hospital in Atlanta and I tell that to patients and their families. You have to work it out on your schedule.

Finally, I want to echo what Zack said. Prayer to whatever higher being you believe in is so helpful. Grief and loss, especially unexpected loss, can instantly make you feel powerless and angry at the world. The peace that you get from prayer is so helpful in coming to terms with the situation at hand.

21 Cam October 19, 2011 at 9:23 pm

It’s been 10 years since my best friend died in a car wreck, and this article still brought tears to my eyes. It was six weeks before his wedding day. One of the things I found helpful was talking with his family about it. At first it seemed weird, but truly memories help you to heal. And not only that, his siblings needed to hear memories from his friends to help them heal too.

22 Daren Redekopp October 19, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Thanks for this vulnerable piece. Nothing makes me want to know and believe only what is true more than the reality that death is coming. Whatever I’m going to believe in this life, I want it to be every bit as true at my death bed as it feels now: not some vague illusion that evaporates in my final moments like a mist before the sun.

23 Justin October 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I’ve lost two good friends in my life so far, and both were younger than me at the time. I’m 21. My friend, Ryan, died due to injuries sustained in a car crash where he was merely the passenger. The driver survived, Ryan didn’t, and it was obviously unexpected and shocking to everyone. He had been 17 for only a few days. My grieving for him consisted of skipping school for his funeral, bawling my eyes out, and spending the next month or so being royally pissed off at the people who didn’t really know him, but knew about him. Being 17 killed as a passenger in a car wreck puts you on the map, especially in local schools, and I hated it.

The next friend was the girl that helped me survive high school math class, and the girl I had a high school crush on for say, 1.5 years. Her name was Marie, and her death was the worst of all, because I hadn’t been in touch with her for a few weeks, and then I find out she died because she was out hiking and ended up slipping off of a cliff when trying to look down it. Her obituary has been taped to my mirror for 2 years now, and I still utterly despise how she died, and I feel awful when I think of what was going through her mind in those last few seconds she had. Her death was extra difficult, because there was no body to see, no one to explain it, no hospital doctor to tell us she had died fighting some sort of disease or injury. She just fell.

I’ve been to 9 funerals in my lifetime so far at 21 years old, most of them being grandparents or great aunts and uncles or old neighbors. I only cried at 2 of those funerals, and those funerals were for Ryan and Marie.

What I’ve learned and can add to this topic is:

Friends can be closer than family, and some friends don’t spend a lifetime with you and end up having their lives cut short. Make any time you spend with them quality time, and put effort into finding and knowing who your true friends are.

Prioritize when it comes to death beds and funerals. I skipped out on school for several days during both of their funerals. My school got really pissed off about it, but honestly I didn’t care what they thought. Some events in life are more important than anything else, and those events are along the lines of births, deaths, and weddings. If some power in your life tries to stop you from going to an important event like that, they can just suck it up and deal with it.

24 Bob October 19, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I have lost a few friends over the years and spending a year in Afghanistan, I lost few good friends in shit conditions. You do your best, write down the memories, so they are not forgotten, send them to their families. Time does heal, the pain just dulls a bit, but I remember being told to love family and keep living.

25 Ridhwaan Syed October 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I’ve never had a friend die so I have no idea what it’s like. All I do know is when they its not the end you’ll meet them soon. This life is just the beginning, and you shouldn’t miss them too much, but what do I know I haven’t been through it. Everyone at some point will die, some sooner then others. But remember for believers this world is like a cage and for the non believers a “paradise”. Apologizes for getting a bit religious.
(btw I’m a Muslim)

26 Steve W October 19, 2011 at 10:32 pm

In the process of acknowledging that a friend has gone ahead, I have found personal ritual helps.

I plant a tree in their memory. Sometimes somewhere that was special for them, sometimes on my own land, and a few have been planted in a public place to be enjoyed by all who pass by.

As I type look out at the protective sleeves of 18 trees I planted to catch up for a few friends, and as tribute to relatives who had gone before I started planting trees 20 years ago,

It does bring warm kind memories when I look at the trees I started planting then and the remembrances of those who had pass leading to a memorial tree being planted.

27 Joe D. October 19, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I lost a good buddy in a car wreck when he was a teenager. It was late at night, and I may have been the last one to see him alive. The shock of the whole thing was equal to the grief. I just could not believe it happened.

That was almost thirty years ago. I still think about him often, and wonder what might have been. Thanks for sharing this.

28 Daniel October 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Do what makes sense to you. I’ve lost my best friend from high school in 2007, first phone call I received after landing back in the states from a tour in Iraq (lost friends their too, but it seemed different. Perhaps because it always seemed to be a looming possibility). In january 2010, I lost my best friend from the Army, unexpectedly and in a non-military related way. Both times the process was different, but both times I just tried to feel what I felt and not force anything. At first I thought maybe I should feel something more, or different, but I was mostly numb. I also didn’t want to disrespect them, or my memories of them, by generating some false pretense of emotion. Then the hurt came, and some time later the brunt of it eventually went away. It’s important to hurt, but it must come naturally, and it will. Also, while it’s important to take time to feel and hurt, it’s also important to make time to do things that are meaningful to you in your normal life, to keep living. It’s difficult, because when a friend dies part of you goes along with them, all their memories of you and their special view of you is gone, not to be recalled again. However, for that same part of you that is gone with them, remains a part of them that lives with you. We can remember that all of our time here is finite, but those close to us leave a particularly special impact on our lives, and it is through that in which they still live as part of us. Do your best to not try to make sense of why this happened. I still tried at times, it seems near impossible for me not to, especially in the most recent case where the cause of death was unknown for some time, but I did my best. Try to find a way to draw strength and wisdom from the loss, as well.

” On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.” – Henry David Thoreau

Also, both times within a month of so of their respective passings, I had a very lucid dream involving my respective friend telling me they were still here and ok. Without coming off as nutty, they were incredibly soothing and I woke up much more at peace with their passing. I did feel compelled to look this up after my most recent friend passed, and found that they are common and people interpret these differently. I try not to read into them either way, other than they gave me great peace and, at the time, a feeling of stronger spiritual connection. I’m not always particularly spiritual, but whether they were indeed spiritual or not, embracing them as I naturally felt about them, with curiosity, and open-mindedness was helpful in my own grieving process.

29 S October 20, 2011 at 12:27 am

This article blindsided me.

Seven years ago, I lost three friend in a summer. I’m not sure how I handled it all. Physical activity played a role. We left town on a roadtrip, to get away from that heavy atmosphere. More than anything I mourned and prayed. Finally, my heart started skipping beats, and I went to the doctor. They told me that I needed to talk to my friends; so I did, and that seemed to help.

