How do I honour my friend?
February 27, 2013 1:13 PM   Subscribe

My friend died last week. We had been living in different countries for the past few months; we were still in contact up until a few weeks ago. His death was sudden and unexpected. He was far too young to die. I can't go to any of the memorials (he was one of those people who knew like, thousands of people, so people seemingly everywhere on earth are doing stuff) and I won't be going to the funeral. I didn't know his family and even though we were roommates, we had very few friends in common.

What can I do by myself as a way to say goodbye to him? I'm sending condolence cards to his family, but I want to actually do something because I feel so removed from everything. Is there any kind of ritual I can do that I can do to commemorate his life and celebrate the time we spent together? For example, when Heath Ledger died I watched the Brothers Grimm. But clearly, Heath Ledger meant much, much less to me than my friend. I will be doing this solo.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Human Relations (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do something that you haven't done in awhile that you'd both enjoy in his honor.

Donate some money in his name to a charity he believed in.

Plant a tree for him.

Write honestly about what you'll miss about him and what his life meant to you.

Don't forget about him.

Or do all of these things. Do what feels right. There's no way to skip directly to the last stage of grief. There's no right or wrong way to feel.

My condolences and my best to you.
posted by inturnaround at 1:18 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had a friend die last year in kind of the same situation. Young, lived in a different country, they had a thousand friends doing a thousand different things. Honestly, I didn't find much that was helpful for me until the Day of the Dead rolled around, and I built a little altar in my house with photos of him (and other people who had died that year) and sat around with friends/family (and everyone's favourite food/drinks) where we all talked about the different people we had lost that year. None of the people who were there knew my friend.

November's a long time away, but it's just a date. I only picked Day of the Dead because it seemed like an easy entry point into finding some personal way to process. I hope you find something that helps you commemorate your friend.
posted by Jairus at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Whatever it is that you enjoyed doing with him, do it by yourself (or not by yourself!) Maybe it is eating in a particular restaurant, maybe it is taking a particular walk or drive, maybe it is sitting at home and watching a particular movie. Whatever that is, regardless of how trivial it may seem, do it. There is no such thing as an unsatisfactory commemoration of someone's life if you genuinely mean it.
posted by griphus at 1:27 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

You don't have to be religious to walk into a church, synagogue or other similar building to sit in quiet contemplation, light a candle, and mark the moment. Optionally, you can go to a bar and get really really drunk in your friend's memory. I've done both.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:31 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Find the obit and see if the family names a charity to give to (usually in lieu of flowers). Contribute.

Also, what DarlingBri said.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:37 PM on February 27, 2013

I often donate in memory or in honor of my grandmother, dad, or mother, all of whom I miss to this day. I do this with charities that I know my beloved departed would like themselves.

I'd also take some time with the condolence cards, and perhaps keep your own copy. Put in your best memories or most loved qualities of your friend.

Also, if you are looking for a way to grieve (always tough, which is why there are memorial services), I'll tell you it helped me a ton to talk to my dog.
posted by bearwife at 1:39 PM on February 27, 2013

Start a list of your favorite memories involving him, add to it whenever you have a chance, and read it at least once a year -- his birthday would be a good anniversary to use. It's a bit like saying, "What's up, buddy? Remember that one time we...?" even though you can't speak to him directly. You could also share those memories with his family when you send your condolence cards; even though you don't know them, it will likely bring comfort to know their child was so dearly loved by those who knew him.

After a terrifyingly young friend of mine passed away due to a very sudden and wholly unexpected massive heart attack, and word went around, a bunch of folks got together and organized a 5K as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. So if your friend's death was due to a particular accident, illness, or circumstance, you could run/walk/bike/&c. a 5K or something similar to raise money in prevention/honor of that cause. It might be a one-off, or it could become the First Annual 5K (or whatever) For [your friend]. If you're able to reach out to them via social networking, his other geographically disparate friends could contribute to your fundraiser or start similar events in other locations.
You could also raise funds to create a scholarship in a/the field he knew very well, worked in, and/or simply loved -- his memory could inspire and help people for generations to come.

Light a candle, burn some sage, pour out some of his favorite top-shelf liquor (or soda, or water) and say goodbye to him out loud, as many times and for as long as you need to, using whatever sort of words come to mind: funny, maudlin, somber, tender, or raucous. Grief is one hell of a rollercoaster ride, so don't be surprised by the wildness of your emotions as they ebb and flow.

I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by divined by radio at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2013

If it were me and I was looking for some sort of ritual, I would invite some of my local friends, even ones who did not know the deceased, to a nearby watering hole to do a few shots in his memory. Then I would tell a few funny stories or great remembrances of the former roommate and take a final shot (that night) in his memory and go home and shed a tear or 1,000.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:53 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Write as many memories about him as you can think of, and put them in a sealed envelope to open in a few years' time. Hide that envelope away and schedule yourself to open that up and remember your friend on that date.
posted by xingcat at 2:11 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had a long distance relationship with a boyfriend for about 1 1/2 years. It ended when he died in an accident. None of my friends knew him (he was working on getting papers to visit/stay in the US with me) and only a couple of people knew he had died. I couldn't make it back to any of his services because his family didn't have a phone (this was before cell phones were common) etc. By the time they called me the service was the next day and I couldn't get flights.

