Chapter 2: How your friend’s death may affect you

Thoughts and feelings

My best friend died, and I am really struggling. I’m dealing with the hardest thing I have ever had to face, and she is the one person I would have turned to for helping me through.

I found out that they had been a very angry person, which was not the friend I knew at all. It was hard to reconcile the friend I knew with the friend I didn’t know. I wondered what was wrong with me that I hadn’t seen his dark side.

Your grief may include confusing thoughts and feelings, some of which may be surprising or upsetting, or may seem contradictory. You may feel worried or confused by the intensity of your feelings, especially if they are “mixed” or if they catch you off guard.

All of these thoughts and feelings are normal, but they can become more intense or disturbing when you’re grieving.

Roll your mouse over each of the boxes below to read more about each example.

If your friend died after a long illness…



You may feel some relief, both for them and for yourself as a witness to it. You may then feel guilty or ashamed for having these feelings.


If your friend died suddenly…



You may feel shock and disbelief. You may wonder, “Why her and not me?”; or you may feel relief that you are still alive.


If the death was unexpected…



You may regret saying or doing certain things; or not saying or doing certain things; or wish you had spent more time with them.


If they died after a struggle with addictions or mental illness…



You may think of their death as both “sudden” and yet “expected.”


If your friend died by suicide…



You may feel angry about them leaving you or guilty because you could not prevent their death.


What may help

  • Whatever your thoughts and feelings, remember that they are a normal part of grief and will usually change over time.
  • Take some time to explore your feelings. This can deepen your understanding of your friend, yourself, and your relationship.
  • Remind yourself that it’s normal to have different feelings. One feeling doesn’t “cancel out” another. For example, if you feel angry with your friend, this doesn’t mean you didn’t care about them.
  • If your friend died suddenly or unexpectedly, remember that you had no way of knowing when they would die. Give yourself time to take in what has happened and to grieve.
  • Reach out to supportive friends, family members, or others who can listen without giving unwanted advice. A bereavement support group, whether online or in person, may help you to feel less isolated as you connect with other grieving people.
  • If your feelings are very intense or interfering with your day-to-day life, reach out for support from your family physician or a counsellor.