These days, I hardly ever cry about anything. But once in a while, I’ll think about my friend, who died helping others, and I just have to cry. That’s what happened tonight. I honestly don’t know if you’re ever fully over it.

I’ve found the thing I’ve learned from it is to live your life like it’s short, not wasting it on silly things and not being too proud or lazy to tell the people you care about that you do so.

30 DaShui October 20, 2011 at 12:29 am

I think people I know who died early are my greatest teachers about living this Life. Tomorrow is not a sure thing, so we should try to do our best today.

31 Bob October 20, 2011 at 1:54 am

I’ve lost acquaintances but never a close friend. I am thankful for that.

However, I recently discovered that a ‘friend’ from high school (one that I’ve only spoken with twice since we graduated 20 years ago … so obviously not a close friend) passed away from cancer. He was 43.

What that did for me was remind me of my own mortality. I have three friends that have been close buddies since high school. Yesterday, the thought struck me, “Who will be the first of us to go?”. It was a weird and sobering thought. But a reality.

Your experience here is a good reminder to cherish the time we have, the friends and loved ones we have, and hold on tightly to those things we put value in. Thanks Marcus.

32 Gijs October 20, 2011 at 1:54 am

I recently lost my closest friend at the age of 29. Aside from the truthful things you mention, I also grieved through making music. He was a professional guitarist (my guitarist) touring across Europe in the last year of his life. I’m an amateur, but nonetheless felt the need to play. I jammed on his funeral (one of the most difficult things I ever had to do), and performed lots at the evening memorial event that saw most of his musician friends play in his honour. I inherited on of his amps and a bunch of his effects, so I turn to those to grieve. Just playing, doing that thing he loved to do most of all….

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34 Cpt. Lars October 20, 2011 at 7:22 am

I’ve lost a few people in my life, and I’ve always found the best way to deal with it in the long-term is to carry on exactly as they would have wanted me to.

A good friend was killed in a motorbike accident a few years ago at age 28 and, while we have an annual bbq get-together to formally pay our respects and raise a glass, my friends and I remember him on a day-to-day basis by making the same crude jokes and put-downs we’d have made about him if he were here with us.

It sounds callous to outsiders, but we’re as close a group of friends as you can get, and to carry on otherwise would be contrary to what gave us those good times together in the first place.

35 Joe October 20, 2011 at 8:02 am

This is just what the doctor ordered. Two months ago my brother was murdered and I have gone through many emotions. The things I have learned here is to not try and make sense of what, or why it happened, exercise, and my favorite; which I try to do, is from Capt. Lars, “I remember him on a day-to-day basis by making the same crude jokes and put-downs we’d have made about him if he were here with us”. I believe the things that have helped me is pray and humor. He would have wanted it that why.

36 The Man October 20, 2011 at 8:08 am

One way I coped with my dying grandfather was to honor him by reflecting on what his values were and what good he did in his life. Then I tried to emulate him. It also helps to remember him on the anniversary of his death – to celebrate him and the life he shared with my family. In that way, at least what he stood for, lives on within me.

37 Cormac Phalen October 20, 2011 at 8:20 am

Thank you very much for this article, very timely. It has been a hard month for my family and I we have been coping with the deaths of two family members just a few weeks ago. and yesterday I find out that a friend of my just passed over the weekend and so all of these wonderful friends and families memories came rushing back as once. The great thing about memory and loss it that you don’t truly lose those close to you because they live on in your memories. You celebrate them daily with a memory, thought or a simple uttering of their name…Thank you for this post, another reason I love your blog.

38 William Gehring October 20, 2011 at 8:20 am

I have lost many relatives and friends over the years since I am now close to retirement age. Something that has helped me through all of these losses has been a small brochure entitled, “When Someone You Love Dies…” published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It covers the grieving process and that for each person it is unique and may not follow any particular order. While based on the Bible it is written for anyone. It does explain the resurrection hope from the Bible as an event that will happen on earth and not in heaven. Thus, it teaches that our loved ones will be with us on a paradise earth where mankind will live forever and not grow old and die. (Revelation 21:3,4)

39 Roli October 20, 2011 at 8:37 am

I too had a friend named Paul who died of cancer when we were in college. It was hard.

40 Mark G. October 20, 2011 at 8:54 am

It is hard, I have lost so many people that I loved. In 2006 I lost a close personal friend, my Father, and a trusted co-worker/office partner. It was the closest I ever came to coming unwound. I buckled down and started exercising and doing things to help others. I made through, but it was tough! I came out of 2006 with the philosophy that, Life is hard, change is very difficult, and joy can be elusive. But you need to keep on keeping on!

41 Nick Kirkes October 20, 2011 at 9:29 am

Thank you for this post. Hands down my favorite, albeit hardest to read, on AoM.

42 Marcus Brotherton October 20, 2011 at 9:50 am

Wow, just wow. I’m reading these posts here this morning. So many stories of grief, depth, loss, and hope. Thank you. We’re all in this together.

43 Mike October 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

Well done…and well said.

Thank you for sharing.

44 JGJ October 20, 2011 at 10:25 am

10 1/2 years ago I buried a friend from cancer. we were both 36. I still think about him every day. 6 months ago today i buried a friend who took his own life. It doesn’t go away. This is an excellent revealing of what some MEN feel. I commend your process and your sharing.

45 Matt October 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

I had to wrestle with this exact terrible situation this past January. My best friend and boss committed suicide at work while dealing with a divorce. Immediately after I got the news I had to go for a walk to digest the information. One of the biggest problems most of us had after the fact is that we never were able to get closure because we never got to see him to say goodbye. At the wake it was a closed casket and the funeral by the family was completely private. To this day I am still struggling with the closure some.

46 Cory October 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Tyler was my best friend since I was 3 years old; one day I received a phone call telling me he had died of a meth overdose (at age 21). I had been working in Europe for about 18 months when I heard the news; because of the nature of the work, I was not able to able to return for the funeral. Not having that closure at the funeral has made his death almost surreal at times; sometimes I am suddenly struck by the thought that he is no longer here.

Even though he died in a way that I am not proud of, I try to remember all the good times we had. When we were young we spent every possible minute with each other; each could tell what the other was thinking. Some of the most memorable time we spent together was camping and fishing as boy scouts. Often when I am alone outdoors, fly fishing or hiking, I think of Tyler and the friendship we had.

I also try to honor his memory by using his story to help others avoid a similar fate. It can be a difficult thing to think about, but using his memory to try to help others gives me strength and helps to ease the sorrow.

