My Friend is Dying - What Should I Do?

Learning that your friend or loved one is dying can be an incredibly difficult and confusing time. Everyone reacts to this news in a different way, but most importantly we all want to be able to support our friends in the best way we possibly can.  

It can be hard to know the “right” things to say and do in these situations. Here are some helpful tips for what to do when your friend is dying. These are some key areas we have advice about: 

  • How to process your own emotions about your friend dying  

  • Keeping the focus on your friend 

  • Talking to a therapist or counsellor about your emotions 

  • Seeking guidance from your priest, rabbi, imam, or pastor 

  • Knowing how much or how little to get involved 

  • Supporting your friend’s decision on how they wish to spend their final days 

  • Helping your friend with planning their funeral and how they wish to be remembered 


  1. Take the time to process the news 

News that your friend is entering their final days may bring up many conflicting emotions for you including sadness, shock, fear, and even anger. You could allow yourself some time and space to process the situation. As a result, you will be able to support your friend with compassion and empathy. 

  1. Focus on your friend 

Dealing with the fact that your friend is dying may also bring up emotions around your own death or the deaths of other loved ones. This is normal and even expected. While it’s important to take the time to process your own emotions around your friend dying, remember that your friend and their experience should remain your primary focus.  

  1. Seek counselling  

Grief is one of the hardest emotions we will navigate during our lifetimes. It is also terribly difficult to deal with on our own. This is why it’s encouraged to seek grief counselling to be able to process your emotions in a healthy way. Grief counselling is one of the most common forms of counselling, and it’s become easier than ever to access. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]People have sought counselling for matters around grief and death for centuries. You can speak to a grief counsellor or therapist, or even a trusted community leader. Many people also choose to have a chat with their religious leader - be it a Pastor, Rabbi, Imam, or Priest. Remember, all these ways of seeking counsel are very common and counsellors have lots of experience talking about grief and death.  

  1. Respect boundaries  

When we’re eager to help, it can be easy to overstep our friends’ boundaries. The best way to understand how you can offer support to your friend would be to talk to them about it. Your friend will be able to tell you exactly how you can support them, as well as how involved they would like you to be during this time. This may change over time, so remember the best way forward is through clear communication with your friend and their core support system. This could include their closest family members, partner, or even their doctor.  

  1. Take your friend’s lead  

Last but not least - take your friend’s lead. Remember - your friend will likely have gone through all the same confusing emotions as you. They will also know how they wish to move forward. Different people deal with death in different ways - some with humour, some with reflection, or even with adventure! Some people prefer to talk about their death and take an active interest in planning their funeral. Others may prefer to carry on as usual and enjoy a bit of gossip or other activities you did together as friends.  

Your friend knows best how they would like to spend their remaining days. While your own personal views might conflict with your friend’s, remember that it’s your job to support them.  

While this can be an especially confusing and emotional time for both you and your friend, remember that the best thing you can do to support your friend is to simply be there for them, no matter what they choose.  

One way to support them could be by helping them plan their own funeral. This will give them the agency to choose exactly how they would like to be remembered by their loved ones.

Here’s how to get started.