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Why not everyone will be there for you when you’re grieving OR “Now I know who my REAL friends are”

Why not everyone will be there for you when you’re grieving

I love my friends.  I would be lost without them.  Fact.  I update facebook all the time (which still isn’t often enough) about what awesome friends I have.   I’ve read a lot of quotes and people’s thoughts about friendship and what true friendship is.  All sorts of lovely stuff about how true friends will stick by you through absolutely anything.  And how it’s the tough times in your life that will sort out who your real friends are – those people who really care about you. And of course these times will also sort out which people aren’t your true friends at all. Because everyone knows that your true friends will stick with you through thick and thin and be there for you no matter what happens right?  They will be your wings when you’ve forgotten how to fly, right? They will stand right there by your side always, won’t they?

What a load of fluffy, idealistic twaddle. (I would love to use a better word than ‘twaddle’ but I’ll refrain.  ‘Twaddle’ does the job well anyway).  If you’ve lost your parent or indeed anyone close to you recently then holding these beliefs about the people around you is going to make your experience feel that little bit more painful and lonely, you’ll have incredibly unrealistic expectations of the people you know, and you could well end up writing off certain people or holding grudges against them for a long time.  And this is a pity – you might need them in the future.

When I say ‘fluffy, idealistic, twaddle’ I’ll admit I’m being a little harsh.  What I probably should say is ‘yes and no’.  Some of your friends will be ‘there for you’ and some won’t and it won’t necessarily have much to do with how they feel about you or whether they are ‘real friends’ or not – whatever that really means.  When I have been through death and loss in the past I wouldn’t have got far through it without my friends.  But they didn’t all behave the way you might think.

As I started to explain in my last blog – this is not something small and tricky you are going through.  It’s DEATH.  People are scared of death – they are scared of it happening to them and they are scared of it happening to people they love.  They don’t really want to think about it…..or talk about it for too long. When I explain the work I do to people I actually can’t even use the d-word, as often, without even knowing it,  people will actually shut down before my eyes.   When I’ve done this in the past I have watched the mental earplugs get inserted and people excuse themselves from my company.  They might not understand exactly why but they suddenly feel the need to…..go and do absolutely anything else.
Your friends, your colleagues, your loved ones will have different feelings, experiences and issues around death, and it’s highly likely they aren’t even aware of them.  Your experience can be scary and push buttons deep inside them that they don’t even know they have.

Let me give you a first-hand example.  I’ll bet there will be a few people in your life that this reminds you of.  About 6-9 months before my own dad died, the father of a girl I worked with passed away from cancer.  Let’s call her ‘C’.  C is a good friend of mine now and has been for years but at the time when this happened we had only been working together for a few months. Though we worked in a large office, she and I were part of a small team of 5 people and our desks were opposite each other with a chest-height partition between us.  Due to the work we did we all worked very closely together and I couldn’t leave my desk without passing her.  I spoke to her a lot during a normal day.  So all in all I had a lot to do with C.  I’m not sure I knew her dad was ill before he died but I remember being told when he had.  She was away from work for a week and when she returned here is the wise, insightful, and highly supportive thing I said to her. ………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….  Yip, that was it.  Absolutely nothing.  I didn’t say “I’m sorry”, or “I heard about your dad”.  I didn’t even allude to it with one of those concerned knowing looks on my face and an indirect (but loaded) question like “how are you doing?” or “how is the family coping?”.  Not even an “are you ok?” Nope, I didn’t say a single word and I acted like everything was normal.

Was I a rubbish friend?  Did I not care about her?  Not at all.  Here is what really happened.  I told myself that I didn’t want to upset her, that maybe if I brought it up it would remind her and make her feel worse, that she would bring it up if she wanted to talk about it.  I told myself I didn’t need to tell her I was sorry – of course she knew that I was. How could I not be?!  I told myself that she was well aware I was there for her if she needed me.