47 A October 20, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Thanks for writing this, I will be certain to refer to this often and share it as needed. I’ve lost a few close friends and teammates in my profession and my only brother was killed by a driver who was texting three days after I returned from a deployment. In the past I can’t say I’ve dealt with these losses constructively, for my friends, I sometimes etch their names on a mag’s worth of 5.56 and hope that one finds a small measure of revenge. After I lost my brother, I drowned my sorrows in scotch. It dulled the pain but three years later I still think I lack some closure.

48 Justin October 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Great article. I’d love anyone’s reply to this question:

***What do you regret not saying to your friend/family member before he/she passed?

49 Brandon October 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I lost Jon, my best man, earlier this year on the night of my 8th anniversary in a motorcycle crash … he was 27 with a wife and two young boys. We had known each other for 16 years, spending our entire youth around each other. I was on the road in rush hour traffic when a call came on my phone from his wife’s number. It wasn’t his wife, it was his sister in law who told me that he had died. The world stopped spinning at that moment … like the author said, there is no preparing for that. In a whirlwind few days after, I went to the spot where he died with his wife and sister and we posted a cross … such bland spot along a well traveled 2-lane road. I had held it together quite well up until that point, but I knew that seeing him again at the wake was going to push me beyond my limits. I hadn’t seen him in 4 months because of school and work which made it all that more difficult. We had just talked a few days prior … my wife and I went into the room together and as we got closer to the casket, I lost it. “I’m walking up to my friend in that box …” was all I could think. He had one hand exposed, the other too badly damaged to show. I reached in and held his hand for the last time, a hand that I had shaken so many times over the years. As the rest of the family and friends showed up, that night got easier but I one more day to get through and then I could begin to recover.

His wife asked me to speak at the memorial service which I said yes to without hesitation. I had only a few minutes, which is incredibly difficult to put an entire lifetimes worth of memories into but it had to be done. I made people laugh and cry and held it together. Until the end of the service as we began to proceed out. The same thoughts continued to run through my head “My best friend is in that car being taken to his final resting place …” I was one of six pall bearers to carry him to his place of eternal rest.

I went back and visited his grave three months later. The emotion was still as raw as it was that first day. I haven’t held back when the tears need to come, I just let them go. I’ve had I think 6-7 days (this is now the latest) where I’ve had to weep. I’ll see pictures of Jon on facebook or I’ll pass a spot that we frequented and memories will come rushing in.

I haven’t turned to alcohol, i just spend time with my wife as much as I can … I embrace life a bit more now. I walk my dog everyday through a quiet neighborhood and there’s always opportunity to think about him.

Thank you for writing this,
Brandon

50 Brandon October 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm

@Justing: I can honestly say there isn’t anything I didn’t say to my buddy Jon but what it did do is make me say things to those still here that needed to be said.

51 Michael M October 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm

My dog passed away yesterday, after having him for well over a decade. I’m not sure when I got him, but I know I was very young, as I am 18 now. You just have to remember everything. I do believe he is up there somewhere with my Papa, and I have faith I will see them again. The thing that hurts most is being only 18, I hopefully will live a long happy life, but I don’t want to wait 70 years to see a loved one again.

I love you Sparky, I love you Papa.

52 Robert Grønning October 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I lost my friend to cancer when we were 19, he struggled for two years, he was told by his doctors that he would recover completely, 10 days later he died.

I do not have religous beliefs. From the questions you ask yourself, I take it you have religious beliefs.

I believe this process can be more complex and painfull when you are religious, in my mind the only reason for people dying is their organs failing. The reasons for their organs failing might be because of a butterfly flapping it’s wings in a strange way one morning on the other side of the earth.

When I think back at this time, I do not have any questions, I remember some of the times we spent together, I smile and remind myself that I was lucky to ever experience him.

I did have a hard time during the time he was sick, but I never asked myself “why?” questions, it was just painful to know that there was little we could do to prevent his death except help him keep his spirit and attitude positive.

Live in the moment, not in the past or the future. Enjoy the people presently around you to the fullest, you _never_ know when they will disappear.

53 Josh October 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm

My Mom passed from cancer two years after I graduated college. She was diagnosed just after I graduated and suffered a long fight. It was hell watching her go through it; watching her body deteriorate against the will of her mind. I am now broken. It is tough to remember her healthy, as I had been away at college for 4 years and she was sick when I returned.

Grieving is horrible. It is uncontrollable when it comes over you, sucking the wind from your lungs and causing you to cry uncontrollably at unexpected times. Time for sure helped with this. It is analagous to a ship setting sail from port; being a memory drifting further away each day. Exercise for sure helps. It helps with all types of stress. The only thought that got me through was realizing that I am not alone in these feelings. There are many people who feel what I feel and that is the mystery of human life, and it’s answers are beyond us. So to the physical pain there is exercise, to the mental pain I suppose there is a certain pragmatic thinking that heals.

54 Jeff October 20, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Great article – thank you.

I lost a close friend several years ago and it’s not an easy thing. He was 35 years old and we still aren’t sure if his death was accidental or if he decided to check out.

To this day I have those moments like the one you described. They come when you least expect them. These moments are less sobbing now and more teary eyed rememberance – but they still come.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

55 Matt October 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Just when I thought this site couldn’t get any better, you go and do something like this. Great read and really brings things into perspective. Thanks.

56 Johnathon October 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I’ll always remember my friend Alan, who passed when i was a sophomore in high school. He was an 8th grader. I remember all too well how in the weeks prior the flu had hit our school, and everyone was getting sick. Alan’s parents were worried for him, because he was starting to get the symptoms, so they took him home for the weekend.

we had spent the week together hanging out in his room or around campus. we had been talking about what he would do once he became a high schooler. I told him I’d look after him and make sure he got into the school’s Provost group.

I saw him for the last time right before he went home, the last words i said to him were ” I’ll see you when you get back!” we waved and parted ways as he went to his parents car.

that weekend, he passed away. He was 13 years old.

I think the worst part for me was not hearing about it until i got back from the weekend, I was sitting in the computer lab, doing research, or lollygagging, i don’t remember, but i overheard some other kids talking about a kid in the Middle School department that passed away over the weekend.

At first, it didn’t hit me, I didn’t recognize who they were referring to because i was so numb, i think a part of me knew it was Alan, but i couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I remember crying for what seemed like hours that night outside the computer lab.

That week we had a memorial service for him, I had been crying again. My class adviser came up to me and said the most remarkable thing to me. She said, “Its okay Johnathon, cry it out, but after today, no more tears. That’s not what Alan would have wanted. He wouldn’t want you to cry over him. You know, he would have wanted you to smile over him. So cry right now, but after this, no more tears.”

It sobered me up, to say the least. I remembered the good times I had with him, all the laughs and memories, truth be told, after that, i stopped tearing up for him. instead i tried to focus on the good. I remembered a song he was trying to learn, his laugh and smile every time he tried to get away with something.

