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The Loss of Friends Is Inevitable but It Hurts No Less

By Ann Richardson January 16, 2024 Family

I like being old. At 80+, I think I am allowed to say so. Indeed, I like being old so much that I wrote a book about it.

But that doesn’t mean that everything about being old is wonderful.

Far from it.

And one of the things I like least is the loss of friends.

Phone Bills

Roughly 20 years ago, I was chatting to a very reflective female friend of my parents, living in the same retirement community and aged 96.

My father had just died, and I noted that I had run up a large phone bill talking to his friends about the event, as well as phoning home to talk to my family.

She said anyone should consider themselves lucky to have a high phone bill. At her time of life, her phone bills were very low, because she had so few friends left to talk to.

Interestingly, that small detail brought home the point very vividly.

Friends Gone

Clearly, one of the very sad aspects of growing older is the slowly mounting deaths among friends.

Each and every loss diminishes our lives a little bit more. These may be old friends we have known from childhood or someone who we just met, but had connected with and held high hopes for a lasting friendship.

I guess it is just down to luck as to whether you have lost a lot of friends over your life or just a few. I have been relatively lucky in this respect, but nonetheless, they do add up.

What somehow surprises me is how many varying circumstances there are.

You might think a death is a death is a death.

But that is not how it is. Indeed, each one seems surprisingly different.

A Death from AIDS

There is the death of my friend who had been living with AIDS since I met him, about whom I have written before. He was very young and that made it especially poignant.

He would sit in my kitchen and talk about all manner of things, but more than once he just looked at me and said, “It’s not so much to ask, I just want my life.”

And he was right. At 30, you should have a life to look forward to.

An Old Friend from College

Perhaps my greatest loss was of a friend from college, who I had known for over 50 years. We had seen each other through various early boyfriends, then marriage, then children and eventually grandchildren.

She was a very deep person, perhaps not surprisingly as she was a therapist, and rarely did ‘small talk’.

We once met for lunch when we had not seen each other for five years. I went to her office, she put on her coat and walking up the road, immediately launched into a discussion of her worries about one of her daughters.

None of the usual “How was your flight?” which I always find boring. Who cares about my flight!?

She died from lung cancer, having lived a long time in its wake.

The Conductor of My Choir

People often feel a sense of kinship with the conductor of their choir (or orchestra). You see them frequently for rehearsals – often over many years – and music brings its own intimacy.

I had been singing with his choir for roughly 25 years. And he had a wonderful twinkle in his eye.

In addition, the man had been very helpful to my son, and we had become friends. We socialised together with our respective spouses. I had helped him out when his wife died of cancer.

He had TB, contracted when, as a young man, he helped a homeless man find a shelter for the night. As such, he would have undoubtedly been a likely candidate for Covid-19.

But he was already going downhill in his mid-70s and increasingly needed help with his breathing. He died before Covid was on the horizon.

Much of the choir could not sing certain music without tears in their eyes.

A Fellow Writer

And there are the sudden unexpected deaths. I had a writer friend, to whom I wasn’t very close, but we enjoyed each other’s company.

He lived alone, had many friends and learned about a year or so ago that he had an inoperable brain tumour and would not live for more than a few weeks.

I can just envisage him wondering what to do. His solution – surprising at the time, but actually very sensitive and sensible – was to post a notice to this effect on his Facebook page.

He also said “thank you” to all his friends. This gave everyone an opportunity to write kind or thoughtful words to him while he was still alive, while I am sure his closest friends rallied around.

The Loss of Friends

One by one, they drop out of your life.

You want to tell them something, but they are not there to hear. Or you want their advice, but they are not there to give it.

I want them all back.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you lost many friends over the years? Did you find every circumstance to be different?

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Brigitte Spinda

Very nice article that really hit home. Lost my Mom, my Dad and my very best friend and college roommate. Each on took a piece of me. I still sometimes pick up the phone to call and realize I don’t have a direct line to heaven. I try to live my life the best I can to honor them.


Thank you for this article. I have lost family and friends I get lonely for them. I wonder what my life would be like if they were still here. I trust God has a plan not that I am always in agreeance yet I trust he knows best. I Thank God everyday that I am here with our two sons and their families. I am a believer those that have left they are with us. I talk to them especially my mom. I understand so much more of her now then when she was here, maybe that was the plan. In the closure I miss them everyday…

Teddee Grace

“You want to tell them something, but they are not there to hear.” That really struck a chord with me. I will be 80 in March and was the middle child of three. My older sister died of ALS in 2018. Interestingly, my mother, who lived to 100, had died only the year before. My younger brother died just a year ago the last day of this month of Parkinson’s. I didn’t live close to any of these people geographically, but we kept in touch by phone and e-mail. I can’t count the times in the last year that I have wanted to tell my brother, my last surviving relative, something and experienced the sense of loss most intensely when unable to do so.

Renee Lovitz

I have lost people old and young. Each death is different, whether from an accident or sickness or age. The loss of a child is different and worse than the rest. But you learn that death is part of life and comes to everyone. We have to keep going.


Thank you for this lovely article. I dread the loss of some close friends. One is in his 80s, and the other is 10 years younger but he has Alzheimer’s and does not recognize me anymore. It really hurts

The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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