When my own dad died I could look back on what happened and see it so clearly for what it
was.  I was scared by her experience.  I could only look at it from out of the corner of my eye.  Just for a second.  And I was scared of her.  I didn’t know what would happen if she got upset and fell apart in front of me.  I didn’t know what the right thing to do and say would be.  I didn’t know how to make her feel better or how to fix it for her.  I didn’t want to deal with any of it.  It was just too big.  And the important thing to note is that I only understood this later.  At the time I told myself I was doing it for her.

When I went through the same experience not long after C did it became amusing to me to watch the variety of reactions around me.  Some people  practically climbed all over me and wouldn‘t leave me alone, some treated me like a leper (they definitely didn‘t want to catch what I had), some forgot, and some did/ said the most unusual things.
When you’re grieving, some of your friends will be around you as much as possible, some will distance themselves from you – either temporarily or sometimes permanently, and every variation in between.  It will vary hugely based on their own feelings and experiences.

It is actually very unrealistic and unfair to imagine that the people closest to us, and even those that are not as close to us, will somehow, in our hour of need, miraculously get over some of their deepest darkest fears – often that they aren’t even aware they have – so they can be there for us.

When you have just lost someone close to you there is a part of you that wishes you could walk away from it all and ignore it, or shut your eyes and come back in a few months when things are a bit better.  And there are people in your life who are simply a reflection of this part of you.

Want to know something else?  You need these people too. This fantasy that everyone will be there for you would never work out.  Sometimes you need the people who won’t look at you funny and will let you pretend everything is normal.  You might not want everyone to see you suffer and these are the people you won’t share it with.  These people can be a lot easier to be round than others when life returns to something resembling normality. Not everyone in your life needs to have been through this with you and seen your pain.  It can be a very private thing sometimes.  And the truth is that some people really are so lost about what to say or do around you that you’d have to be helping them, rather than vice-versa, which you probably don’t have the energy for.

Another important job of people who you think aren’t there for you is that they make absolutely awesome targets for your emotions.  When facing where the real pain and stress is coming from can be too big and overwhelming, you’ve probably found yourself obsessively pissed off at someone close to you who you felt abandoned you and didn’t do what they ‘should’.  I have found this situation with almost everyone I’ve coached.  They are a safe and distracting place to focus some of what you are feeling until you‘re ready to really look at the real source of your pain.

Every type of reaction to you – no matter how confusing, frustrating or odd, serves a purpose.  If everyone were there for you, understanding and seeing your suffering, you would risk being smothered and overwhelmed, being expected to talk about it all more than you might like to, and feeling vulnerable and unable to act normal at the times when you want to.

Something very interesting to know too is that just like the people who ‘aren’t really there for you’, the ones who are have their own stuff going on as well.  The most supportive ones have often been through something similar before and, here’s the key bit, they are still trying to make sense of it themselves.  They don’t just come to you to help.  They come to you for help as well.  Energetically these people can actually be a bit draining  for you so to have everyone around you be like this would be a nightmare.

So just remember that the people around you do love you very much, that they will do what they can for you, that (though it isn’t always obvious) they are helping you and you do need them – all of them.  But most of all know that they are human too and don’t set your expectations on them so ridiculously high that some of them are bound to let you down.   You are loved no matter what.

As always I welcome any comments, thoughts, questions below!



P.S.  If you are struggling, and need a little bit of help and support right now…then I have designed this gentle little course  just for you.

P.P.S. I’ve just done a video blog which is a prequel to this one which you might like to check out….. Your right to be angry at those you aren’t ‘there for you’ when you’ve lost your mum or dad…& why it’s time to give it up.






Steph Beitzel February 10, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Hi Kirsty,

Thanks so much for this post. It’s perfect timing. 8 years ago, one of my best friends gave birth to a baby daughter very prematurely, and after 6 weeks of intensive care, she lost her fight and died. I was in London and my best friend was in Sydney. At the time I couldn’t bring myself to send or write anything to her. I called to speak to her – but she was putting on a brave face and I know she wasn’t appreciating the drama merchants so our calls were more matter of fact than anything. I wanted to write and send stuff – but I felt powerless to do so – as if anything I wrote or sent would trivialise what was going on and how much pain I was feeling for her – let alone what I could barely comprehend how she was feeling. And since that time, it felt like she’d moved on and it wasn’t right to go there. Last week she blogged about the death – the first time she’s really talked about it – it would have been Liljana’s 8th birthday. And finally I feel like I can write what I feel. Her blog has given me permission to let her know I constantly think of her, and Liljana, and that I regret not being able to ‘be there for her’. I never really understood my own reaction – but I’m going to send your blog to my friend with the cards I bought at the time and couldn’t send. Thanks so much.