I miss him a lot, but I know, wherever he is, hes watching over everyone he cares about. and I don’t cry anymore.

57 Kenneth Johnston October 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm

My best friend just passed away on the 14th of Oct; suddenly from a car accident. I am not handling it. It is handling me. I put my faith in God. I let the dull agony of reality rip my insides apart. I try to plan the perfect way to pay my respects when i return from my deployment which has prevented me from attending the funeral. I try to arrest hate and blame no one. I try to rationalize that no one knows when their ticket will be punched and my best man lived a life that all others should envy. I take solace in the friends we shared. but it is so much like yelling into a tin can telephone. I try to write the demons out. My heart burn aches and sits horrificly numb in mindless work. I am distracted and unfocused and I just want to set the world on fire. I sit in humble amazement at what an amazing example he was and I want to erect monuments to him. I pray that his legacy and legend grow and that his profound and remarkable influence continue to shine through those he had emboldened. I feel selfish and cheated and wish i could work a deal to keep him or bring him back. I feel hopeless and helpless and wish I could have been there like all the times he was there for me.
And the wave passes and I remember how blessed I am and that I should never take it for granted and never sacrifice for anything less valuable than love. And I remember how well my friend filled the unforgiving minute and i see other friends pick up his banner and march forward and I rest in the certainty that fate will not be cheated and this too shall pass. Google my friend Craig Noone Chef to be inspired in your life as he has inspired 1000′s of his closest friends http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.legacy.com%2Fguestbook%2FDignityMemorial%2Fguestbook.aspx%3Fn%3Dcraig-noone%26pid%3D154076943%26page%3D3&h=TAQBNxVpSAQBgFr1RQjHimH41gt_3-24fd1dQ8K_0Hz0D0g

58 Kenneth Johnston October 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Not to detract but it irks the hell out of me and no one else is saying it. I cried when i lost my boyhood dog too. But guess what animals arent people. Stop acting like they are. A trusty pet is lost mourned and thats it. Its downright disrespectful to compare that or even mention it when discussing the loss of a parent or spouse or child or friend that you had always imagined sitting on the front porch sippin lemonade and tradin war stories. Ask yourself why you did that? Sorry for the loss of your companion but come the hell on. Rant complete.

59 Todd October 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Kenneth,

First off thanks for your service and I’m very sorry about the lost of your friend.

I don’t think Micheal M deserved that rant. That’s how you view animals,not all of us feel the same way.

Again sorry about your loss

60 Jordan October 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Kenneth,

You really need to work on not being such a dick.

Sorry for your loss, but seriously….

61 Ben October 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Kenneth is absolutely correct, if not delicate in delivery. I didn’t see it as a directed rant but as a point made in whole.

62 Leon October 20, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I lost my brother three years ago to cancer. He was 27 and had only been diagnosed three weeks before when the pneumonia they thought he had turned out to be lung cancer. He wasn’t conscious that day, but I sat and talked with him until his last moment. He wasn’t able to speak the last couple of weeks, be he would write notes, mouth words, or gesture to get his point across. The night before, he mouthed “Love you.” It was the last conversation we ever had. When the crowd of visitors finally began to leave, I walked to a pub and had a pint and a whiskey. I was there until last call.
I drank heavily for a week, I dove into completing my thesis, and ignored phone calls from my friends and my girlfriend (now wife). I stopped listening to my favorite radio station because they would play a song from his funeral several times a day. His son was 6 months old. I couldn’t bear to be near him for long, because it made me think about my brother being gone. I avoided social situations out of fear that I would have to talk about what it felt like to lose my brother. I still don’t like it when people hug me.
Almost 3 years later, I can talk about it a little, I enjoy seeing my nephew, and when the song comes on the radio, it feels like a chance to visit with him.

63 Kenneth P. Payne October 20, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I heard once that the price of love in life is grief in death.
No one who cares about another person can escape the pain of loss because all die.
I have been blessed to be friends with each of my children. Our youngest son died seven years ago at the age of 21 after a five month bout with cancer. I grieved . . . for my son, and for my friend.
And I grieved for the loss to his mother of her fourth child and a gentle companion.
We both found comfort in our faith in a purpose for life, in a firm hope in the continued existence of the spirit of our boy, and an expectation of an eventual reunion with him.
But that didn’t lessen the pain, it only made it bearable and infused it with a purpose. That purpose has been to help others bear their own grief. That has been a blessing to us as we have been able to help friends and neighbors get through what is a universal human experience.
Grief is a price we pay to love, and paying that price buys us power to help others.

64 Dave Lewis October 20, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Unfortunately I’m at an age where I’m starting to lose relatives and friends. My father in law – a man that I was honored to call my friend – died last summer following a severe stroke. We knew that he wasn’t going to make it and I remember that my wife and I both asked God to do what was right for him. Harry had been a strong and active man all of his life and we knew that he didn’t want to be unable to move or communicate.

We asked for the same thing when my stepmom died of cancer about 10 years ago.It has always hurt when I’ve lost a relative or friend but as a person of faith I’ve always tried to understand that the best thing for a sick and hurting individual may not be the best thing for me. My selfishness may want to keep them but my love needs to let them move on to a place where they’re not sick or hurting any more.

I try to treasure the memories of those I have lost. When I think of my dad and mother and stepmom and my good friend Harry I cry and laugh and thank God that they were a part of my life. They weren’t there forever, but they were there long enough to bless me.

65 c.J. REBEL October 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Brutal article. Great article. Wretched, wretched disease. Thank you for sharing it with us…

2011 has been a brutal year for me – multiple deaths out of nowhere including my older sister. My brother found her – she was a drug abuser her whole life and died of a heart attack. I went over there the night it happened to stay with my mom and my brother. We began drinking and got into a huge fight, just terrible. I didn’t talk to him for over 6 months. We’re just now trying to piece everything back together as we’ve always been unusually close. We’ve only had each other for the most part.

I cry out of nowhere. Just a wreck. My advice to my friends that deal with this (it has happened quite a bit recently – a very close friend was crushed when her best friend, a gay man, was beaten to death) is to cry until you’re bored with it. I think it’s the only way to get it all out. I’m not at the end of that, but I believe this to be the case.

In regards to losing pets, I’ve always been very close to my cats. In fact, I have to say losing one of my babies is akin to losing a sibling. It’s a very deep relationship. Indeed, it can be a closer relationship. Here’s a website to learn more. It relates to cats, but I’m sure the same can be said for another animal companion.

http://cats.about.com/cs/copingwithloss/a/dealingwithloss.htm

66 Adam October 21, 2011 at 1:54 am

Twenty three days ago, my father-in-law, a lovely man, unexpectedly died. Three days ago, my mother-in-law died, also unexpectedly. I’ll mourn them and then I’ll stop mourning and I’ll miss them forever. I’m making an effort to remember the wonderful times we had, and truly there were many. And there weren’t any bad times in the years that I knew them.

