My Friend Died and I Didn't Even Get a Chance To Say Goodbye
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There are very few things in life that are harder to face than the sudden death of someone you care about. Whether it's a friend, a sibling, or even someone you just sort of know, the loss of their life can make you feel like you have an enormous hole inside yourself.
It's especially difficult for young people to experience the tragic and unexpected loss of a friend, because it happens at a time when you are feeling like you're getting your life under control, and none of this "bad stuff" could happen to you. The shock of seeing that it actually can happen to someone close to you can make you feel pretty vulnerable yourself.
It also happens at a time in your life where you're usually putting some distance between yourself and your parents, who have been your main source of support. You may feel you need them more than ever, but your quest for independence also makes you not want to depend on them too much. This can result in great feelings of confusion.
So there's a lot that goes on in your mind, body and heart when someone close to you dies.
Grief is a weird thing - it affects every person differently. Like adults, teenagers grieve in their own time and in their own way. It may not even seem real to you at first. You may just feel numb and not really be able to react at all. For most people, this numbness will eventually go away and your body will feel the pain.
You may feel like you're crying all the time, and at the same time, another friend may not cry at all. You might feel angry with them because it doesn't seem to you like they're grieving enough, or taking the death of your friend seriously enough.
Some people grieve by wanting to take care of everybody else and make everybody else feel better. Some people just act completely crazy. Some people get caught up in thinking, "Why didn't it happen to me?" Odd as it may seem, some people laugh a lot when they are grieving.
It's important for the surviving friends to be gentle to each other, and accepting of each other, because everyone grieves differently.
There are all kinds of physical and emotional symptoms you may experience as a part of grieving. Almost all of them are normal, especially at first. Some of them are listed below, but there may be many, many others.
If you find yourself wanting to act on your negative feelings, try to find ways that won't hurt other people. If you're tempted to yell, try yelling at people who are trained to listen, or at things that won't be hurt emotionally - like walls, trees, the sky, whatever. If you're tempted to hit, try punching pillows, punching bags, or other soft things that won't hurt you. Use of alcohol or other drugs may dull your pain for a while, but not forever - and they will create another problem you will need to deal with later.What can you do to help yourself and each other?
There are some things you could be feeling that might indicate you need some professional help in working through your grief. If you experience any of the following things, or if you see a friend experiencing these things, talk about it immediately to an adult that you trust. This could be a parent, a friend of a parent, a minister or priest, the leader of a youth group, a teacher, a school counselor or other counselors, a coach, or a doctor:
Madge Alberts, C.F.L.E., is Program Coordinator, University of Minnesota Children, Youth and Family Consortium
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