How can I be a supportive friend?

A girl in my school died. I never really knew her, but she was really close with my BFF. My BFF was so sad that she stayed home for the last few days of school. When she came back, she was super mad at me for not grieving. I've tried my hardest, but I just don't feel sad. My friend is still down in the dumps, and I don't want to hurt her by acting happy. Please help me help my friend!

Hey girl, death is def a hard thing to deal with regardless of the circumstances, and I'm way sorry to hear about your school's loss. Your friends — and school — are going through a lot of different emotions right now. What's important to realize is that a) what you're feeling isn't wrong and b) depending on how close the person was to the girl, they may react differently. You can't force yourself to feel a certain way, but what you can do is respect the feelings of others and offer support to those who were really affected.

It's Hard to Say Good-bye
When someone loses a loved one, be it a pet, friend or family member, he or she deals with the pain in a different way. Your friend is probably angry her pal is gone, and she has every right to be. Unfortunately, she's taking that anger out on you by insisting you react the way she is. Your friend is very vulnerable right now, so be sensitive to her feelings. While I agree you shouldn't act overly happy around her, there's nothing wrong with a smile. Having an upbeat attitude may help get her out of her slump.

Remind your BFF that her friend would have wanted her to be happy and to live each day to the fullest. While it may be hard now, your BFF's friend is in a better place. Your job as a pal is to help your BFF heal and continue on with her life, remembering the good times and not letting her loss stop her from living.

It's a Process
The grieving cycle itself is a process with different stages. As more time flies by, you'll be able to reach out more to your friend, but right now it's important to respect her mourning. Emphasize you are sorry for her loss, and it was an awful thing. Remain upbeat but understand your friend may be down for a bit. Hear your pal out if she wants to talk to you about something; she just needs someone to listen as she vents out her feelings.

P.S. If your friend seems seriously depressed, suggest she talk to a guidance counselor. They can help her with her feelings. When tragedies like this occur at schools, administrations actually make themselves more available. If it gets to that point, assure your friend that they're there for everyone, and they want to help everyone pull through this together. It's totes normal to be feeling the way she is and to reach out for help.

Time Heals All Wounds
With time, your friend will get back to normal. While you can't speed up the process she's going through, you can lend your support during these crucial times. Always be respectful of your friend and don't talk down her feelings. What your school is going through is a terrible, hard thing. In the light of this tragedy, however, know you can grow closer together. Be supportive to your friend and school community. This girl may not have been your BFF, but she has changed your life and has helped make your friend the person she is. Celebrate this girl's life and know you have a special role to your friend as a shoulder to cry on. Embrace it, and I promise your friendship will be its best yet. Hang in there.

Infinite xoxo's,
Alyssa B.

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6/28/2010 12:53:00 PM
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