How can we overcome the death of a friend?

Mourning a family member is commonly accepted. This is much less the case when it's a friend. What is the nature of this penalty? Don Thomas Lapenne's answer on RCF's Sanctuaires normands program.

Mourning a family member is widely considered as acceptable. But mourning a friend is much less so. What is the nature of such sorrow? How can we overcome the death of a friend? Don Thomas Lapenne answers on RCF’s Sanctuaires normands program.

What sort of pain is it?

The loss of a friend is a real bereavement. It is a separation that can be tragic because the friend is a person who was close to us. Through friendship, they inhabited our heart, our life, our worries, our interests. As a result, experiencing the departure of a friend makes grief even deeper.

As he was faced with the death of a friend, St Augustine wrote in his Confessions: “The lost life of those who die becomes the death of those who live.” The physical disappearance of a friend, he explains, leads to a form of inner death for the living, although the relationship is not lost. It continues to exist through another dimension that is not sentient. It’s a presence in the one who gives us life: Christ.

Losing a friend is losing a large part of ourselves

Losing a friend is like losing a part of yourself,” explains St Gregory of Nazianzus in his Funeral Oration for Saint Basil. The two had studied philosophy together and were very close. Gregory describes how, with Basil’s death, he felt “half-dead and half-amputated“. With the loss of a friend, a part of myself – my confidences, my life – vanishes with him and remains in his heart forever.

A misunderstood grief?

The mourning of a friend is often misunderstood, because friendship implies an intimacy that few people can comprehend from the outside. Indeed, friendship is undoubtedly the greatest bond that can exist between two human beings (even spouses can experience it).

What is the relationship with a friend who is no more?

Friendship no longer manifest itself as it used to through meetings, activities and confidences. Death has cut off this sensitive dimension of humanity. But the friendship is preserved in its spiritual dimension. Another relationship emerges, which is another way of entering into friendship, through thoughts and memories. It will also exist through faith, meaning through Christ by whom the friendship was built, as well as through the communion of saints.

In friendship, love is equivalent to benevolence, i.e. wanting someone else’s good, based on the sharing of something we own in common. The greatest good we can share in friendship is God, Christ, and our hankering for eternal life. This can be achieved beyond death through prayer, thanksgiving and gratitude, and also through hope. We can be hopeful that this friendship, which was once beautiful and blessed by God, will be preserved in Heaven and transfigured by God’s limitless love. Thus, this friendship will continue forever and enter eternity.

Advice for overcoming the pain of separation

You can write to your friend as a way of remembering what you have experienced together. I think that remembering the beautiful things that helped us grow, in a spirit of gratitude, is important.

I don’t think I ever lost any friend“.

Alec Guinness is a famous film actor who converted to Catholicism. In his memoirs, he wrote: “Leaving friends behind must be sad and bitter, even if we know that many have gone triumphantly before us; even if in some mysterious way we keep in touch with them. If there’s one thing I can boast about in this life, it is this: I don’t think I ever lost any friend.” He claims that, even if they are physically absent, friends continue to exist in our hearts and prayers, in a communion of holiness, a desire of heaven and eternal life.

A prayer to overcome the death of a friend


The death of my friend is a painful mystery to me. Come and soothe my heart, so that I may move forward in this time of grief.

I thank you for the life my friend had. Thank you for the moments you gave us to share together, which allowed us to experience true joy.

From now on, please welcome your child in your proximity and allow him or her to partake in your infinite love.

Increase my confidence in the promise of eternal life.

Help me pass on to others the happiness I’ have shared with my friend. May the gifts you gave us reflect on those around us.

Lord, hear my prayer for the soul of my friend, for the dead of our families and for all our loved ones who continue their journey on earth. Let them walk in confidence until the day they meet you.


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