Kristie West February 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Hiya Steph,
You’re very welcome. It is so much trickier than people think and NEVER just a case of being there simply because you’re a friend.
A friend of mine the other day told me about a friend of hers who lost a child in an accident recently. Having children of her own, my friend admitted that she could allow herself to think about what had happened, but only very briefly. I didn’t need to ask to know that she probably had very little contact with her friend during this time.
There are so many layers and reasons to why we can’t all be there. But it’s also so important to remember we aren’t all supposed to be there. Too much of that type of support can be overwhelming and crippling. If you look at the situation there will probably be reasons why it worked out better for your best friend and you that you weren’t in contact that much. Forcing yourself to try and help when it isn’t the right thing for you can actually destroy friendships just as easily as anything else. And if this is the first time she has been able to share about her experience I’d guess that you being there for her in that way and talking to her about it might not have been quite right for her until now anyway.

Mike Stephens May 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Personality types do differ, and there’s a song that says something like “you say it best by saying nothing at all”. Looking back at my dad’s death, funeral, and the time period shortly after, I think the people I enjoyed being with the most were those who said little or nothing about the matter at hand. There were plenty of people who were cheerful and treated me like they always do. I didn’t even realize this until I read your post, and it is good insight on how I may (or may not) act/react the next time somebody close to me loses a loved one. Thanks for sharing this post!

Kristie West May 16, 2011 at 8:33 am

You’re very welcome. Thanks for sharing Mike.

supa dupa fresh June 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Friend, I think this is the most realistic perspective I’ve read so far. Thank you!

Kristie West June 24, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Hiya Supa Dupa Fresh. Really glad you liked this. And thanks for passing it on too. xxx

Jenette September 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

Thank you for this insightful blog, it is definately food for thought.

Kristie West September 10, 2011 at 11:52 am

You’re very welcome Jennette. xx

Empathy needer November 30, 2011 at 4:55 am

I think there are some useful ideas here.

But I don’t endorse it 100 % either because to me, there are categories of “true friends” and then other people who are friends but will never be that close because they weren’t there. I tend to need a lot of empathy and am not getting quite as much as I need. There are friends who ARE there for me. But I can’t call them every day. So I am frustrated not with them but with the ones who don’t get it. And I’m on my third grief cycle in a three year period. I am only 40, but fate and freak medical events have determined that the important individuals in my life are going to die one after the other. One of those people is in the process of dying, and it’s a hard year ahead. So it’s kind of like I need to know that I can count on people if I have grief cycle again. I guess the person I am the most upset with is the one who I saw as potential partner. It’s clear that he just couldn’t ever be the right partner for me, and it’s disappointing to learn that while I’m grieving. I think I just prefer the company of people who are empathetic but who also get it. And even if they are coming to me to help resolve their issues, I say, “great!” It can be a mutually healing experience. I don’t find that exhausting at all.

Kristie West December 5, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Hi Empathy needer,

sorry for the delay in responding to this. For some reason I didn’t receive a notification so only just spotted your comment.

I totally get the need for empathy and I hope my blog didn’t seem unempathetic in that way. It is very tough going through what you’re going through and, from what you say, it is far from over with more deaths coming. And of course you want to be able to rely on your friends and the people you care about to be there. That’s natural.
It can be so easy to be resentful and disappointed at friends and you might have read this blog and thought ‘why should I try and understand their behaviour?’ or ‘why should they be let off the hook? They really should be there for me.’
This can get tricky for 2 reasons -1) staying cross and stressed at others only hurts you. Being upset at friends who haven’t been there just adds to your upset and you have enough of that to cope with already, and 2) the reality is that people won’t always behave the way we like, particularly not in these circumstances and to fight that is to fight reality. Especially when you have more bereavements that you know are going to be happening soon it’s a great idea to get your head around people’s behaviour or you will end up being hurt and disappointed every time you suffer a loss or other trauma. And adding hurt and disappointment at friends to any of these these traumas just makes them bigger and more painful.