67 Jack October 21, 2011 at 4:05 am

Going to war in Afghanistan with the army made me finally truly treat each day as it might be my last not just use the phrase as some sort of enlightened thing to say. Never before had the death of young men (and women) who were my friends been something I had to deal with and then all of a sudden it became actually sort of common. You don’t always have time to stop what you are doing and mourn in that environment but as the author above says throwing yourself into productive cooping mechanisms like upping your workouts definitely helps.

68 Amanda Kennedy October 21, 2011 at 7:04 am

I strongly feel the need to write something in response to your wonderful article, and yet words fail me. It seems in the article and heartfelt responses everything I personally need to know has already been discusses, else is there hanging in the air without needing to be said.

In my own life I’ve lost family members, a couple of close friends. Loss never feels easier to cope with, though it has become easier to learn to celebrate life and grieve properly.

Thank you for writing this. Reassurance and remembrance are needed.

69 Justin October 21, 2011 at 7:54 am

Wow,this one hits home for me right now. I lost a good friend last month due to a similar infection after a battle with cancer (he was only 23, just a year older than). I definitely went through all these same things. Moments like that can shake you to your very core. Unfortunately I was not able to attend his memorial as I had to move for a new job I started the following Monday. He was a great guy with the biggest heart. A lot of friends will miss him, but he will never be forgotten.

70 Greg October 21, 2011 at 9:15 am

Good article . . .

71 Eddie in INDY October 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

You are in my Rosary Prayers….

72 The Dutch Dastard October 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

Tears filled my eyes reading this article, and the comments. When i was 15 i lost an acquaintance. I say acquaintance because i have no right to claim his friendship. He was a good friend of my best friend. His very sudden death completely immobilized me. I don’t know why it struck as hard as it did, but it struck hard. One thing i can imagine is that it was the first death i had to deal with.

I don’t think any of us can judge the grief of others. No man can judge the mental change one has to go through after a loss, this being a pet, a friend, family or anyone else. To illustrate:

Didn’t you cry on 9/11? Don’t we mourn the victims of war? A death is so much more than a personal loss…..

73 Kraig Strom October 21, 2011 at 10:37 am

Great article. I was speaking of a personal experience just yesterday. Young or old, we have no promise of tomorrow. It is important to enjoy every day. Difficult times help us appreciate the beautiful moments that much more. We should all remember to plan for those tough times so that things are not always left to chance.

I wrote about my experience on my website at http://www.wealthycastle.com/blog/something-happened.aspx

Thank you for the great article.

74 Blake October 21, 2011 at 11:36 am

This is an amazing post. Thank you so much. I feel as if this site truly is a safe haven with valuable lessons for a young man like myself to learn.

-Blake

75 LK October 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm

The truth is I hide.

My aunt, who was like a mom to me (since I hardly have any family) died nine years ago. The last time I saw her my mom told me she wasn’t doing well but wouldn’t tell me what was up. That was at my wedding reception. That was the first and last time my husband met her. It was the last time I saw her. My parents kept asking/telling me to see her. I couldn’t think of it. I couldn’t think of how sick she would look. And I definately couldn’t think about seeing her in the bed comatose. I hid. I was told she died. I couldn’t imagine seeing my dad be in such pain. As a man who was always strong to the point of being mean and violent, I didn’t want to see him at a total breaking point. I just see how it has left him. He’s isolated, angrier, given up.

Now my mom has terminal cancer. We were told she had 6 mo to live a year ago. She is still around. But I wonder how I will handle the hospice, etc? I cannot hide from this since my dad treats her like garbage and won’t do the right thing. So it will be up to me to make sure her last moments are peaceful.

At 40 I can’t hide anymore from death.

76 Adriana October 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm

My father passed away last week. He was 51 years old, I’m 19. I had about a year without seeing him, I was sort of angry with him, about the way he was living his life (he was an alcoholic) and I was waiting for him to change, to come back to me, and just be what we used to be, the father he used to be. A few days before he passed away, I had him on my mind all the time, I was fighting with myself, I wanted to call him, I wanted to see him, I guess it was my pride who stopped me, so I never did. Friday morning my mom tells me he died. And I just yelled and screamed and cried, I couldn’t believe it, it was all unreal.
Before he died I fantasized about changing him, about fixing him, about being with him, and even moving in with him. And all the sudden these fantasies of mine were crumbled and broken.
It’s hard, it really is, he died of a heart attack, he never said goodbye, and now I’m haunted by my own mind.
I’m still in the “process” I guess you never really move out of that “process” but what has helped me is to cry, to scream but mostly to talk about him. Seeing his pictures and remembering the way he used to be.
Just sharing this makes me feel somehow better.
I love him, I miss him, and I’m proud of calling myself his daughter.

77 Grande390 October 21, 2011 at 3:38 pm

I have noticed that when you initially lose someone, especially if they were very, very close to you, you always want to go Achilles on the Trojans and wreak havoc. But then there comes a part where you slip into a depressed state that leaves you almost helpless.

78 Marcus Brotherton October 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Read these comments. Just read them slowly. There is so much power here. So much poignancy and depth. Thank you, everyone.

79 Brian Miller October 21, 2011 at 5:42 pm

October 18, 2006 changed my life forever. I wish that was a cliche, but it isn’t. On our last patrol on our deployment to Ramadi, we lost a great man to sniper fire. I’m still learning the grieving process. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Jose Perez. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about cleaning his blood out of my vehicle. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about his wife and two children.

Ever since then, I’ve lost more friends and acquaintances to suicide as a result of untreated PTSD. Learning how to grieve as a man is still difficult for me. I’m glad that the OP had the opportunity to have some closure. Real, honest closure is what I think really helps the whole process. Thank you for an outstanding article.

80 Melissa October 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Thanks for the wonderful article… I am missing a dear friend who died nearly 6 years ago from an undiagnosed cause. Many of these comments reflect the emotions that I have been through as well. Sharing is also a beneficial part of healing.

To those who have bashed the person who commented on their dog dying – that is shameful. What we’ve experienced as far as death is all relative. What may be insignificant to one, may mean the world to someone else. It seems that poster is young, mentioning 18 years old. I remember when I was 18 and at that age you don’t always have the same comprehension about death & losing someone close to you. Sometimes, a close animal companion is all there is to relate that feeling of loss to.