That next month I took a solo trip to his country. I visited places we spent time together and visited his grave. I think it was important to really take time to acknowledge his passing because in the days right after his death it was surreal. I was just going along my life, work, etc with almost no one knowing that my significant other had died. He was there and then just silence. I expected him to call sometimes. It's almost like the memorial service/wake/funerals are a really great way of slapping you in the face and saying "THIS IS REAL!". It makes you deal with it. After I sat weeping at his grave, crying on the bus and sobbing on hikes where we used to go, I got it. It really did provide closure.

Maybe dedicate a day, spending time alone, doing things that represents him. Something he loved...the outdoors, museums, music?

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by beccaj at 2:11 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been through this and it sucks.

I like the idea of throwing a little party in his honor with friends in your location. "Y'all didn't know him, but I wish you had, here's why..."

Buy a few bottles of something really special to share with your friends, or cook something really delicious and complicated, or do something symbolic that he would have especially appreciated.

Perhaps continue the evening with a screening of a film you enjoyed together, or something like that. Low key, with friends, enjoying something special.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:14 PM on February 27, 2013

A friend of mine from back home died when I was in college. I was able to go to the service, but I was not in a place where a Christian funeral was anything like helpful to me. I did/do two things that help:
1) I had a friend who is a practicing pagan help me organize a ritual that made sense to me and brought me a lot of closure.
2) I write a card to the deceased's mother (who I was close with before) every year on the deceased's birthday. It's at least as much about me taking time to remember her as it is about writing a sweet card to her mother. It forces me to take time out once a year and focus on this person who was such an important part of my adolescence. Some variation on this -- maybe writing in a journal annually, or writing a letter you don't send -- could be helpful.
posted by linettasky at 2:32 PM on February 27, 2013

Write (not a sympathy card, not an email, not a phone call: a genuine old-fashioned letter) to his family, and tell them all about how much your friend meant to you. Write about things you did together, places you enjoyed, things he helped you with.
posted by easily confused at 4:43 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

When a dear friend passed while I was far away, I was gratified that some clever and sensitive souls had the idea to take a portion of her beloved marble collection to a local beach to "seed" the water with a special ingredient for beach glass. An invite went out to her immense network of grieving loved ones to mirror this act at the nearest large body of water, regardless of position to the ocean.

It was very healing.

Combined with recounting memories in writing and sharing them with others who miss her and making and enjoying things she made and enjoyed (self-care potions, scarves), this was a pretty potent mix for freeing her spark without releasing her spirit in my life.

Finally, I did a big craft project where I made a thing to send to others who cared about her, and that seemed to really close the loop for me.

I hope that whatever you choose to do out of all of these ideas, you are able to find comfort. May the best memories of your friend remain crystal clear, always.
posted by batmonkey at 10:01 PM on February 27, 2013

Can you go to a body of water?

Alternately, is there somewhere nearby with big awesome trees?

I like nature.

I would either (a) throw a picture of that person smiling into the surf, or (b) bury that picture in a field of flowers or at the base of a tree. I'm Scottish, so if I had a designated driver, some booze and a toast would be involved. If not booze, then a prayer or mediation... Or all three.

I would also find a rock or shell from the site of the ritual to take home as a rememberance.
posted by jbenben at 1:23 AM on February 28, 2013

I'm very sorry that your friend has died. This has happened to me, too, within the past month. I was fortunate enough to get to the memorial, which helped me a great deal emotionally, but I also feel the need to do a little more to honor my friend.

--I'm sending mementos to his kids and am composing a letter to them, mostly about the stuff he and I did when we were the age his kids are now.

--I sent the spouse a couple of hundred dollars and suggested she spend it purely for something frivolous. She's a really responsible person and has weathered this storm with aplomb and dignity. She deserves a moment of respite.

But for me, I'm doing the following: Everyone has an internal "jury" inside their head. Whenever an important decision or choice comes up, we ask ourselves, "what would X think (or do) about this?" My friend now has a formal seat on my internal jury. (Re-reading this last bit, it sounds a little silly. Nonetheless, it works for me.)
posted by CincyBlues at 4:26 AM on February 28, 2013

When this happened to me, I went to a local rocky beach with a sharpie. I hiked along the beach, found a pretty spot, and built an inukshuk. Then I found a flat rock and used the sharpie to write a letter to my friend on it - everything that I wanted to say to her, how sorry I was that I hadn't been there for her, how much I missed her, happy memories I had of her. Then I had a good long cry and left the message at the foot of the inukshuk.
posted by jlibera at 7:26 AM on February 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for sharing all your experiences and your kind wishes. All of your suggestions were also great. I'm not marking a best answer because I love them all, but for my friend I will be doing a combination of jilibera, jbenben, johnnygunn and jairus's suggestions (and no, I did not intentionally pick them to make an alliteration ;-); there are a bunch of valleys near me, and I'll take a picture of him as well as a letter to him to bury. I will also bring beer for the both of us (we drank beer together a lot) to pour libation; and I'll find something that I can keep from the location. I plan to do that by myself in the morning, and then invite people over at night to get drink and talk.

Seriously, thanks to everyone.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 11:39 AM on March 3, 2013

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