You know what you need and the type of support you want so the key is to know where to find that. If you know that certain friends and family won’t provide that then, instead of fighting that, accept it and find support elsewhere. Particularly online there are loads of blogs, not just by specialists in the area like me but also by people who are grieving – and there can be a real sense of community there. There are forums and support groups – I am usually not quick to recommend these – it is really important to find the right ones. If you know you need a certain level of support and you already know where you won’t get that then get a little creative about where you can find it.
Feel free to get in touch with me directly if you’d like some more detailed ideas of where to go and what sites to check.


Isabel February 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm

This is very realistic, my boyfriend just lost his dad and even though I love my boyfriend very much AND I do want to be there for him sometimes I just want to hop on a plane and fly off somewhere for a year. I don’t know what is driving this, but there are times where I want to help out in any possible way and I jump at the chance to be there for him or one of his family members but sometimes I get anxiety at even the thought of having dinner with them. There were even times when I would get angry or resentful towards him because I would go somewhere reluctantly and he would be upset or ignore me, of course he would sense it and get more upset but what could I do, it is very hard for me to hide my feelings. Every other post I have read on this topic has made me feel like an insensitive, selfish brat who really doesn’t care for their friend in need. I have taken to being there for him when I am up to it and politely bowing out when I’m really not up to it and I know I would be of little assitance. He does know I love him and he has told me that although he really needs me he understands that I have feelings too and that it can’t always be about him.

Thanks so much for the post

Kristie West February 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Hiya Isabel,

thanks so much for posting.
It can be really rough when all you hear is ‘now I know who my real friends are’ and other such nonsense, when you are the person trying to or wanting to support someone else and not being able or willing to. You’ll know from my blog that I had been in the same boat….and know what it is like to be ‘that’ person.

I’m so pleased that your boyfriend gets where you are at. There will be people around him who can and are able to support him in a different way to you – let them do that. And it’s great he can acknowledge you have feelings too. He is going through a lot – that doesn’t make you suddenly don’t matter. Forcing yourself would have just put more pressure and stress on both of you.

No matter what is going on around you it is so important that you stay true to yourself…and don’t listen to anyone who suggests that this is a measure of how much you care about him – that would be another piece of nonsense.

Here for you and on your side,


tbcylh July 20, 2012 at 10:42 am

The first paragraph of this article was exactly what I felt. Some of the friends who din bother to text me, I somehow feel they are not true friends. I have no idea what true friends really are, probably I should change the definition of it to Close Friends. They arent such close friends to be an emotional support.

However, posing a question to you, say if XXX suffered from major depression after losing a parent, wanted so much to end his life, got admitted to a hospital to prevent him from attempting/commiting suicide, and ended up staying for months. And some friend(s) of his whom he considered close to did not even bothered to visit him, not even once. Are they to be still considered as friends? He doesnt think those friends are worth keeping, afterall he was in the hospital for months, excuses like “busy” doesn’t really justify it.

Kristie West July 31, 2012 at 2:21 pm


that is a great question and certainly a very, very difficult situation to be in and I can totally see how in that situation someone would really question what’s going on with their friends.

When I say death is challenging for people, often the more challenging the death the more challenged the friend can be. So when it is something like murder or suicide for example, expect people to react even more obviously to it. If you’ve read my story you’ll know my family had 6 deaths in 4 months. Well as each next death happened I could notice people becoming increasingly uncomfortable around me – because it was getting more and more intense and harder for them to face.

Well….suicide is the absolute pinnacle of this. If people aren’t great at dealing with death then they are really awful at dealing with suicide/suicidal thoughts/suicide attempts, etc. Years ago in my work I trained in suicide prevention but until then getting a suicide call from a client was a worst nightmare. This is an area that very few people are comfortable being around.

