How to Deal With the Death of a Friend You Didn’t Like

TW: mention of depression and suicide

A few months ago, one of the guys in my social circle, unfortunately, died by suicide. It was a little strange, everyone who knew him well, knew that he struggled with his mental health for a long time, though the shock was still apparent. When the news broke out about his death, there were many heartfelt responses left on his Facebook wall and my friends had a gathering to talk about it with each other to process what happened.

The tricky part was, it wasn’t a secret that I didn’t like him, I rarely hung out with him unless other people were around and everyone knew that.

It’s not that we didn’t get along, we were civil and never argued about anything in particular, but we would never opt to hang out with each other. When we did, it was always the result of being invited to an event without knowing the other person was going to be there; it was a little awkward sometimes.

So when he died, I had a fair few mixed feelings.

How did I deal with this situation? What is an appropriate way to respond?

For the most part, I stayed quiet about my feelings towards him. I think that it would have been disingenuous for me to lament in the way that others close to him were like my best friend was, and sometimes still is. For me, that was the most respectful thing I could do. After all, you might not like someone, but you wouldn’t wish an early death on them.

I found the best way to respond was to not beat around the bush about it, or walk on eggshells around my friends. I talked to my best friend about it a lot, as he was very close to him. My friend mentioned that he appreciated that I wasn’t lying about “how much I’m going to miss X” or how “we were so close”, which gave him the space to feel supported by me, knowing that I wasn’t suffering the way he was. He did wonder if it was burdening me by supporting him as much as I was, and I won’t lie, sometimes it felt pretty heavy but that’s what you do for the people you care about.

It was also the first time he knew someone who died, whereas I’ve known a fair few. So he came to me for advice about how to deal with the crushing grief.

I told him:

“The truth is, grief never really goes away. It ebbs and flows. Some days will be bad because you can’t get them in the context of sadness out of your mind, and other days you’ll be able to look back on fonder memories and smile about it — but you never really forget, you don’t want to.”

Which seemed to help him a great deal, since he felt that “getting over it” meant forgetting about the person who existed.

For me, it was about empathy.
It wasn’t hard for me to empathise with his position. After all, I’d been there myself struggling with my depression and suicidal tendencies in the past. Though this can apply to any other situation, you may be able to empathise with the person who died, or you might prefer to do so with the people closest to them. Remembering this helped me to move beyond the feelings of dislike towards him and support my close friends with their grief in a better, clearer manner.

But this is how you deal with the passing of a friend you didn’t like. You offer your support to those who are deeply affected; some might want advice; others may want a shoulder to cry on. It’s also crucial to be respectful, though that applies to the death of any kind.

For those wondering, the person who died did have a lot of professional help. As well as a fair amount of moral support in the years leading up to his death. Most thought he was getting better which is why it was as shocking as it was, but depression can be a patient, prowling beast and you never really know what is going on inside the minds of others.
Treat everyone with loving-kindness.

Alexander Boswell is an aspiring transgender writer that wants to help make the world a better place. He has a Master’s Degree in Marketing that specialised in Consumer Behaviour but writes about a range of topics with personal perspectives.

Aspiring Polymath | Freelance Writer | Business PhD Candidate | He/Him | alexanderbboswell.com

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