Q: I have a problem that I don't think is normal. I'm scared to die. My cousin died and I was scared to look at her. Then, I started to cry. Her daughter cried many times and I felt sorry for her. Her aunt is taking care of her. My pastor said something about death. That's when I started to think about my dead cousin. Can you give some advice?
A: First of all, how you're feeling is normal. It's scary when someone you know and love dies. It's also very hard to understand and accept the person's death, especially if the person died suddenly or was young. And it does make most people think more about their lives and about dying.
People deal with these fears in different ways. Those who are religious find answers about death through their beliefs in an afterlife, in God, or in the value of human life. Others find that when someone dies, it helps them appreciate the person they have lost. It also helps them value their lives more and other people who are important to them.
I'd encourage you to talk to your parents or other relatives about your cousin and her daughter. Sometimes remembering what your cousin was like and what she meant to you helps. Sharing your feelings can also help you move on with your own life and not become overwhelmed with fears of death. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, you may need help from a therapist; I'd suggest letting your parents know how you feel so they can find someone to help you.
Q: I am 11 years old and I am in love with my brother's friend. How can I tell him I love him? I think he loves me, too, but I don't know.
A: Why should you tell him how you feel -- it might be better not to get too serious at age 11. This would be especially true if your brother's friend is much older than you and would expect more from you than you could or should give. If he is much older than you, it's also unlikely that he'd care for you in the same way as you care for him. So why not enjoy the friendship instead of worrying how to tell him you love him? If he is closer to your age and seems to like you, take your time getting to know him better.
Q: I am 9 years old and I have a problem. I like this 10-year-old boy. I asked one of my friends to ask him if he liked me. I'm scared to be in the same place with him, but he is so cute. What shall I do?
A: It can be really scary to feel strongly about a boy and not know whether he likes you. Try telling yourself that the only way to get to know him is to talk to him and that maybe he's just as scared about talking to you. Then you need to make sure you don't avoid him. Try talking to him when there's a group of kids around. Eventually, you may feel comfortable enough to talk to him when he's alone. Also, remember that even though he seems so special and unapproachable he shares many things in common with you that you could talk about.
Dr. Sokal is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist practicing in Baltimore. If you have a question, send it to Kids Ask, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.