If it is around someone effectively on ‘suicide watch’ and people say they were ‘busy’ – Usually they are just busy being terrified, have absolutely no idea what to say, are not sure what to do in case the topic comes up again, worried what if they do or say something to cause it, if they miss a sign. if something happens when they are there, etc, etc. It is an absolute minefield. They might not even be conscious that this is going on….they just won’t find the time to visit. For those of us who know what it’s like to have been in that place it can be a little easier, but for most people that is about as challenging as it gets when it comes to death stuff: someone who is at risk of attempting to take their own life.

It can be really easy to think that the worse the situation the more people should be around…but it works the other way. The worse the situation the more likely people can’t.
And this might be challenging…but it does beg the question, can we really hold it against them for walking away from something so hard….when that is exactly what someone is trying to do themselves when considering suicide?

Again the most important thing to know is that none of this would mean the person in questions friends don’t care. It is a reflection on how they feel about suicide, rather than how they feel about their friend.

Sending you lots of love,

Jennifer and Jimmy Fry December 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

Our 22 year old son, William, died August 23, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. We have had many wonderful people come forward and show their support and we are very grateful. However, “friends” we have known nearly all our lives and shockingly our sisters along with other “family” have just ignored us completely! These are people we contacted right away so they wouldn’t be shocked to read William’s obituary. They have turned their backs on us and quite frankly we find this unforgivable. These are people we have been there for in good times as well as bad. People we have helped. People we have forgiven and ‘turned the other cheek with’ over the years (over and over!).

We are also expereincing people who have been hateful and very insensitive, as well. People who don’t realise that no one is immune to tragedy and it could happen to them. I wonder how they would feel if people treated them the way they are treating us.

We have even had the owner of the funeral home berate us! This occured 6 weeks after our son’s death when we called to purchase a final death certificate. I won’t go into detail, but we have filed a complaint against him in the State of Florida. When a funeral director is without compassion, what on earth is going on in the world?!

It is time for us to be realistic with so-called friends and family who seem devoid of compassion.

Our sympathy to everyone who has reason to find this wonderful website.

Jennifer and Jimmy Fry

Kristie West December 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for sharing your story of your son William’s death.
Your experience of the reactions of others is not uncommon and, as I say in the blog, is not about who are ‘real’ friends and family. How people react to a death in your life usually tells you nothing at all about how they feel about you…and everything about how they feel about death. Our society has such issues with death, and most don’t realise how deep their own fears run. It’s tempting to imagine that the ‘worse’ the situation, like the death of a child, the more people should make the effort to be there. But when you realise it’s about people’s fear of death (not their love of you) it makes sense that the more challenging the death the less likely people can be around for you. Frankly the ones that have disappeared would be pretty useless to you if they were to force themselves to be around you – these people just cannot be around this at all.

One of the blessings for me of 6 deaths in 4 months was the realisation that either I was a terrible judge of character and most of the people I loved in my life weren’t so fussed about me after all….or it wasn’t about their feelings for me at all. It can be very tempting to want to point fingers and blame people for how they are acting, especially when some people will say the oddest, most seemingly inappropriate/crass/unfeeling things……but the only person who really suffers from this is you – because it hurts to carry that anger towards others, and to believe that actually you aren’t loved half as much as you thought….which is certainly not the case.
My recommendation is not to write off the people who can’t be there for you the way you would want or behave the way that might seem most appropriate or helpful. Just know who is good for what – some friends will be great when you want to talk about William. Some friends will be great when you want to talk about anything and everything else. And some friends won’t be around much for a while….but, though you may not believe it now, you will want some of them in the future again.
Sending you lots of love


Jennifer and Jimmy Fry January 7, 2013 at 10:57 am

Dear Kristie,

Thank you for your reply. I have talked to other women who have lost children and nearly all of them say this strange behavior has happened to them, as well. My husband tells me not to dwell on it and not to take it personally because this is the way these friends and family members would treat anyone. This alone is a sad thought for me. I know that thinking about it uses up a lot of energy that I cannot afford to waste.

