DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that my first girlfriend from ninth grade died by suicide in her first year in college. Though we did not stay together as a couple, we did remain friends. We even talked a little bit this year as we were getting into the groove of college. I knew that she would get depressed or sad at times, but this came as a complete shock. She was a nice girl, and she was smart and seemed to be on the right track. I am so saddened by this, and I wonder if there was something more I could have done as her friend. -- Devastated
DEAR DEVASTATED: I am so sorry for your loss. Having someone close to you die, especially when you are young, can be a gut-wrenching experience. When the person takes her own life, that’s even worse. Survivors are left with so many questions -- including yours, about what you may have been able to do to help.
Rather than agonizing over the what-ifs, since you cannot do anything to bring your friend back, concentrate on healing. Be gentle with yourself. Recognize that you suffered a loss and must give yourself time to grieve. Accept that you feel guilty for not being able to save her, but also recognize that rescuing her was not in your power. You can talk to her family and express your sadness and support for them. You should talk to other friends who are missing her. Sharing your feelings during this time is helpful.
If you find that you cannot shake your emotions, you may want to seek professional help. Talking to a therapist may help you process the range of feelings that you are having and help you to find peace. Read more about surviving a loved one’s suicide here: mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/suicide/art-20044900.