Long-distance grieving


I eased into my day on a normal Saturday morning: breakfast, coffee, tidying, Facebooking. As I browsed through my timeline, one post alarmed me. There was a stream of comments sharing memories of a friend, talking about how that friend would be remembered, expressions of loss and sadness.

I couldn’t understand what was going on, so I scrolled up and down piecing together the information. My body went cold, my mind fuzzy and confused, my legs frozen to the spot.

Memories from her work-mates. Memories from her friends. Memories from her mother.


This friend has been slightly unwell over the months, and on Friday was undergoing a surgery that should not have had any complications. The fractured story coming through told me the surgery was successful and she was in post-op recovery when things went wrong. Horribly wrong.

Her husband shared how devastated he was and how much he loved her. Her mother was brave enough to write some words but, I think, was inconsolable.

I wrote my own words in her memory, but it felt so insignificant and trivial compared to the real time we had spent together as friends sharing meals, watching movies on the roof, Halloween parties, laughing and joking.

I couldn’t believe it.

It was so unreal.

I tried to explain it to my husband, but he offered very little, his logic (I imagine) being that she wasn’t a very close friend in recent years, and we had only interacted virtually in the recent past. But someone who was my friend had died. I had a friend who shared moments of my life, and they were not there anymore.

Does the distance change the grieving? I am in Zambia, she lived in the U.S. Is the pain different because we don’t share a time-zone? Is it less of a loss because we hadn’t seen each other in years? Is this where my life is headed – notifications from partners and family members that a chapter in my life has ended? Yes, on Facebook, we shared our collective sadness at the loss of a dear person, but there was no-one near me who knew her and could hold my hand.

I mourned her from at a distance.

My heart ached for weeks, but I couldn’t express it, and was it fair on those around me to keep mourning someone they never knew? I carried on with my days and enjoyed my life with my loved ones, but every so often, would scroll through my timeline looking out for a message from that smiling face, that brilliant soul who brought light into all places.

I am sorry I’ll never see it again.

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