What Do I  Do When A Friend is Dying?

When we get sober, we can think life will be all peachy-cream from now on. The hard truth is that life doesn’t change or necessarily get better in sobriety. How we react to difficult situations is what changes. For one, and the most important consideration is, we don’t have to drink or get inebriated over really bad news. Our sobriety gives us the opportunity to have our sad feelings instead of stuffing them or trying to drink them away.

In the case of a dying friend, we may only be able to let their condition into our hearts a little at a time. There are no rules for dealing with a friend’s pending death, just suggestions, like being there for them and their spouse, family and loved ones. Being there can be a quick visit, checking in an asking what you can pick up for them at the store, or sending them loving cards.

Part of what comes up when we learn of a friend who’s dying is our own mortality. We will die someday. We could come up against a life-threatening disease ourselves. Dealing with death can feel scary. It can be hard to accept another’s path in life and not project our own fears onto their situation. Becoming comfortable with the idea that everyone dies can be a challenge, especially in our society. Our comfort level or acceptance of death doesn’t exclude our feelings. It can, however, make the slope smoother.

Sitting at your friend’s side and being a good listener may be just what they need. This could happen if they wake up in the middle of the night, are afraid of dying and need to talk. You can’t assuage their fears, since you don’t know what it is like to be dying. You can offer love and compassion. You can tell them about a book you read on death and dying and what you learned. Information is valuable. Learning about your friend’s illness can help you to be a better listener, and to know ahead of time what to expect.

Some people can’t handle death, and we are not here to pass judgment. If you are one such person, perhaps get some support, and try not to beat yourself up. You may work through your resistance or not. What matters is to take care of yourself—your grieving is real as is your sobriety.

“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”—Terry Pratchett

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