I found myself reaching out to someone, recently, when they lost a family member. This person ignored us when William died. They responded back to us with very kind thoughts and it made me think that my first thought -not to contact them – was wrong. I’d be doing to someone else, what has hurt me.

Still, I do think the way we have been treated since losing William will forever change relationships my husband and I had with certain people.

Thank you again,
Jennifer Fry

Kristie West January 7, 2013 at 11:31 pm

You’ll find that anyone who goes through any death with have stories of friends and families disappearing or acting strangely, Jennifer. And the more challenging i.e. a child, a suicide, multiple deaths, etc, the stranger people will behave and the more likely people are to distance themselves as it is far more challenging.

A friend of mine who has children of her own admitted to me, after a friend of hers lost a child, that she had meant to get in touch with her friend but never had. She told me it was ‘just too close to home’. Most people wouldn’t have the insight like she did to understand why they couldn’t be around that. But many would feel and behave the same.

As you say – the relationships may change altogether but whether all these people are no longer friends is completely up to you. I don’t recommend writing everyone off as, like I said above, their behaviour shows you only how they feel about death…not how they feel about you.

Tammy February 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Your article was an eye opener to what I know I truely already knew, but didn’t really want to admit it. My daughter’s boyfriend died Tuesday in a house fire. We are trying to help her cope with this tragic loss. As many of her friends are away at college, I believe it was a great comfort to her to have 3 of her friends come home and help normalize the day as much as could be expected. This is what I consider True Friends. As far as having other friends, I think you are right on with the fact that having several kinds of friends will make the grieving process a little smoother. She has had many text or call with sympathy and some nothing at all. They are very young, 18. So I am encouraged by your article that my thoughts on the subject of her friends and their reactions are pretty similar. I am encouraging her that they all feel for her but that some will come and some will not and some will be the breath of fresh air she is in need of when the time comes to move on. Thank You for the article. It is a well written piece that helps grievers come to understand the various types of friends and that it is not necessarily them that they are avoiding.

Frankie May 24, 2013 at 7:50 am


Maybe I’m coming off this a bit fresh-my grandmother’s funeral today. I left a number of texts with someone who I thought was a true friend, regarding my grandmothers rapid decline. This friend being someone who I’d taken days off work to care for after surgery, a friend that I’d driven over 100kms to sit with, a friend who I’d bolstered through a messy industrial dispute and the list goes on. Did I receive a “Look, hope you’re okay. Let me know when you surface? Need anything”?”or a “Bummer”, or a “My condolences?” Nope. Bear in mind that this person will invariably offload and express their own emotional circumstances freely, works in the care industry so deals with death and dying on a daily basis. Do I feel almightily betrayed and HURT because this person couldn’t get over themselves for two seconds to reply to ONE message I sent? I put one and two together…this is the same person who went into sulk mode after I got married and didn’t talk to me for 6 months, then tried to make it out to be all my doing. This person can’t handle it not being all about them, and for that? They’re a lousy friend who has no sense of proportion, who has to be the centre of attention- and can get knotted. Afterall-it’s a bit of give and take in this world and she’s a drainer. Do I think that it’s me she’s avoiding? Yes-I do. I’m not available to meet her needs so am obsolete.

Kristie West May 28, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hi Frankie, this seems to be about way more than just this friends reaction to your grandmothers death. It seems there is loads more going on in this relationship and lots of obligation and resentment issues. Your grandmother’s death has just highlighted issues that are already there. Seperate to dealing with your grandmother’s death, this friendship might be something you want to figure out – do expectations need to change for it to work, are there changes or chats you can have, or do you want to keep it at all? In the middle of dealing with a death may or may not be the best time to try and sort friendships out too….but if it’s putting unnecessary stress on you on top of everything else it may require some thought now. One thing is that the people that piss us off most around a death sometimes provide us the much-needed outlet for anger and stress. I remember being furious and hurt by an ex-boyfriend after my dad’s death and when I look back I thank god for him because he was a way for me to release a lot of emotion that I didn’t feel safe to let out anywhere else.

