What to Do When a Close Friend Experiences a Tragedy

So the first thing is, don’t laugh. My friend Mike called me up and told me that his girlfriend broke up with him. I couldn’t hold it back, ‘cause I just thought that it had been really clear that their relationship was a farce. I guess it didn’t seem like one to him. Anyway, it turns out that she had been cheating on him for a couple of weeks and finally broke down and told him. They’d been dating for a couple of years and had lived together for nine or ten months. Once I got over that first good laugh, though, we made plans to have some lunch and talk about it. I managed to listen to his sorrows and all that stuff and be sympathetic with a straight face. So that was good.

But then I laughed again, ‘cause Jessica called me. She wanted to talk about how bad she felt over the way things went with Mike. I just thought it was funny, ‘cause she was obviously unhappy enough to go and find some other guy before bothering to break up with Mike, but now she needed somebody to listen to her tales of woe. But a guy’s gotta eat, so I decided to meet her for lunch, too. It had been a month or two since she and Mike went their separate ways, so I was a little surprised that she was still thinking about it. It turns out that she was finding out that the replacement boyfriend really wasn’t all that much better than Mike, after all. And to top it off, Mike had just started dating someone. This time it really took some work to keep the smug grin off my face, but I did okay as long as I just focused really hard on eating my lunch. She had seen them out at dinner one night and they looked really happy. Jessica had been arguing with her new boyfriend before dinner, and they were having one of those silent dinners. I’ve never had one, but I guess it would suck. So she saw how happy Mike was, and it made her sad. She bought my lunch that day, so that was pretty cool.

And then Mike called me one day and said that his mom was dead. I know, it seems like it would take a real asshole to laugh at something like that, but it’s because of the way we joked around. Back when I first met him, one of the first few times that we were hanging out, I came back at him with one of those nineties “your mom” comebacks. He looked right in my face and said, “My mom’s dead,” with a real serious look on his face. I really thought he was about to cry. I had no idea what to say, but Chuck started laughing, and then Mike cracked a smile. What the hell? I didn’t know, I just met him! So it turns out that his mom was alive, and I even met her and got to know her some. And every once in a while I would come back at him with a “your mom” thing, and he’d always say that his mom was dead. It was especially funny when there were other people around who hardly knew us, ‘cause he’d keep a real straight, sad face, and I’d be like, “so what, dude. She was a stupid slut, anyway.” He’d just act all mad for a while, and I’d go about my normal conversation. It was great. So when he called and told me his mom was dead, I just laughed. Then I realized that I hadn’t said anything about his mom. She really had died. So I spent the next few weeks really close to him. We did the funeral arrangements and all of that in the first week, and then after that I would hang out with him whenever his girlfriend wasn’t around. We’d watch movies or go throw a ball around or whatever. I didn’t say anymore “your mom” jokes.

I really thought that I was in the clear, after that. Things were going pretty well for Mike, and he even proposed to his new girlfriend when they’d been together for almost a year. So when he called me and said that he’d lost the two most important women in his life in one year, I had to laugh. I’d just been watching the news and saw that Mother Theresa and Princess Diana had both died. I thought that he was making some weird sort of joke, and I laughed mostly to be polite. And then he explained that his girlfriend had been in a car accident on the previous night. Once again, I was with him through the difficult time, and even though it was such a sad set of circumstances, I was honored to be a friend he could call on.

Tragedy strikes in everyone’s life at one point or another, and we all need someone to help us to shoulder the burden of the emotions that come with great loss. Unfortunately for my friend Mike, a lot happened in a relatively short period of time, and I was the guy who got to help him get through it all. And even with all that experience, I’m realizing now that I don’t have a whole lot of really good advice to give, other than to say that one should always be careful not to laugh at your friends when tragedy strikes.

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