Hey Girls! It’s Heather–I got an email from a girl asking why she was still so sad about her friend’s death almost a year after it happened. This is pretty serious (and really sad) stuff, so I called in my friend Meg Haston, who’s also got a fancy-pants degree in professional counseling, to help out. Here’s what she had to say:Dealing with the death of a friend is difficult at any age, but to lose someone when they’re still young is particularly tragic. So first, let me say this: I am so deeply sorry for your loss. The pain is so intense at first, sometimes it feels better over time, and then as you get closer to the anniversary of the death, it’s completely normal for your feelings—your sadness, anger, loneliness, and anything else you might be experiencing—to intensify. You might even have periods where you feel numb.
As weird as this may sound, it’s actually good to feel sad—it means that you’re dealing with your loss and not ignoring your emotions. That’s healthy, and it takes a strong girl to do it. Grieving is not easy, and unfortunately there’s nothing I can say that will make your pain go away. But you will make it through. You will feel normal again. Below, I’ll share some things I’ve learned from my personal experience, and from working with girls and guys who have suffered loss.
There’s No “Right Way”. Remember that grieving is a process, and there’s no one right way to do it. Some days, you’ll feel like you’re taking steps forward, like your mood is better or you’re able to enjoy life again. And some days, you might feel really low. This doesn’t mean that you’re taking steps backward, or that you’re not healing. This is just what grieving looks like.Don’t grieve alone.
Take time alone when you need it, but try not to isolate yourself. Connecting with others who knew your friend will remind you that you’re not the only one struggling with this loss. Consider joining a grief support group. You can find local groups by contacting hospitals or counseling centers in your area.
Be patient with yourself.
As time goes on, your pain will lessen. I don’t know how long this will take for you, because it’s different for everyone. But please, be patient with yourself. You’ll take exactly the amount of time you need to grieve, and that’s okay. If you find that your sadness is getting consistently worse as time passes, or if you’re starting to feel helpless or hopeless, reach out to a parent or doctor. It may be important for you to talk one-on-one with a counselor.
Find meaning in your experience.
I mentioned above that you will feel normal again, and that’s true. You won’t feel exactly the same way you felt before your friend’s death, though. This was a tragic life event, and you will be changed because of it. Maybe you’ll find strength you never knew you had. Maybe you’ll treasure your current friendships all the more. Eventually, acknowledging those things that you’ll take from the experience is a way to honor your friend. And honoring her a little bit every day will keep her memory alive.
Most of all, just try to take good care of yourself. That’s what your friend would have wanted.
Have you ever had to deal with the death of a friend? How did you get through it? Share your advice with other girls in the comments.