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Dealing With Death

Last year a really close friend of mine passed away in a car accident. We’ve been close since middle school. I find myself thinking about him a lot, to the point where it’s distracting when I am at school. How can I find the balance between grieving and moving on?

- 16 year old female

I am so sorry for the loss of your close friend. But I know because of your words, you have not lost the memories, the ones you can share and the ones that are exclusively yours and your friend’s, the ones with big moments and the ones full of little things only the two of you would understand.  I hope you know what you haven’t lost and what you can never lose is love. Even death is no match for that infinite power.

I am sorry for your pain, which feels like a flood at first. Even when it isn’t always rushing at you, the ebbs and flows are hard too. Because you don’t know when that flow’s gonna come.  When your past seems to erode the present because you are drowning in tears.

I am proud of you. Amazed by you. Because you are brave enough to mourn. I am hoping you are surrounded by the loving arms of family and friends to hold you when you are stumbling under the weight of this. I am hoping you have a school counselor to talk with and maybe even a therapist. Maybe there’s a teacher at school who gets you and you had the courage to reach out and ask to talk. Or you will. You are so strong.

To answer your question to the best of my limited ability, I will simply describe what has worked for me. I schedule the time to give my mind and heart what it wants--what it needs. I have a shrine in my office for those who I’ve lost. A simple box, blanket, or table works perfectly for a shrine of your own. I fill mine with pictures and mementos and notes--yes, I write journal entries and letters to the loved ones who have gone before me. I burn incense in their honor. Light candles. In these “visits,”  I have conversations and pray because I believe the loved ones who pass over are behind the thinnest of veils, listening to our words, praying for us too.

Maybe on a Sunday, prepare time to “visit” with your friend who has passed away. Come up with several times throughout the day when you can simply fade out from reality, from school work and responsibilities, and  spend time with your thoughts--with your friend. This could be before school starts on the bus, throughout the day by stepping into your counselor’s office--she/he/they can work this out with you--and as soon as school lets out. Be intentional about it. Write down those “visits” with your friend into a calendar. Feel free to let people know that whatever time you carve out is legit and sacred and may not be messed with.

Look forward to these "visits." Light the candles of your memories. Maybe find a trusted person who can “visit” with you--who will listen to you talk about your friend without judgement and interruption. But be strict. Give yourself a time when the visit starts and stops. Get help if you need it from someone who can nudge and hug you in the direction of healing and closure. When you are in class or taking care of responsibilities and you are pulled toward grief or just basking in a beautiful memory, gently remind yourself: I have a time scheduled just for this. Not now, but later. I can be present. Your friend--their spirit--WILL wait up for you.

Mostly, remember the ones who have passed are free from pain. We the living are the ones who are dealing with it. Forgive yourself. Be tender with your own heart. Give yourself permission to heal. 

Wishing you peace, my friend,



About The Author: NoNieqa Ramos is an educator, literary activist, and writer of picture books and young adult literature. She writes to amplify marginalized voices and to reclaim the lost history, mythology and poetry of the Latinx community. THE DISTURBED GIRL'S DICTIONARY was selected as the New York Public Library's Best Books 2018, YALSA's Best Books 2019, and earned an In the Margins Book Award. Her 2nd novel THE TRUTH IS comes out September 2019. She believes Halloween is a lifestyle, not a holiday. She lives with her soulmate and her two beauties in Virginia.  Find out more about her at at and


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A final note: We are strong believers in the power of therapy. We know that this isn't a realistic option for every teenager, since some of you might not have the parental support or extra income necessary to make this happen. But, if possible, please consider therapy. Many of the adults you respect most have benefited from therapy, and it's likely that you will too. There's no shame in getting support. You deserve it.


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