Coping with the Death of a Friend

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Casual friend I like a lot is dying

April 2003

A woman I know is dying of cancer. We have a relationship for business reasons, so we aren't quite as intimate as friends...but I really like her and relate to her and always have nice conversations with her. This woman is very open about what is going on with her health, although she hasn't come right out and said ''I'm dying.'' I think she's one of those people who think, ''I'm living,'' no matter what stage of life they are in. But she has told me to spend as much time with my kids as I possibly can. My family really likes her family, her in particular. She and her husband have been very good to us in our business relationship. Our daughters have played together. But they live hundreds of miles away, where they have a huge support network. Given all this, what can I do for her, or give her, or them--especially her kids, aged about 6 and 8 years old? What would be helpful? Appropriate? A right-sized token of my appreciation of her? All suggestions much appreciated.

When my mother was fighting cancer, the best things she received from friends were truly touches from the heart: a card or letter expressing their love/fondness for her, a video of a friend's school kids singing to her, a picture of her favorite place and friends toasting her. The fact that you are taking the time to find out what to send tells me you know what to do... just talk or write from your heart. Justi

I commend you for wanting to keep your connection to your friend in this time. I was full of ideas until I got to the part about your friend living hundreds of miles away; that makes things much more difficult.

For starters, I would recommend telling her exactly what you have told us: that the relationship is meaningful to you, and in this time in her life you would like to be able to help her.

>From my experiences with dying family and friends, just keeping in touch on a regular basis is very valuable. You do notice who stays in your life and who fades away at these times. If you have e-mail contact, that is a great medium, because the family can read and respond on their own time table.

Is there any way through your business that you can make life easier for her and her family? Best of luck. Jodie

This sounds so sad. But it also sounds like your friend has a good support system going for her. What if you just broke through the protocol of business relationships and just flat out tell or write to the friend to let her know how much she means to you and what an inspiration she is. Another idea is to do something for her children--write up some of your favorite memories of your friend, include pictures, or comments, things like that. Give it to the children so that they can have more to look at as they remember their mom.

I guess the tricky thing is that she has not flat out told you that she is dying, and you don't want to step across a line. You could still tell your friend how much you value her--how much better to tell her if she can be a friend for years. And you could still write up the memories, but maybe keep them with YOU until her children need such things. Carolyn