Losing a best friend

June 24, 2023 By Sarah
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My worst fear growing up was losing my parents. In my head, the grief of losing parents was the grief I was terrified to experience. I did not think that losing a best friend would be just as hard. I mean you are raised with them and know them longer – of course it would be worse. Or maybe I just never envisioned losing my best friend.

Missy and I are from a small village (now town) 25 minutes outside of Columbus. We grew up off of a one lane, dead-end road that was also off of another one lane road. I loved my childhood. There is something about growing up in the country that made me feel like I was in the movie “Now and Then.”

One of the best parts of the growing up where we did is the friendships we made. My graduating class was small – only 88 people. We all grew up together. We had lost a few classmates before and it was really hard – even if we were not close. It just felt like losing a distant relative. Someone who was a part of your core memories. Someone’s whose parents may have been your coach or chaperoned a field trip. Everyone knew everyone, and while it had its downfalls, it also felt a little like family?

My best friends are made up of the core group of friends I have had since eighth grade, plus a few that I have become close with through college or work and they ended up intertwined in our group. Last year, on August 7th, we lost Mindy unexpectedly. She was 37. And I had known her since kindergarten, became friends in fourth grade, best friends in 8th grade.

My best friends

When I was younger and in elementary school, my best friends were the ones that were closest to my house. However, I still knew everyone in my grade and may have been friends with them at school. That is how I met Mindy. We went to the same school since kindergarten and in fourth-grade, her grandma started to babysit us. Our friend groups were different, but would still intertwine. It was not until 8th grade that we would start to regularly hang out.

Mindy’s house was the slumber party house – she had a split level, so lots of different rooms for us to hang out in and she had an above ground pool – the perfect recipe for staying up late, eating Flavor Ice and pretending to be Spice Girls. Since Mindy’s birthday was in late June, I always associate this time of year with her birthday slumber parties. Even as we grew older, we always tried to celebrate each others birthdays, but hers was always the most fun because it fell during the best time of year in Central Ohio.

Grief milestones

I learned when grieving my parents there are your typical milestones or holidays that you hate – November and December are some of the hardest times for me because we lost my mom after Thanksgiving and my dad ten days before Christmas. Not only that, but they are some of the best memories I have as a child and adult.

My family never really made too big of a deal of our birthdays, so while I thought of them on their birthdays, it was never too hard on me like I thought it would be. I mean I still think of them and I still remember how for every birthday my mom bought her favorite cake ( Giant Eagle white almond cake – IYKYK) to celebrate everyone’s birthday. Not because she cared that much about birthdays, but more so so she could have her favorite cake.

Mindy’s birthday is tomorrow and it has me feeling so many different emotions. Mindy loved her birthday. We loved her birthday. We loved celebrating her birthday. Her birthday is associated with so many happy. memories that I have or ones that make me laugh. Losing a best friend is so hard.

Friendship grief

Losing my best friend made me realize that she raised me too. I did not have a relationship with my mom that Rebecca has with me. We were not close in a ” I tell my parents everything” kind of way. But I could go to her if something was wrong. But heartbreak? That was not something I went through with my parents. That was something I went through with my friends.

I could tell Mindy anything. She would always listen. And she would always come up with creative ways to distract me from heartbreak. All my friends did. We were always there for each other. Protected each other. Made each other laugh when we needed it. Would tell each other if something was a bad idea. Make fun of each other in a loving, sibling kind of way. And give honest feedback that only best friends could give. We learned from each others mistakes. We learned from each other successes.

Until Mindy passed, I did not understand the significant impact my friendships have made on my life. My parents always get credit for raising us to be a loving family, and that is definitely one of their legacies. But they also get credit for teaching us how to surround ourselves with people who can help raise us the rest of the way. The way that only friends can raise you.

My Mindy

Mindy was an artist. I remember in 4th grade when we all had to make a fairytale book. She was the only 4th grader to make a black and white fairytale about how the rhino found its horn. She went to college to become a writer, but ended up majoring in art. Mindy created this whole world called “Pretend World,” indicated by a P in a shield. and Pretend World is where Mindy lived. She created so many pieces of art and even wrote a book on creativity and making art. It was over my head at the time, but now I get it.

We were always so proud of her. But she always suffered from imposter syndrome, even in her own world. She wanted to create for herself, but was so afraid of creating for others as she did not want to disappoint someone with something that meant so much to her.

After Mindy passed, I told myself I needed to do more to explore art. To support artists. I bought my first piece of art from an exhibition in the art gallery in the American Airlines Concourse at the Columbus Airport. $250. But the piece made me smile and evoked feelings of nostalgia and happiness.

Her website, MindyRoth.com is still up. I love to visit and see more meaning in her older work than I did before. I miss her so much.

How to support grieving parents

Since her birthday is tomorrow, I wanted to ensure that I sent something to her parents to let them know that I am thinking of her and them. I asked followers if they had any ideas and I heard from a few people who lost siblings and what their parents enjoyed the most. Their parents enjoyed spending time with the friends. They looked forward to it. They wanted to know what was going on in their lives. They wanted to hear memories. They probably saw some of their child in their friends.

Other suggestions:

  • A card with memories and letting them know how much you think of her
  • Flowers
  • Windchimes
  • Pictures/Videos
  • Tree or plant that will grow every year
  • Dinner
  • Spending time with them

My group of friends decided we are sending flowers on her birthday. Then we are meeting up with them for dinner and pizza from the hometown pizza place and gifting them a gift card to a local nursery to find some plants that will remind them of Mindy.

How to support your own grief

Everyone is different. But for me, writing it all out always helps me. I woke up this morning with a tight chest and the sadness buried in my heart. Writing forces me to remember the memories and the words just flow out. Writing has always been hard for me, but forcing myself to write makes me let go of the notion that you have to be a good writer to write. You write for yourself. Not for anyone else.

I have been reading the book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again. Not surprisingly it is taking me a long to get through because… well I cannot focus. One of the things the author talks about is how as a society we always have to multi-task. Or be productive. And it is so true – if I am doing nothing it feels like it is not productive enough and then I feel guilty for doing nothing. But we need that idleness to be able to focus and think deeply.

So when I came upon one of Mindy’s excerpts from her book, I Found the P, on idleness, I thought – wow. This is exactly what the book is talking about. And it is exactly something that I rarely let myself do. It is like she is talking to me and telling me what I need to hear again. Because I still need her advice.

Leaving you with this from Mindy: