Dear Abby:

I live in a small town and attend a local high school that has about 1,400 students. In the last three years, there have been an outrageous number of student deaths. It has become so common that the student body is no longer shocked.

We have lost a student who was run down by a drunk driver, two were murdered in drive-by shootings, two drowned in boating accidents, one died in a car accident that was triggered by an aneurysm, another dropped dead during class due to an undisclosed medical condition, and three others died in car accidents. Three days ago two more students were in a car wreck that left both in critical condition.

Has our school fallen under a terrible curse? We have suffered enough. There is only so much grief one school can handle. Please, Abby, tell me what can be done to lift the spirits of the students.

Grieving in Louisiana

The first thing to do is recognize that their feelings (and yours) are normal. To be confronted with the fact that life isn't infinite at your tender age can be shocking. It is normal to be sad, angry, confused and frightened when someone close to you dies. Everyone must cope with the reality of death in his or her own way. A giant step in that direction would have been for the principal of your school to have brought counselors to the campus to help the students work through their grief. Writing letters to the parents of the students who died is another way to get your feelings out, and the parents would treasure them.

A memorial to your deceased classmates might help the rest of you to move on -- a mural, a garden, something tangible to ensure they will not be forgotten. Please consider it if you haven't already done so.

Dear Abby:

I am a 13-year-old girl. My parents are divorced. Mom has remarried. My father went with the same woman for two years, then realized he didn't want to spend the rest of his life with her and broke it off.

Dad doesn't tell jokes like he used to, and rarely smiles anymore. I think he's depressed. Is there anything I can do? Or does he have to do it himself?

Unhappy Camper in California

You are sweet to want to help your father, but he must go through this process on his own. Regardless of the reason for the breakup, he still devoted two years to that relationship -- and the fact that it didn't work out could be considered a loss. In time, he'll meet someone who will lift his spirits again.

P.S. He already has something to smile about. He has a wonderful daughter.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate