Death of A Friend

Death of a close friend ‘can impact health for  up to four years

BBC Report 13 May 2019

   The research was carried out by Stirling University and Australian National University

The death of a close friend can have an impact on health and wellbeing for up to four years, research has found.

Academics also suggest women experience worse effects than men.

They collected data from 26,515 people over 14 years, and found a range of negative consequences experienced by those who had a close friend die.

In the four years after a death, significantly adverse wellbeing was found in people both physically and psychologically.

Dr Liz Forbat, of Stirling University, said: “Much of the previous research around grief and bereavement has focused on the death of an immediate relative, often a spouse.

“We all know that when a partner, child or parent dies that the bereaved person is likely to grieve and feel worse for some time afterwards.

“The impact of the death of a friend, which most of us will experience, is not afforded the same sense of seriousness.

“There are pronounced declines in the health and wellbeing of people who’d had a friend die in the previous four years, yet employers, GPs and the community aren’t focused on providing support to bereaved friends.”

Mental health

For women who experienced the death of a close friend there was a sharper drop in vitality, and they suffered a greater deterioration in mental health, the researchers found.

Dr Forbat added: “The death of a friend is a form of disenfranchised grief – one not taken so seriously or afforded such significance.

“This means their grief might not be openly acknowledged or expressed, and the impact trivialised.

“This research proves that the death of a friend matters and, as a universal human experience, the findings are applicable internationally.

“Our study suggests there is a need to ensure that services are available to assist people who have experienced the death of a friend, to help them develop necessary support networks.”

The research – Death of a Close Friend: Short and Long-term Impacts on Physical, Psychological and Social Well-being – was carried out by Stirling University and Australian National University, and is to be published by scientific journal Plos One.

My  friend Sam
Alex James Gives Her View
I was recently invited  to give my thoughts on the above article on radio London ( Vanessa Feltz ) . Due to other commitments, I wasn’t able to chat on air but I did listen with interest to the show.
The above photograph is of my friend Sam and I. Regular readers of my articles and followers of will know that Sam used to work alongside me on this website as a holistic practitioner. She was also one of my closest friends. Sam died of bowel cancer in her mid thirties, after a long tenacious fight for life. Her death was shocking even, though we knew it was inevitable – it was devastating for her family and her friends.
I miss her very much and in answer to the above press article ‘it can take up to four years’ I’d say it will be  longer.
Do I miss her every day … no … I miss her at times when I’d usually call her to tell her something, or ask her advice or just gossip. I miss her at times when I need her support … her lovely inspirational overview of something. I miss her stories … her recipes and her fb antics. Sam is missing in my world.
I remember when she died feeling totally emotionally broken, feeling I ought not to be so upset. It wasn’t the hierarchy of her being just my friend that caught me, but of where in her group of closest, nearest and dearest, my grief belonged. Ought I to be so very upset? – after all we didn’t see each other all of the time.
Vanessa’s discussion was about whether the loss of a friend gives us entitlement to be grieving … Should we expect the same consideration from those around us when a friend dies as we might if it were a family member?
I think how we grieve is personal and unique to each of us, it’s as  individual as our relationship with the person who has died. I accept that society may indeed believe that there is a hierarchy of grief, but seriously, who are we to judge what a relationship may or may not mean to another human being?
I think we all need to learn more about death, dying and bereavement. To enable our understanding of loss, we  need to recognise that what may be a devastating loss to one person may not be so for another and vice versa.
What’s really interesting is that people are starting to recognise that bereavement is a process … not something you get over. The space that is left is always present, and for each of us how we manage loss and enable ourselves to live alongside the absence of a loved one  is an extremely  personal journey.
Alex James