Question:

I have a friend. We were neighbors once She has heart failure and nothing is helping. She's been in the hospital for a while, then she got out and I went to see her. She looks dead to me: she's grey and her lips are blue, she's all swollen and she's on oxygen. She was sent back to the hospital over the weekend because her oxygen dropped really low. They can't put her on a pacemaker because when they tried to do surgery a week or so ago, she nearly died and they had to revive her, so it's too risky. She just keeps getting worse. Medications aren't helping, nothing is helping, it's just progressing more and they don't know how to stop it.

I didn't even know why she was in the hospital. She had a cold, then she had a heart infection and now her heart is failing. She didn't tell me about it until last week. We were talking and she started berating me, saying really wicked things, telling me I need to hate her. So I kept pushing at her and she said she was dying and explained everything. She said she would prefer if I hated her rather than knowing the truth. She was pushing everyone away. Divulging secrets, saying things you shouldn't say, and making people really angry because she just wants to die alone.

I don't want to lose her. I would move mountains for her. She's everything to me and without her I'll be empty. It's selfish, but she can't die.

I don't know what to feel or do or say. I've been breaking down randomly for days. There are so many things in my head, and I can't process it. She's too young to die like this. I think the thing that's killing me the most is she cares more about everyone else's happiness and she puts on this happy front when she's talking to people and she's not even dealing with it. She's avoiding it. She signed a DNR and I wish she didn't because I think that more could be done.


Answer:

Years ago I knew a fantastic young woman who was born with a congenital disease that made her heart not function correctly. She was finally given an heart and lung transplant, but that only bought her a few more years of life -- her body rejected the transplant. What you have said about your friend sounds similar, even if it isn't the same thing. I'm guessing the infection caused her body to attack her own heart and lungs and the doctors can't figure out how to get it to stop.

Regardless, the problem is that your friend is not handling her pending death well. In a twisted form of logic, she doesn't want to leave anyone sad at her death so she is driving away everyone. From her view she thinks she will die with no regrets because she leaves no ties to people. The problem is that her thinking is faulty and wrong. Instead of making people unhappy at her death, she is making them unhappy in advance. Perhaps there is a touch of wanting to make others suffer because she must suffer. Regardless, what she really needs is someone who cares.

The way to deal with a person like this is to ignore her attempts to push you away. You do things that are kind to her regardless of what she says or do. "Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:20-21). Send her pleasant, cheerful notes. Talk about all the things that you love to remember about her. When she says she is going to dying, tell her you know and that you are going to miss her terribly, but until that time comes you want to make the most of the moments you have left with her.

She signed a DNR because she doesn't want to be a living vegetable. If they can't stop this, then she is willing to accept that she will die. I know it is hard -- for her, for you, for her family. We don't want young people to die, but because sin is in this world people do die. "Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4). A common fault among the young is living as if life will go on forever; it doesn't. People make better decisions when they realize that no matter how long they live on this earth, they have limited time to get things done.

Right now, your friend is wasting the precious hours she has left by using them for useless purposes. Show her love and kindness -- break through the wall she was erected between herself and those she cares about. Show her that you care, even though she doesn't have much time left. She is having trouble accepting the truth, you are too for that matter, but don't let that stand in your way of being a good friend all the way to the end.

My friend died last night. I feel really empty. I just don't feel anything right now and that makes me feel really guilty because I should be feeling something. I was pretty mad at first. I flipped out on my dad, and I think he's mad at me. I'm mad at myself because I should've just left when she told me to come and see her, she was begging me because she said she knew she was dying, but she was trying to wait and she was scared. I told her not to be scared and to just let it happen and no one would be mad at her about it. I feel like if I didn't say that that she would still be alive. I'm mad at her mom for not letting me go to the funeral because she knows she is like my sister, and she's a devil woman. She sent me her memorial thing and told me that no one but family was allowed. I'm really mad at my friend that she didn't go to the doctor sooner because all of this could have been avoided if she just went to the doctor.

The thing that's killing me inside is that she knew, she knew she was going to die and it was obvious she knew. I've been listening to this video she posted of me and her an hour before she begged me to come. It's our entire friendship in a few short minutes. It just sums up our interactions with each other. Then at the end she said "you're my favorite," and I just lost it. But I don't know how to edit videos because I just want that one clip and I don't know how, so I just listen to it because she was happy.

I'm not going to use anything because she made me promise not to, and I can't break that promise. I already failed her by not being able to get there in time, so if I selfishly break a promise I made to her that just makes me evil, and I can't do that. I want to though. I just want to sleep. But I'm not going to use anything.

Feeling empty is pretty common after a death. In fact, it is typically the first stage: "Following a death or loss, you may feel empty and numb, as if you are in shock. You may notice physical changes such as trembling, nausea, trouble breathing, muscle weakness, dry mouth, or trouble sleeping and eating." [The Process of Grieving]. It will get replaced with other feelings. It might feel like a roller-coaster for a bit. "Grieving people have two choices: they can avoid the pain and all the other emotions associated with their loss and continue on, hoping to forget. This is a risky choice, since experience shows that grief, when ignored, continues to cause pain.The other choice is to recognize grieving and seek healing and growth. Getting over a loss is slow, hard work. In order for growth to be possible, it is essential to allow oneself to feel all the emotions that arise, as painful as they may be, and to treat oneself with patience and kindness." [The Process of Grieving].

First, I'm glad you told her that no one would be mad if she died. One of the hard things about death is letting go and prolonging the pain wasn't something she needed. You didn't cause her death. The infection in her heart caused her death. You gave her a measure of peace before she left this world.

There is no way to know that she would have lasted until today. Perhaps she could have fought for a little longer, but in the end I suspect that she still would not have made it. There is no way of knowing how things would have changed if different choices were made. "What if" games like this are not productive.

From your description, I suspect that her mother is handling her grief by shutting everyone else out. It isn't good for her, but no one will be able to convince her otherwise for a long while. However, what I see as important is that she hasn't completely shut you out. She could have said nothing, so even though it caused you grief, at least she remembered you in her grief by sending notices.

Even though you don't feel like it right now, make sure you eat, rest, and exercise. It will seem colorless and bland for a while, but that will correct itself over time. If you can't sleep, take short naps.

I'm so glad that your friend made that video for you. What a wonderful way to keep her memory alive. And you can remember that she was happy just before she left this world.

As hard as your friend's request of you has been, at least it gives you a chance to realize that problems and bad feelings can be faced and overcome. Hang in there. I'll be praying for you.