Making a friend can happen anytime, anywhere. Bonds are created out of circumstance or common interests. If we live far from our relatives, our friends become just like family and they are our support system. Yet as we grow older we know life doesn’t go on forever and that these friends will
eventually pass on. Still, it’s not easy saying goodbye.
Candice Evans, manager of the Hosparus Health Grief Counseling Center for the last seven years, acknowledges that family members are the first to receive support from the community, but she says that friends need love as well. “Oftentimes people have made communities of their own and have really strong connections with people who aren’t family,” she says. “I think it’s important for people to understand that when you lose someone you’re going to be grieving. It doesn’t matter if that person was your spouse, an aunt, an uncle, or a parent. Even if it’s a friend you are going to experience the normal and natural reactions of the grief process.”
Lynn Powell, a grief counselor at Hosparus Health, adds that even though that person is gone, our relationship with that person still continues. “Figuring out how to maintain that connection with someone who is no longer physically here helps us to cope with the grieving process,” she says. “Continuing to talk to that person, focusing on positive memories, or treasuring physical objects like jewelry or articles of clothing helps. Writing letters to that person is also a way to stay connected.”
Candice says there’s a point when you will be able to move on. “When you’re in your 60s, 70s, or 80s you will experience the loss of people in your life, but since you have that experience and have gone through this, you also have the resiliency to know you’re going to be OK,” she says. “You know this doesn’t feel good, but you’re at a stage in life where you can be more accepting of things. What helps to get through this is to find ways to give back to your community and think about what you’re doing for the next generation.”
Making new friends is sometimes difficult, but Candice advises people to have a willingness to put themselves out there. You may feel quite vulnerable, so it’s important to go with what makes you feel comfortable. “Making a list of interests and doing a self-inventory to identify who you want to be around, what you see yourself doing, and what you want to accomplish will help you connect with like-minded people,” she says. “A lot of those connections happen organically. Navigating the world allows you to be in the place and space to be connected to new people.”
P.S. Learn 7 ways to successfully live alone.
BY JULIE ENGELHARDT
ILLUSTRATION BY BRITTANY GRANVILLE
Note: This feature was published in June 2019.