Best wishes to all dealing with any loss in their lives…

81 Ralphie October 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Two years ago my college buddy Mike was out for a jog when he stepped into the road and was hit by an SUV. He died later that night from massive head trauma. He was 29 and in his last year of pharmacy school. An unexpected part of the process that helped immensely was the road trip some friends and I took to go to his funeral. We told all of our “Mikey stories”. We laughed and cried, sometimes at the same time. We still miss him and still raise a glass in his memory whenever we get together. Love ya, Mike!

82 Matt October 21, 2011 at 7:15 pm

My ex-girlfriend died suddenly this past July, she was 27. We’d split up amicably a few years ago, we both had stuff to sort out. We stayed in touch and saw each other sporadically over the intervening years, and a couple weeks before said we needed to get together for a drink and catch up.
It was a shock, and months later it’s still hard to process. But when I went to the viewing and looked at the photo albums her family had put out, I realized that I was there with her in a lot of the pictures. On one hand that choked me up immensely, but I also realized that I’d been part of some of the really good moments of her too-short life.

83 John October 21, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I lost one of my best friends in June after a two year battle with Melanoma. I saw him throughout his struggle, watched his decline and was with him 36 hours before he passed away in his sleep. We had known each other for 43 years, since the age of 15.

It was incredibly difficult to see his decline, but now the pain comes from just not having him to discuss sports, share a joke or exchange stories about our kids.

Fortunately for me he was a great teacher of life and in the end taught me how to maintain a sense of humor and dignity even in the face of death.

84 Patricio October 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Several months ago a dear friend of mine was at an open-air concert with his wife. He had just retired after a career of military service and a second career of civil service. During the concert, he suffered a major heart attack and could not be revived. The news of his passing shook through our circle of friends and mentors.

As a number of us exchanged confused and depressed emails about how this could have happened, we collectively decided to honor his memory in the best way we could – in the way he would have wanted. Each of us, no matter where we were in the world, purchased a good bottle of scotch and that night sat quietly remembering Bob in our homes, enjoying one fine glass of Scotch, the same way he would have done.

I did not have to cry to say goodbye to my dear friend and mentor, I raised a glass in his honor, as he would have done for any of the rest of us, if we had proceeded him. That bottle of Glenfidditch has a place of honor in my home collection, and I may never drink from it again. If I do drink from it, it will always be to honor him and the things he taught me about life, liberty and the pursuit of those who threaten it.

Salud, Bob – vaya con dios!

85 nzeigler October 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm

My cousin died at 22. He was only a few months older than my older brother. His name was PFC K.E. Zeigler and he died for our country in the middle east. I was 17 years old when he died, and it threw me back. There were a few days where I would not be able to hold back tears, there were days where I wanted to join the marines for a revenge fight, there were days where I was able to try to numb myself with alcohol; Alcohol didn’t help me, going to fight a war wasn’t going to help me, but the grieving process did help me. I had to stop watching war movies because the guys being killed had my cousin’s face. Ultimately, I had to realize that he had moved on, and I had life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that he had died defending. I still miss him, but allowing sorrow to express itself really helped my family to get through it. I did not join the military, but because of kenny, in part, I am a fire fighter protecting the communities of the people he died to keep free.

86 Allen Kohn October 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm

About six months ago I lost a dear friend in our local volunteer fire department. It hit him out of no where. The Wednesday before his death we all where playing our usual game of texas hold’em up the company. Just a couple of us there 10 dollar buy in winner take all. He’d be up there every week. Watching to see how the games went. Laughing at our sometimes childish behavior of us young guys. He did the same that Wednesday. Thursday rolled around and my dad saw him. He joked laughed and was the same guy that everyone knew. Everyone loved him. He said to my dad that next week he was going to sit in with us if we where playing again. Friday night came around. He had chest pains. He was taken to the hospital directing them the whole way. He died in the hospital later that night. When I heard the news I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t feel real. I felt anger at the fact that he was taken because he meant so much to everyone in the company. Well he was a big part of it. Hard to imagine an event without him. He managed to block traffic in two locations for over a half our. And have a funeral procession that was over a mile long. Looking back now. I’m glad I got to know him. The only thing I would have changed. Would be to convince him to play that last hand with us on my money. Just to be able to have one more memory. You where a great friend Art (Papa Smurf)

87 Griff October 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Like some others, I recently lost a dog after 10 years of faithful companionship. He was sweet, kind, devoted, and gave our family much joy. Yes, a dog is not a person. But if you cannot fathom the depth of relationship possible between a human and an animal, best not to judge something you can’t understand. I’ve lost relatives and friends over the years, and the most important thing I’ve learned as a man is to ALLOW yourself to grieve. More specifically, it’s ok to cry. A lot. I’ve cried nearly every day for the past two weeks over my dog. Allowing yourself to feel the pain and react in a natural way, instead of stuffing it deep down like a lot of guys do has been a revelation. In my 40′s now, I’ve never been able to do this. The only practical response I’ve found to make myself feel better is to tell my wife I love her every day and kiss the kids more often. What may come tomorrow we can’t always control but we certainly can take a moment right now to savor our blessings.

88 Daniel October 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm

So many stories. This past January 11th, a very dear friend of mine, actually he was more like a brother, died of heart failure. He was 28. I only wished I had lived closer to him, for the past 3 years I’ve been living here in another state. There are times I catch myself still getting chocked up, and at times, can feel some tears. It’s almost been a year. I was going to be seeing him when I got back down there, but instead I ended up at his grave. I couldn’t even go to the funeral. Some thing I don’t regret, you can’t live in the past, I can’t, I know that that’s not what he would have wanted. I to want to carry on his legacy, what he was, how he loved people and cared for them. I would want that for any of my friends and family. This article has given me some ideas, to much I’ve focused on others, and even had to ask myself, what do I want to leave behind?

89 Chi October 22, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Was in the Army for a long time so unfortunately lost some of my best friends. Even in a situation where you know you are in danger it is still tough when you lose someone. Much like everyone else on this post I went through all the stages of grief and honestly dont think a day goes by still that I dont think about them. But for me I think I have focused on my life and try to honor them everyday of my life by staying positive and living my life to the fullest. I personally think the pain dulls over time but you never really get over losses like that.

90 Julio G October 23, 2011 at 1:37 am

God bless you. I hope you don’t mind my dedicating a prayer for you and for everyone who’s lost someone special at the Masjid on Friday.

91 Brad October 23, 2011 at 10:00 am

Thanks to you all guys,

I have been very fortunate to have only lost one close friend, at the age of 5. I still remember him, but at that age, I don’t recall being saddened, just confused.
I am 39 now, and have had a few brushes with death myself and a couple with loved ones, but we’ve been lucky in the end. This article is a great wake-up call for all. Put your petty differences ans squables behind you, and find love and friendship in the moment. Call a friend that you haven’t seen in a while. Write a letter. Send a photo.
All you can change is what you do now.
Make it count.

