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Tips for Dealing with the Death of Similarly-Aged Friends
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, June 2014

More people than any other time in history are living into their eighth, ninth and 10th decades. Many are doing so healthfully while others are less so. A tough thing about living long is that our age peers die. Being vitally engaged in life, especially when we are lucky enough to have our mind and / or body remain healthy, does not insulate us from being aware of our mortality. The ways we view that mortality is our choice.

How we deal with that awareness as well as how we deal with the death of those we love is often mitigated by those who know us and try to bring us comfort. An attitude of "Well, they were old and lived a good life" may indeed be true, but does not recognize the "meaning" of their death to those who remain. Yes, for most of us, the longer we have someone in our life, the luckier we are; but that does not negate that we will miss them when they are gone. As someone recently shared with me, she mused about a dear friend who died. After nearly eight decades of friendship: "She knew me better than and longer than anyone else. She walked my life path with me. We shared everything. We had a "good run" but my sadness is so strong. I am not sure I know how to go along the path without her."

Consider these tips to guide you:

Recognize that the Death of a Loved One is Felt Significantly at any Stage of Life. - Recognizing the blessing of a long life does not preclude missing that person and being sad with their passing.

Share Stories and Memories with Those Who Knew as well as Those Who did not Know the Person. - Each life has meaning. Each of us is special. Sharing stories and memories with others gives us a chance to also share what we learned from the people who died, which helps to focus on how we were affected by their being a part of our life.

Consider Performing a Ritual in Memory of Your Loved One. - Whether it is lighting a candle, commemorating a "bench," visiting a place they loved, listening to their favorite piece of music, planting a tree in their honor, or making a donation to an organization whose purpose reflects their values, rituals can be a powerful part of memorializing and healing through loss.

Connect with Empathetic Family and Friends. - Younger family and friends can help us as we go through adapting to our loss. When others recognize the difficulty we experience by acknowledging our pain, and encourage us to go on, we feel "held" as well as "heard."

Keep Living. - Make attempts to spend time doing what you enjoy with people who are meaningful to you.

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