Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Wants to Know How to Comfort Friend

DEAR HARRIETTE: My acquaintance "Mark" recently committed suicide. I wasn’t that close with him, but we were both on sports teams -- I’m a lacrosse player, and he was on the baseball team. He was dating one of my teammates, but they broke up three months ago after being together for two years. He was one of those guys who was always smiling and had so many friends. He was the life of the party and a pretty good baseball player.

He wasn’t the best boyfriend to my teammate because he wasn’t loyal, but he did make her happy. I’m pretty upset about the whole situation because he was always kind to me, and I can’t imagine how she must be feeling. How can I be there for her without being overbearing? -- Lending a Hand, Bridgeport, Connecticut

DEAR LENDING A HAND: I am so sorry for your loss. Whenever a young person chooses to end his or her life, it is a tragedy that’s almost impossible to bear. I trust that you will take advantage of whatever mental health support your school offers, because this will be hard for everyone.

Reach out to your teammate. Tell her how sorry you are about Mark's passing. Ask how she’s doing and if you can be of help to her in any way. Sometimes people need to talk. Other times they need to be quiet. Check in with her regularly at first to see if she needs or wants anything. Don’t push, just let her know you are there for her.

Read more in: Mental Health | Health & Safety | Death | Friends & Neighbors

Reader Struggles in Medical Coursework

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am stressed out. I am failing two of my classes, and the semester ends in a month. I have been working with my professors to get my grades up, but I can’t figure out how to master my assignments for this class. I don’t want to disappoint my family because they have sacrificed so much for me, but I’m not sure if health science is the major for me.

My mother has always wanted me to be a doctor, but I struggle in my courses. How do I tell my family that I want to change my major because it doesn’t interest me, and I am not doing well? I just want to make them proud, but I feel like I will crush their dreams for me. -- Broken Dream, Sausalito, California

DEAR BROKEN DREAM: As tough as it seems now to tell your parents what’s going on, you must. This starts with a reality check. If you do not want to be a doctor, face that fact and tell your parents. Point out that you have worked hard to fulfill their dream for you. Not only is this not what you want for your life, but you aren’t good at the work required to get there.

Think about what you want to do with your life. Talk to an adviser to get input on how to change your major to a subject more fitting for your personality and interests. While your parents may initially be disappointed, they will rally behind you if you prove to them that you can survive and thrive in school as you prepare to become independent.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Work & School | Family & Parenting | Mental Health