92 Randy Neago October 23, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Losing someone you love is incredibly tough and I sympathize with all of you.

I was in high school and my best friend was killed by a drunk driver. We lived in the same neighborhood, were the same age, played the same varsity sports, and were best friends.

It was an understood rule that after practice, we’d hang out. No calling need, just show up at the door and walk in. We were best friends but I honestly considered him my brother. We had known each other our entire lives and I can say I’ve never met someone who understood me the way he was able to.

When I got the call that night I was emotionally unstable. In high school, you think you’re invincible. It’s all about having a good time with friends, experimenting with girls, and learning how to socialize. I think the invincibility mentality carries over for most of us our entire lives. “Bad stuff happens to other people, not me.” I literally had seen him 4 hours before the fatal accident and gotten Skyline Chili for dinner. The suddenness of one minute having a friend and the next not having one really threw a curve ball at my head.

Obviously I was a disaster. I don’t cry easily and am very level-headed with emotions. I’ve torn my ACL, had a fully ruptured appendix, broken my collarbone, and many other physically painful things, yet didn’t cry once during those. Losing your best friend is, however, a new pain that you can’t fathom until you experience it. I cried the most I’ve ever cried, as I’m sure most of you have when you lose somebody you love. The emotion that overwhelmed me was tremendous. It’s hard to even think about it. I’ve never felt that way. I was angry and sad at the same time. I kept asking myself “why now and why Alex?”. My best friend didn’t deserve to die. He put other people before himself. He was a good human being.

I was raised Catholic, and religion did play a role in my code of honor. But when something like this hits you, you start to question your beliefs and the validity of it. I’m not saying yay or nay for religion mind you, I’m just explaining my experience.

As most of you have experienced, “why” becomes instilled in your mind. No matter how I tried to justify his passing away, “why” was always there to bring me down again.

My high school was relatively large with 2,000 students. As I said earlier, my friend and I played the same sports. Volleyball was our main sport (we devoted the most time and money to it by playing national tournaments with club teams and what not) and the guys on that team seemed to just click. We were so much more than a “team”. We were best friends who happened to play on a sports team together. When all of the team members were present immediately following his death, we all cried and tried to comfort each other. Seeing 10 other guys cry with you really gives you a perspective as to how a death can affect so many people in so many ways. Yes I knew my battle with his death was going to be a hard one to get over but so is Ethan’s, Adam’s, Dave’s, and all of the other people who really knew Alex. Seeing that I had a support system, and we were all going through the same grief really let me expose my vulnerability.

My coach was a fatherly figure and I considered him a mentor for sure. After all, spending countless hours in practice, meetings, games, and off-court festivities for 4 years really builds a bond. I asked my coach “If God loves us, why does he cause so much pain and suffering by taking Alex” to which he responded “Yes, there’s pain and suffering, but remember that through pain and suffering, people often come together. Look at US. We’ve been through this hardship and in the end we will love each other more because of it since we know how quickly everything can be taken away.”

That response really caught me off guard, but I totally agree with his statement. Since Alex’s death I’ve been enrolled in college and have learned to cope with it. I keep a photo of he and I in my wallet just as a daily reminder. Don’t be complacent. Too many things we take for granted and don’t really show how much we appreciate them.

When someone notices the picture and asks about it, I welcome the opportunity to speak about Alex and our brotherhood. At first I didn’t though. With time and experience, I feel that pain and memories can be alleviated and you really just focus on the positive aspect of that significant event.

“You get what you settle for.”

93 caleb October 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Death can be rough. I’ve had a few difficult ones: a girl I was friends with in college died in a car wreck the last week of the summer. I found out from the youth pastor I volunteered with. He didn’t know that we were friends. No one had let me know because we had only became close at the end of the previous year and through many phone calls over the summer. I wondered why she hadn’t called me back yet, but I was excited to ask her when I was planning to ask her out after I got back. Turns out she had feelings for me, which was why her friends acted weird around me.

I saw one of my brother’s good friends at church on Sunday the beginning of that summer and talked about “seeing him later.” He died in a car wreck that afternoon. My first week as a pastoral intern was spent planning a funeral for a 16 year old.

My grandfather passed at 87 2 years ago while my dad and I were hunting. He had a DNR and had been struggling for years.

None have been easy, even the expected one. God makes it better.

94 Andrew October 25, 2011 at 12:24 am

I lost a dear friend when I was only 16, she was that girl among the guys. That summer we had made goals, but her life was ended by someone else’s hands, it took me almost four years to get through that. Forgiving the guy who did it was the relief I needed. Yes, I forgave the guy, and if you’ve gone through anything similar, I encourage you to do the same.

95 Paul R October 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I suffered the greatest lost in my life back in April. I’m 34 and was expecting my first child in September. While me and my wife were down in Florida for vacation and a wedding early Friday morning, my wife woke me up out of a deep sleep and said to rush her to the hospital. I got up and looked on the bed and saw that her water broke. At the time, my wife was 5 months pregnant with our son. Later on that day, my wife gave birth to our beautiful baby boy, but he had passed away sometime between the 4AM and the time he was born at 7:51AM. The worst part was that we were in Florida and all of my family was back up in New York, so we were pretty much on our own with the exception of a good friend of my wife, who spend the entire day with me in the hospital when I was trying to figure what had just happened. After he was delivered and my wife was holding our little guy, I absolutely lost it. I couldnt believe that just 24 hours ago, I was an exited, expecting dad and now I was grieving the loss of my child.

To say that I was devastated is putting it mildly. 2 months after, I still felt completely numb. Some days, I couldnt even feel my heart beat. From the time I found out on Christmas Eve of last year, I was counting down the days and always going on the internet to find out how big he was. All the dreams I had of holding him for the first time, feeding him, watching him smile and taking his first steps will all remain dreams.

Now, 6 months on, I have recovered somewhat. I have my good days and I have my bad days and I still cry every now and then on what could have been. The only comfort I get is knowing that he will always be with us since we were lucky enough to get his remains and that he is always with us at all times. I may never truly get over the loss of my boy but in a way I have moved on. Now I just hope that we can have another child in the near future.

The only thing that has helped me up to this point is to not hold it in and talk about it. As it turns out, alot of friends and family have gone through multiple miscarriges and have gotten a lot of support from them. Never keep anything bottled up, it will only hurt you in the long term.

