Teen Mourns the Death of Her Best Friend

Question from a reader: When I was 12 years old, my best friend in the whole world died, one month before her 12th birthday. She was in the swimming pool playing that game—you know, who can hold their breath the longest—she was under but when she came up she inhaled a lot of water. She stood up and went over to the ladder and she was wheezing. She got up to the ladder and fell backwards, but her cousin caught her. They pulled her out of the pool and laid her down and ran for help. Her older sister was sitting with her saying come on, are you ok, breathe please. Her father and grandfather did CPR right away but from the second her sister laid her down and all the way to the hospital, she hadn’t breathed once. Normally they can revive people when that happens, but something went wrong in her body. I know when people die, everyone says how great they are, but I had never ever met a nicer person than her. She was never mean, always, always smiling and happy. If you were down she would cheer you up. She was the best person I had ever met. It has been 1 year and 2 months and I am still grieving like crazy, people say it gets easier but it hasn’t. I miss her like crazy. To me, it feels as if it were yesterday that I was looking at her smiling face. I have so many emotions still and there is no one to blame, no one except for god. Who would take a sweet 11-year-old girl from so many people who loved her? I still miss her a lot and I guess it might get a little easier, but when I am doing all the things that she loved it makes me sad to know that she is not ever going to be here to do those things with me ever again. Even when I see certain things or her name I sometimes break out crying. I can’t seem to move on and recently I got into an argument with someone who told me that I have no clue about death and that I should get over it.

Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC, responds: I’m so very sorry to learn of the death of your best friend, and I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you. It hurts my heart to think that someone actually told you that you “have no clue about death” and that you should “get over it.”

A very wise man, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, once said that if you are old enough to love, you are old enough to mourn. Clearly you loved this person as much as anyone could love a best friend, you are old enough to miss her, and you have every right to mourn your loss of her. As a matter of fact, if you were not grieving this death, my dear, something would be very, very wrong! When you lose someone you love so much, it is normal to experience a profound sense of loss. Grief is exactly the right response, and all that pain you are feeling is simply your heart telling you how much it hurts.

You say you have no one to blame for your friend’s death, “no one except for God.” Did you know that anger is a common reaction to loss , and when someone we love is taken from us, it usually makes us mad, as well as sad? When a death happens, we feel mad because we don’t like what’s happened, we think it’s completely unfair, we’re frustrated because we know it’s beyond our control and there is nothing we can do to change it. We are outraged because it is an outrageous thing that has happened to us! We might feel angry at ourselves for something we did or did not do when our loved one was alive, or we may be mad at our loved ones for dying and leaving us here without them.

We might also be angry at God. (I remember a boy who once told me that after his brother died, he was so angry at God he just wanted to slug Him!) Even though such feelings are perfectly healthy and normal, they can leave us feeling very guilty, especially if we were taught to believe that anger is bad or that feeling angry is wrong. We may think that if we become angry at God, then in turn God will become angry with us. Another very wise man who works with grieving children, Rabbi Earl Grollman, assures us that “It’s okay to scream at God. He can take it.” After all, if anyone can understand the full range of human emotions and our normal reactions to loss, surely it is God! Mad isn’t bad, my dear, and neither is sad. When you care deeply about someone who dies, it’s normal to feel all sorts of painful emotions. Tell yourself it’s okay to feel your feelings, because you have a very good reason!

Since you have access to the Internet, I want to point you to some wonderful places for kids who are grieving. Here a just a few of them:

KidsAid: A Site for Kids in Grief

Kids Health: Dealing with Feelings

Bereavement Information for Teens

Grief Support for Teens and Their Families

Activities for Grieving Children

Your local library is a great resource too. Ask someone at the information desk to point you to the section that has books about grief and loss, written especially for kids. Here are just a few of my favorites (and if your library doesn’t carry them, you can ask the librarian to order them for you):

And God Cried, Too: A Kid’s Book of Healing and Hope

Straight Talk About Death for Teenagers, by Earl A. Grollman

Weird Is Normal When Teenagers Grieve, by Jenny Lee Wheeler

When a Friend Dies: A Book for Teens about Grieving and Healing, by Marilyn E. Gootman

I’m so glad that you wrote to me, but I also hope that you have someone you trust to talk to about all these feelings – that could be a parent, a relative, a neighbor, a teacher, or a pastor. If your mom or dad seems too busy to listen, I hope you will find another caring adult you can talk to. When you lose someone you love, you might feel lonely or scared as well as sad and mad. If you try to hold all these feelings inside, you can end up feeling even worse than you do now. That’s why it’s so important to find someone who knows you and cares about you, so you can talk “in person” to another about what you are feeling right now. In the meantime, I hope it helps to know that we are thinking of you and wishing you well.

© 2012 by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC

Reach Marty through her Web sites, http://www.griefhealing.com and http://www.griefhealingdiscussiongroups.com. She blogs weekly at Grief Healing and can be found on Twitter , LinkedIn and Facebook.

Marty Tousley

More Articles Written by Marty

As both a bereaved parent and a bereaved daughter herself, Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC has focused her practice on issues of grief, loss and transition for more than 40 years. She joined Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ as a Bereavement Counselor in 1996, and for ten years served as moderator for its innovative online grief support forums. She obtained sole ownership of the Grief Healing Discussion Groups in October, 2013, where she continues to serve as moderator. A frequent contributor to health care journals, newsletters, books and magazines, she is the author of Finding Your Way through Grief: A Guide for the First Year: Second Edition, The Final Farewell: Preparing for and Mourning the Loss of Your Pet, and Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping. She has written a number of booklets for Hospice of the Valley including Explaining the Funeral /Memorial Service to Your Children and Helping Another in Grief, as well as monthly columns, e-books and online e-mail courses for Self-Healing Expressions, addressing various aspects of grief and loss. With her special interest in grief and the human-animal bond, Marty facilitated a pet loss support group for bereaved animal lovers in Phoenix for 15 years, and now serves as consultant to the Pet Loss Support Group at Hospice of the Valley and to the Ontario Pet Loss Support Group in Ontario, Canada. Her work in pet loss and bereavement has been featured in the pages of Phoenix Magazine, The Arizona Republic, The East Valley Tribune, Arizona Veterinary News, Hospice Horizons, The Forum (ADEC Newsletter), The AAB Newsletter, Dog Fancy Magazine, Cat Fancy Magazine, Woof Magazine and Pet Life Magazine. Marty’s Grief Healing website and blog offer information, comfort and support to anyone who is anticipating or mourning the loss of a loved one, whether a person or a cherished companion animal. She is certified as a Fellow in Thanatology (Death, Dying and Bereavement) by the Association for Death Education and Counseling, as a Distance Credentialed Counselor by the Center for Credentialing and Education, and as a Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing Practice by the American Nurses Association. Marty and her husband Michael have two grown sons and four grandchildren. They spend their winters in Scottsdale, AZ and Sarasota, FL, and enjoy their summers in Traverse City, MI. Marty welcomes reader questions and comments, and can be contacted at tousleym@aol.com or through her Web sites, at GriefHealing.com, GriefHealingBlog.com, and GriefHealingDiscussionGroups.com.

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