My best friend died when we were only 25. It suddenly made me look at my life in a different light.

My best friend and I grew up on the same street and were inseparable as siblings (as cliche as that is to say). We were prone to the occasional squabble, usually over who deserved what first.

Born three days apart, we liked to go around telling everyone we were twins. Our mothers often joked that we must have been switched at birth because we were so disconcertingly alike, to the point where we would finish one another’s sentences.

We shared the same taste in music, the same sense of humor, and the same hungry curiosity for discovering what lay beyond our hometown.

In our early twenties, we both moved to New York to chase our dreams. She wanted to be an artist, and I was an aspiring writer.

We shared a tiny, poky apartment and spent our nights talking about art, literature, politics, whilst choking down tinned hotdog that tasted like cigarette butts and mush.

Then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.

Caught by a late night drunk driver, she was pronounced dead at the scene. She passed away just a few months after her 25th birthday. Her death was a shock that shattered my world, left me questioning everything, and filled me with so much anger that had no place to go.

In her absence, I found myself looking at my own life through a different lens. I started to question the choices I made, the dreams I chased, and even my own mortality.

The big city that we once found so exciting suddenly seemed overwhelming and meaningless without her, and even a lifelong sentence for the driver who had killed her didn’t quench the rage that consumed me whenever I thought of the person who had stolen such a young and innocent life.

If I’m honest, I spent most of a year rotting. I missed her. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I felt lonely, even with hordes of friends who turned up to try and piece me back together. I felt like the world was a desolate and cruel place.

After many months of rotting in bed, I began to reevaluate what truly mattered in life. The loss was a harsh wake-up call that eventually forced me to confront some uncomfortable truths about the way I was living my life.

So, this is my journey grappling with those truths and learning how to navigate life after losing my best friend at such a young age. It’s about the lessons I learned from her death, and how it compelled me to live more intentionally and authentically.

Coming to terms with losing my best friend

The days and weeks after the funeral were a blur.

I remember feeling numb and overwhelmed, unable to comprehend the enormity of my loss. I found myself going through the motions, unable to fully engage with the world around me.

I remember feeling excessively guilty, seeing all of her loved ones gathered together to celebrate her passing, all weeping and mourning and yet I was unable to shed even one tear.

I’d wake up in our shared apartment, half-expecting to see her in the kitchen making coffee or seated by her paints, staring out the window with her face smeared with various colorful paints.

But she was gone, the paints lay stagnant, and the emptiness of the apartment was a constant reminder of her absence.

I couldn’t work nor write, so I started spending a lot of time out of the apartment in parks or on street corners, just sitting on a bench or a cafe table and watching people. I’d watch these random passersby laugh, argue, walk their funny little dogs, and go about their lives as if everything was normal.

It felt surreal, watching life go on without my best friend. I was jealous of how simple and easy their lives seemed, how vibrant and colorful whilst mine turned grayer and grayer with each passing day.

Eventually, whilst sitting amongst pigeons in Central Park, I realized that I was wasting my own life away. There was no way she would have wanted that for me.

She was always so full of life, so passionate about making the most of every moment, and even though she was gone, I owed it to her to pick myself back up and start living.

I decided to make changes. I began to write more seriously, dedicating hours each day to my craft. It came slowly at first, but the words began to trickle out.

I started traveling more, beyond park benches and people-watching and began exploring new places and cultures – something she and I had always dreamed of doing together.

lonely in life but never open up about it My best friend died when we were only 25. It suddenly made me look at my life in a different light.

The misunderstanding of grief

When she passed away, people met me with sad faces and commiserations, often saying things little sayings you find on the inside of cards or on cheesy Pinterest bords.

“Time heals all wounds”, and all that.

They assured me that as time passed, the pain would lessen, and I would someday move on.

And so I waited for this shroud of despair to lift and for life to go back to normal. But as months turned into a year, I realized this wasn’t entirely accurate.

She was still gone.

The gaping hole her death left in my life didn’t shrink or evaporate with time. Instead, I learned to live around it. To live with it.

I still stumbled into a gallery filled with paintings by her favorite artist and was reminded of her absence once again. I didn’t get out of bed for 3 days afterward.

At diners and restaurants, I still ordered grilled cheese and thought of her, letting my tears cover the soggy bread.

In time, these occasions became fewer and further between, but the memories still came. Her absence became a part of my existence, a part of who I was becoming.

I was not just moving on from her death, but growing and changing in its aftermath while carrying the hole with me.

I realized the common belief that grief has an expiration date, is a flawed one.

We tend to assume that we can simply leave our loved ones and our pain in the past, that eventually, the emptiness will end. But the reality is that we carry them with us in every step we take forward.

I realize now that it’s okay to not “get over” my best friend’s death, and that I needn’t feel guilty for not being entirely able to let her go.

I stopped desperately trying to let her go and embraced the things she had taught me instead. A part of her will always be inside me, and I know that I can honor her memory and keep her alive by living a life she would be proud of.

Embracing change and honoring a lost friend

I allowed myself time to grieve and to collect myself, and then gradually, I started picking myself back up again.

I didn’t want to live on anyone else’s terms, but I asked myself what she would’ve wanted – already knowing the answer deep down. She would be proud of a life lived fully and passionately, without fear of failure or rejection.

I started making small but significant changes. I began to take my writing seriously, setting aside time each day to work on short stories and poems and pushing past the writer’s block that had blanketed my passion after her death.

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, attending writing workshops and seeking feedback from other writers.

I also started traveling more. She and I had always dreamed of seeing the world together. Now, I made it a point to visit a new place every year, carrying her memory with me on each trip so that she too could see a part of what she had always dreamed of.

But perhaps the most important change was the shift in my mindset. Instead of trying to forget about her, I embraced her memory. I allowed myself to grieve, to feel the pain of her loss, but also to celebrate her life.

If you’re dealing with a similar loss, the best advice I can impart is that it’s okay not to move on in the traditional sense.

Sometimes, the best way to honor our lost loved ones is by living our lives in a way that they would be proud of. 

Life after death

While I couldn’t control the fact that she was gone, I have eventually learned to think for myself.

I realized that a lot of my beliefs – about grief, about life – were shaped by societal expectations and cultural programming, even when they didn’t fit my experience or help me in the slightest.

By questioning these beliefs, I was able to live life on my own terms.

The most important takeaways I have gathered that might also apply to you:

  • It’s okay not to be okay when you’re grieving.
  • Blind positivity isn’t helpful. Instead, face the reality of your situation.
  • Pursue your own ambitions and desires, not those imposed by others.
  • Seek self-empowerment by breaking free from societal expectations.
  • Embrace practical self-development over feel-good mysticism.
  • Dedicate time daily to practice self-improvement techniques.

Grief is hard. There is no sudden moment at which it releases you from its sharp claws and sets you free.

But, you can learn to live with it. To learn from it, and to grow.

If you’re dealing with a similar situation, remember that you have the power to shape your own reality.

Don’t let societal expectations or external influences dictate how you should live your life or grieve your loss.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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