96 Vince R October 26, 2011 at 8:13 pm

thanks for this thoughtful article.

i recently had a brush with death that brought me some important answers. i was put under for ACL surgery, and awoke to find myself on a gurney, surrounded by several people making a fuss over me. in a bit of a haze due to the drugs, i asked if everything had gone well. the anesthesiologist replied my heart stopped while i was under, they had to abort the surgery, and they were taking me to the ER as a precaution.

gratefully, i am ok now. but i vividly remember the last thing i saw before they put me under was the gas mask they placed over my nose and mouth. i think to myself that if they had not been able to revive me, that image would have been the last one I had known, and i would have had no consciousness whatsoever of anything that transpired after wards.

oddly, it felt almost peaceful– not tumultuous as I had previously supposed death would be.

one answer this brought me was that it is important to really focus on what’s important in life– for me that’s my two children, my wife, my work, and my art– and stop worrying about having to die. when it happens, you simply won’t know any better.

also, another answer i discovered in this experience was that the purpose of our lives is to leave as positive and meaningful a legacy as we are able. among the friends and family who have passed on, i most vividly remember those who were gracious and loving. i miss them frequently, and often think of them during times of prayer. those who were self-centered and uncaring end up unremembered.

more and more, this passage (found here at AOM) rings true to me: His name is lost, indeed, but the breath he breathed still stirs the pine-tops on the mountains, the sound of the words he spoke yet echoes on through space; the thoughts his brain gave birth to we have inherited to-day; his passions are our cause of life; the joys and sorrows that he knew are our familiar friends—the end from which he fled aghast will surely overtake us also!

Truly the universe is full of ghosts, not sheeted churchyard spectres, but the inextinguishable elements of individual life, which having once been, can never die, though they blend and change, and change again for ever.

97 Ian K October 26, 2011 at 11:01 pm

So first thank you everyone for your comments. Too often we as men try to be strong and don’t allow ourselves to properly grieve. Three years ago this week my college roommate of three years, Justin, died. Unlike many of these stories I knew he was going to die young, he had muscular dystrophy. When we first met he was looking for someone help him do exercises and I ended up being his helper as well as roommate. I helped him get up in the morning and go to bed every night as well as many hours in between for over 3 years. He was like a brother to me even in the way that I was sometimes annoyed with him. I was in law school at the time and Justin was 25. My grandfather had died about 6 months before that and I decided not to go back home for the funeral because I know he wouldn’t have wanted to me to miss my studies (I am the first one in a very extended family to graduate college let alone law school) but it is one of the things that I regret because I still expect him to greet me when I visit my grandmother. I knew that I wouldn’t make the same mistake with Justin. That is why when I got a call at 8 at night that he had just had another heart attack I was on the earliest plane I could get. I was able to see him in the hospital and joked around. He had a choice of staying in the hospital and possibly trying to keep his heart keep going or go home and when his implanted defibrillator gave up that would be it. He decided he’d rather go home. Most of our college friends showed up that night and it was clear that he was fading fast. I was sitting with him, just him and I the next morning, and he was barely there but breathing and I was reading out loud a prayer for the sick when his heart stopped and he passed. His parents were so amazed that his friends showed up because before college Justin didn’t really have many friends but we treated him like one of the guys.

I still cry when I hear a few songs (Pink Floyd’s Wish you Were Here for example), I am reminded of him constantly. I’ve kept in touch with his family and take solace in the fact that he no longer is trapped in a broken body. I grieve by remembering his impact on my life, by making sure his family know he still is on my mind, talking with him about those that also knew him, and not being ashamed about that one of the best men I’ve known and one of my best friends died too young. It makes me angry sometimes but I remember his strength and refusal to give up even when he had everything going against him.

Once again thank you Brett for writing this.

98 Rick S. October 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Back in 1988 we lost my Grandfather on my mom’s side. He was at the VA hospital in long-term care and was walking across the lawn and just fell over. They said he was gone before he hit the ground (stroke and heart attack at the same time). I was traveling and was at my uncle’s house when he got the phone call. I’ve never, never seen that man cry before. When they told him he dropped the phone and said “I lost my dad!” I held him while he cried. I knew it was coming because my mother lived with my grandmother and kept me informed on how Gramps was doing but apparently my uncle didn’t or didn’t want to know. The hardest death for me was my little brother. He was gay and had contracted AIDS from one of his boy friends (even though he knew the boy friend had AIDS). He called me one day and told me of his diagnosis. I heard cars in the back ground and asked him where he was. He told me he was across the street from his apartment in a phone booth sitting on the floor because he was so tired he couldn’t stand. He then told me he wasn’t able to see anymore because the virus was attacking his brain and his visual centers. I asked him how he got across the street and he told me that he listened until he didn’t hear any cars and just walked across. Let me tell you that tore my heart out. I told him I would come get him and he told me that dad was going to get him the next day. Shortly after my father called me and told me that if I wanted to see Thomas before he passed I should come right away. When I saw him he was blind, paralyzed and couldn’t talk at all, he could laugh though so I knew he was still there. He also couldn’t eat much and lived on ice and various jellos. I thanked God when he finally passed. I still miss him and when I think about his final days I still cry. So it never goes away completely but it does get better after time. I do think about the fun we had like the time we went to Bennigan’s and saw a cute couple. Thomas told me I could take the girl and he would take the guy d;D.

99 Alanm October 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Wow this hit hard. Just 10 days ago I was remembering the 2nd anniversary of my younger sister’s death. She was 15 at the time a died a month to the day from her 16th birthday. Still hits hard every time I see a picture of her which is often as I have one pinned to the visor in my car. I can remember walking into the funeral home and seeing her for the first time after it happened and damn that is something I can never forget. The immediate impact of the situation had my mind reeling. That was when it became real. The final knell of the hammer was when I stood by the grave and watched them put dirt over the casket. That was the hardest thing I have ever handled and im still not sure how I did. Lots of thinking and remembering is a good idea and can help. Yeah I cried yes I lost it a little bit but I ended up pulling it together and persevering through it. I remember the night it died my dad came in and talked to me and asked me to not lose it and keep myself together. To not go out and just get trashed and drink till i couldn’t feel because in his words “how the hell is that a good way to honor and respect the dead, especially someone so close.” Those words helped sustain me and have repeated over and over in my head since that night. Life is hard unfair and can really mess you over but these things will help us grow and move forward in life even if it seems like all they do is set us back when it happens. I love my little sister still and the short time she had on earth is an inspiration to me to be as kind and loving as she was. The loss of a friend is never easy but letting them go is impossible.

100 Augustus October 30, 2011 at 5:39 am

My brother drowned when I was 16. My cousin and I sat up all night talking about my brother and all the things we did together. We laughed a lot more than cried, and that set the standard for me. I mourn individuals according to how I knew them, and to what we had talked about. I do not attend many funerals, only those very close to me.

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