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.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am horrible with names, and I rarely remember what people are called even when I have known them for some time. I know this is nothing to be proud of, and I’m not. It’s just true.
The most uncomfortable thing happened the other day. I was at an event, and a guy who lives in my building was there. He came up to say hello, and I greeted him. I was talking with a group of other people, but I couldn’t remember his name, so I did not introduce him. There was an awkward moment, and he just walked away. What could I have done differently? -- Forgetful
DEAR FORGETFUL: Rather than snubbing your neighbor, you could have introduced him to the group by saying that he is your neighbor and inviting them to introduce themselves to each other. Yes, that could be slightly awkward, but it would also be inclusive.
In some instances, you may have to admit that you don’t remember someone’s name in order to complete an introduction. In such cases, just be transparent. Apologize for not remembering the person’s name, ask what it is and make the introduction.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)