3/3/2021 | By Terri L. Jones

My mother recently texted me an old photo of her and her best friend of 60-plus years, Sue. The photo, which was taken at a friend’s beach house, showed two tanned, fun-loving 50-somethings mugging for the camera, Sue’s arm wrapped affectionately around my mom’s waist.

While the photo recalled the two friends having the time of their lives, Mom wrote: “This picture makes me so sad.” Sue passed away from brain cancer five years ago, and my mother still struggles with the loss to this day. As we get older, losing old friends becomes so difficult.

No One Knows You Better

When you experience the loss of a friend you’ve had for decades – through puberty, marriage, kids, divorce, illness, you name it – that loss can leave a gaping hole. That lifelong friend doesn’t just know you … they get you! And that depth of familiarity makes you feel recognized, understood and most importantly, valued.

Aristotle aptly described this level of friendship as “a single soul in two bodies.”  

Your Circle of Friends Is Shrinking

My 84-year-old aunt experienced the same kind of loss just months ago, when her dear friend Betty passed away from COVID. Aunt Ginny had known Betty since the two worked at the telephone company in their 20s. Both widowed, the pair had dinner together every week. It was a huge blow for my aunt, who wrote on her Facebook page, “We are going to miss you, never forget you and hold you in our hearts forever!”

Part of the reason losing old friends is so much more profound when you’re older is quite simply because you have fewer friends still around. My aunt has a lot of friends and acquaintances, but when it came to besties, only two were left: Betty and another friend, Alice. The trio called themselves the Three Musketeers. Now only two musketeers remain.

Losing Old Friends: You’re Not Invincible Either

When your peers start passing away, you are also forced to confront your own mortality. The ole “there but for the grace of God go I” mentality really kicks in.

My aunt has had a stroke and breast cancer. She has spinal stenosis that makes every movement painful. Plus, thanks to hips and knees that should’ve been replaced years ago, she recently fell and was left with a huge goose egg and black eye. However, she has an indomitable spirit (if asked, she’ll tell you she still feels like she’s 30, except she can’t walk). But the death of her best friend made her pause and take stock.

Time to Make New Friends

When a best friend dies, you feel you’ll never have a friend like that again. Sadly, you’re probably right. Soul-deep friendships are forged over years and countless shared experiences. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to cultivate new friendships, as each will be important in its own right.

As C.S. Lewis put it: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art … it has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones