Grief Over Best Friend’s Death

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

At the end of June, my best friend of 30 years passed away suddenly. She went to the ER not feeling well on a Monday and died on Wednesday due to liver failure. It was a catastrophic shock to me, my boyfriend, and our close circle of friends.

She had MD and had been confined to a wheelchair for the last five years. She and her husband had been married for twenty years but I’m aware of all the details and understand that he was more of a caretaker than a husband for these years. The disease was progressing and life was getting harder. She couldn’t dress or bathe herself and she was getting close to needing someone to feed her.

So when she died, I expected her husband to feel grief … but also to feel a large sense of relief that the burden of taking care of her was gone. We all, to a point, understood and anticipated he would feel guilty for the relief he felt. We were all terribly wrong.

He took the hefty life insurance she left him and bought a new house and a new car within 30 days of her dying. His first date with a new girl was two weeks after the funeral. When that didn’t work out he joined a dating site. He had his first kiss with a girl less than a month after her funeral. When he felt like he wasn’t getting enough attention from that woman, he joined a SECOND dating site and started dating a different woman. He’s been seeing this woman for three months now.

We all feel … shattered. This woman that we loved dearly is gone. There’s this gigantic hole where she used to be. We expected that we would all come together to grieve as a group and to comfort her husband. But instead, he has turned into a narcissist. He doesn’t care about what’s going on with anyone else and doesn’t ask anyone about anything. If it isn’t about him or his new girlfriend? He isn’t interested. He only texts or calls when he wants to talk about his new girlfriend.

He’s told me a hundred inappropriate things … things that I, as his dead wife’s best friend, don’t want to hear. Wondering when he should buy condoms. Talking about hoping this new girl will spend the night. Things that upset me SO deeply because I am still mourning my best friend every day.

Other friends have told him that he upsets me. My boyfriend has told him that he needs to back off because I am taking her death hard. He asked me STRAIGHT OUT if I had an issue with him talking about other woman and I said unequivocally yes. I told him I understood his relief at not having to take care of her … and that I loved him and wanted him to be happy … but that I wasn’t CLOSE to being done grieving. He said he understood … but then stopped talking to me all together. When he STARTED talking to me again, it was, once again, to talk about the new girlfriend.

I’m not asking how to make him stop. I don’t know what, if anything, will make him understand that he’s become a self-centered egomaniac with no empathy towards what others are feeling. Why I’m writing … is can you tell me why he’s being this way?

Doesn’t he miss her? I understand that it’s a relief that the burden is gone, but after 20 years, doesn’t he miss her at all? With the life insurance and everything, it’s as if he feels as though he’s won the lottery. He’s paid off all their debt (and they had quite a lot of a debt). He bought a brand new house and car with cash. And everyone agrees it’s as if he’s trying to pretend she never existed.

The night before the funeral, he texted me and said, “I know this sounds horrible, but I can’t help thinking if I’d never met her I wouldn’t have gone through all this.”

At the time, I thought he meant her sudden death. I thought he was talking about the gut-wrenching hours at the hospital. I thought he was saying, “If I’d never met her, I wouldn’t have had to lose her.” Now though, I think he meant that he wished he’d never met her at all because he wouldn’t have had to take care of her.

I guess I AM asking another question. How do I get through this. How do I be a supportive, loving friend and yet not feel like there’s a knife in my stomach every time he says, “I’m so happy, I’ve never felt like this before!” or “I’ve finally found the one!” I feel like I’m the most selfish person in the world … but I miss my best friend every day and I am so hurt and angry that he doesn’t.

A. It is natural but not necessarily correct, to view the world from one’s own perspective. You know yourself, you know how you think, and you know how you would react or at least you think you know how you would react.

Your deceased friend’s husband is not reacting the way that you would or the way that you think is correct. You are assuming that his reaction is not correct. You base that assumption on your own life philosophy as to what is appropriate and inappropriate. It is also assuming that what is correct for you would be correct for him. What is correct for him might be very incorrect for you and people like you.

It is safe to conclude that obviously he is not like you. If he were like you, he would be reacting differently, much more the way you are reacting. One should never assume that most people in the world are like you and share your same values. People are very different from one another.

Whether or not he is making a mistake can only be determined by the correctness of his actions in terms of his own life. If he were in therapy, his therapist would judge the correctness of his actions in terms of whether or not those actions were beneficial to his short-term and long-term happiness. In other words, are they adaptive?

You do not have to keep this man in your life and perhaps you should not. It appears from what you have written that your real, true link to this man was through your deceased friend. If that is true, then you no longer have a link to this man. His attitudes, his behaviors, his moral values do not appear to fit into your world. His phone calls distress you. You have the power to end those phone calls.

We should hold true to our moral values. However, we should not insist on remaking the world in our own image. We can keep close to us family and friends that share our moral values.

You cannot condemn your friend for not sharing your moral values because your moral values are not “the” moral values.

Let me say it in a different way. His moral values are different from yours. Would it be fair to judge and condemn him because his moral values are not yours? Before you answer that question, let me make this statement which is completely accurate and true. There are many people out there, whose moral values are not yours, who would condemn you right now for not living a life that fits their moral values. Should they have a right to both judge and condemn you? Obviously not.

From your perspective, you would likely say “who are they to judge me? I am a good, moral individual and just because I don’t share their moral values, does not mean that I am incorrect. Perhaps, they are incorrect and their moral values are wrong.”

It’s very hard to lose someone you love. I hope I have helped answer your questions but I realize there is nothing that I could write that would lessen your pain. I am sorry for your loss.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jan 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Grief Over Best Friend’s Death. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/01/25/grief-over-best-friends-death/