By Harriett Hodgson —

My father-in-law made many close friends during his 98 years of life. So many of those friends died that my father-in-law became known as the “last man standing.” At first, Dad would get really upset when a close friend died. After losing dozens of friends his response changed. “He (or she) was a wonderful person,” he would say, and then he would change the subject.

Life taught Dad how to cope with death.

Karen Callinan writes about coping with a friend’s death in “Facing the Death of Friends,” published on the American Catholic website. Coping with death is always hard and Callinan says “sharing the burden of sadness lightens the load.” You need to talk about your loss, she continues, but not all the time.

In her book, “When a Bough Breaks,” Judith R. Bernstein, PhD, talks about the affects of age on coping skills. The bereavement experience strengthens mourners, Bernstein notes. “A number of parents who are older . . . aren’t sure whether to attribute their newfound strength and greater courage to the toughening power of surviving hell or the process of maturing over time.”

I think my father-in-law experienced both. He lived through hellish experiences, such as sudden death, and had the maturity to accept this blow and move forward with life. You could say Dad had “paid his dues.” As Bernstein explains, “They [mourners] see that the end product of their grief-work is that they become more definitive in what they value.”

At the end of his life, all Dad talked about was family. Still, he continued to remember his friends by telling stories about them. Dad was a marvelous story-teller, and many of his stories were about fishing. At the end of a story, Dad would sit quietly for a minute or two, and then his thoughts returned to the present.

He was able to do this despite his progressive dementia. I marvel at his ability, for there are times when I bring my thoughts back to the present by sheer force of will. This is understandable after losing four loved ones, including my elder daughter, within nine months. So I continue to work on “living the moment” and I think Dad did, too.

Maybe your dear friend just died. How can you cope? Talking about your friendship is one of the best ways. You may also explore your thoughts in a good-bye letter. Donating money to in honor of your friend is another way to cope. And you may volunteer for a sports team or youth group in memory of your friend.

The last coping tip I have for you is the hardest — forming new relationships. Bob Deits writes about this in his book, “Life After Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life After Experiencing Major Loss.” Though his suggestion pertains to recovering from the death of a child, spouse, or parent, it applies to friendship as well. Making new friends can be a way to honor the deceased. It shows “you are ready to release your attachment so you can move on,” Deits writes, “to open new doors to a life for yourself.”

The death of a dear friend is a shattering experience. Put yourself back together by making new friends, volunteering, donating money, writing a good-bye letter, and telling stories. You may also record your thoughts in a journal. Your dear friend is gone, yet he or she will always be part of your life.

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson

http://www.harriethodgson.comHarriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 30 years. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life.” The company has also published a companion resource, the “Writing to Recover Journal,” which contains 100 writing prompts. Please visit Harriet’s Website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.Article Source:
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Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit

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