Jewel Marie July 5, 2013 at 11:09 am

In response to: ” I don’t recommend writing everyone off as, like I said above, their behaviour shows you only how they feel about death…not how they feel about you.”
My “BFF” of over 30 years when asked why I’m being ignore after only
6 weeks laying my father down into the ground called me
“Childish, negative, mean, casing her grief she she has teenagers and she doesn’t need it. That my father is happy now and I should be too.”
This has hurt me to the core. I let her know it. She’s now told me
I have a choice, to get over it as she needs to be carefree and
happy and have zero turmoil in her life. She hasn’t spoken to me since.
30 years we’ve been friends. To me this is THE most selfish and hurtful
act. I suddenly believe I’ve been friends with a complete and total
selfish sociopath. I grieve my father and now my former “BFF” which I’ve always treated as a princess. I’ve always provided an “oasis” for her to escape to from her crazy life.
As a good or best friend it’s my opinion that you STEP UP to help your friends in a grief stricken state and love them and offer any assistance PERIOD. Get out of SELFISH mode and go to them…. Period!!! Love is an action…period and has everything to do with how someone cares about you… especially in grieving.

Clint September 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

My mother passed away from cancer 3 years ago when I was 27 and it was really painful. It was also painful when the friends I had would never check up on me. They didn’t call, text, visit me, nothing. I’m sure the reasons are more complex than simply not caring about me, and they had a lot of personal dramas going on themselves. But it would have felt good. It would have felt comforting. It’s what I needed and wanted. But I didn’t get it. I’m a lonely man. I live alone. I spend virtually all my time at home alone. I have no intimacy. I have no emotional outlet, As time goes on, I find myself less able to trust. You know that constant need some people have for re-assurance that they’re loved and cared about, like those with abandonment issues? Well, in the grief process, with a lack of close relationships, my lifelong struggle with abandonment and adult struggle with depression are all commingling now. But as I gave you in the example above, I have nobody to truly reach out to when I’m vulnerable. But wait, I’m a grown man, I’m not supposed to be vulnerable. And my friends don’t have to care.

Roxanne October 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I do agree with some of what you said, it is a new way to look at and explain some peoples strange behavior. BUT, I believe some people are selfish and when it no longer all about them they cannot hide it. It is a very sad realization. In my case I let so many things go over the years with my sister, so as not to make waves, I now realize I was the giver and I was the doormat. My sons death brought all of this to the surface……funny he pointed some of her behaviors out to me when he was alive but respectfully he kept it between us.. he did it for me.. and because he was a kind person. He was right about her…nothing from her since the funeral…zero…I hate that I ever invested any caring in her.

Sharon May 22, 2014 at 7:54 am

Hi there,

I am facing this also and I have to say I understand where you are coming from but I think advice like this enables people to be uncaring and insensitive. As a society we are not equipped to talk about death/grieving/loss etc. It’s taboo because it makes people feel uncomfortable or question their own mortality but guess what? It’s not about them! Most people (in my experience and sadly I have loads) either want to fix you or ignore you because it’s too hard for them and articles like this allow them it’s ok to be selfish, ignorant and insensitive when shouldn’t we be educating them instead to be more compassionate empathetic human beings. Like I said I understand what you are trying to say but to the grieving (me and sadly a lot of people visiting this site) it can come off as cookie cutter advise full of excuses that encourages and condones an even greater disconnect between people than already exists.

Kristie West May 22, 2014 at 9:00 am

Hi Sharon,
I understand that this wasn’t what you wanted to hear. It’s not what a lot of people want to hear. But it’s the truth. It doesn’t help you any if I say ‘yes some of your friends aren’t good friends and they should behave differently. Aren’t they terrible selfish people’…which I don’t believe anyway. That won’t change anything – this is still death, it is still beyond challenging for many people….and info telling you how things ‘should’ be just serves to bring people’s unrealistic expectations up….and ensure their pain and disappointment when these expectations aren’t met (which they never will be when you expect that everyone close to you should just deal with it and be there for you).
You get the choice here to take responsibility for your own feelings (or not) and realise that it is not the reactions of others that hurt you, it is YOUR unmet expectations of what others should be doing that create the pain and disappointment you feel. I’m sure there are a thousand articles you could read that will agree with you….but all that will do is make you more upset and disappointed…and more entitled to feel that way.
That might sound tough…but it’s tough love. I see how people suffer when others don’t react the way they want. Like I say, it isn’t up to them, it’s up to you.

chief July 10, 2014 at 2:52 am

Something like this just happened to me. Recently a relative was sick and in the hospital and when i tried to get a good friend of mine to come and talk and all that other fluffy things all they could reply is busy and not respond at all….then when i told him its all better he was super supportive and happy. Sometimes people handle things differently

Kristie West July 10, 2014 at 7:55 am

Hi Chief,
Precisely. Everyone deals with death differently.

Anonymous July 31, 2014 at 3:00 am

Thanks for your reply Kristie and I’m sorry this has taken me so long to write.

I do understand what you are saying and I most defintely don’t expect everyone to be there/understand/step up etc, just someone! In addition to not being there for myself (and my husband who is amazing) most of our friends and family have simply vanished, including my In-Laws.No Christmas/Birthday cards all of a suddn after 30 plus years of exchanging them etc. My husband is lucky enough to have ALL of his blood family, but with the exception of one brother I have lost ALL of my blood family including advanced pregnancies. Don’t get me wrong I feel very blessed because I have the most incredible husband and that alone makes me the luckiest girl in the world and the ones I have lost were all huge/loving parts of my life too and of course the pain I feel now is price of love they say. BUT it’s the people who have vanished from our lives, the ones who didn’t even have the decency to say sorry or send a message etc plus the ones who keep in touch but make it all about them and how hard their lives are etc that anger me the most. I feel like they are disrespecting my family (who were always there for the ones I am talking about) and just seem to have the “get on with it” attitude 2 weeks later 🙁 Perhaps I have missed the point completely or perhaps the trauma and loss has had too profound an affect on me to forgive or even want to understand what I perceive as selfish, disrespectful blase behaviour for long standing friends and inlaws ;-(

Kristie West August 6, 2014 at 6:23 am

Hi there,
The first step here is to realise why it would benefit YOU to not be angry/hurt anymore. Sometimes we can feel like we don’t want to let it go because we think they don’t deserve it..or we would be letting them for the hook. But holding on to it is only us hurting ourselves. The longer you keep the pain and anger…the longer you (not them) hurt you with it.
When you can really see that it would be the best thing for you to be able to let those feelings go…only then will you be able to see their actions in a different light and feel differently about them.
Focus on the first part…and the second will happen much more easily.

Anonymous August 28, 2014 at 6:21 am

I could never compare my ‘almost similar experience’ to the ones spoken of here. However I still struggle to understand why my two best friends (we were extremely close) told me they did not want to be friends with me whilst/because I was spiraling into depression? The fact that they did that made me a little worse for wear and I want to forgive them because I’m tired of feeling hate towards them, but I can’t.

Sally September 23, 2014 at 3:22 am

Hi Kristie,

Thank you for this post it was very insightful and relate-able. I recently lost my father in a car accident, and I am currently attending college. Being away from home is difficult and it is hard being surrounding by people who have not experienced death and how no idea how to treat you. Most of my friends have been wonderful and supportive, however my one roommate who I had considered one of my best friends has said nothing to me. It is painful and hurtful the way she has behaved towards me, she frequently leaves the room when I am home or will avoid me at all costs. It makes it difficult since we are roommates I have no choice but to be around her. While I do understand what you are saying that everyone deals with death differently and that placing anger on another person is not healthy and is just avoiding your own grief. But I think it is so selfish of that person to not be able to put their own fears/feelings aside to help a friend who really needs support. While I do agree that we have to deal with grief on our own and that whether we like it or not people will not be there for us in the ways we may want, I believe it is just making excuses for their hurtful actions. While I may understand the reasoning behind their actions, I still do not condone them. I really want to confront her about this, what are your thoughts about this?

Thanks for help,


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