Guide to dealing with loss, moving forward with grief

Sometimes as college students we have a tendency to get lost in the thick of it all. We are so preoccupied with studying, partying, working and extracurricular activities. This, in a sense, is what we’re supposed to do. That’s why we’re in college in the first place. From time to time life has a way of telling us to slow down. Oftentimes, it’s the only choice we have.

Two weeks ago, right before I went to class, I received a call from my mother, which was very odd because my mother doesn’t call often. If she does, it’s definitely not at 7:30 a.m. My mother’s voice cracked as she informed me that my grandmother had passed away. My lungs seemed to have stopped function as I started to gasp for air. It seemed so surreal. You would have thought I was reenacting a dramatic movie scene, but my feelings were legitimate. It was like the walls were closing in. College is known to be the worst setting to receive this type of news because you have to deal with the grief of losing a loved one all on your own. Well, I beg to differ. After my tears subsided, I decided that I couldn’t handle this on my own. I dragged myself to my best friend’s room and managed to tell her what happened before I broke down again. In retrospect, it turned out to be the most beneficial thing I could’ve done.

It mostly consisted of me half-crying and half-talking to her, but the point is that there was someone there to half-cry and half-talk to, someone to lean on. Whether we choose to admit it or not, we all need someone to console us during traumatic time. Grief is overwhelming. Our first instinct is to isolate ourselves from the world. I suppose one would think that’s a decent idea at first thought, but I’m here to let you know that it’s not. Talking with my friend that day gave me an outlet to express myself. The comfort lay in the fact that there was someone there to listen – to show that they cared.

Oftentimes when friends or peers are grieving, we are at a loss for words. We don’t know the right things to say and we definitely don’t want to say anything to make the situation worse. It is a touchy area and there’s really no correct way to approach it. The goal is just to make the person feel better, right? Not necessarily. There’s no way someone can feel that much better about the death of a loved one after one conversation. Healing can sometimes take many years, and one conversation with someone who cares will not take all that pain away.

I recall telling my roommate that my grandmother had passed and it was obvious that she didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to make me feel any worse, so for a long time she stayed quiet. One day she walked with me down to the lake. For a long time, we sat in silence as we watched the waves crash into each other and slide back onto shore. It was serene and peaceful. As we sat, my roommate decided to share a story of a friend that she had lost while in high school and how it had affected her. She opened up the opportunity for us to bond. Though on sad terms, it brought us together and I will never forget it.

What I found to be the most therapeutic thing to do was talk. Whether it was talking to my friend, roommate, therapist or even myself—it always helped to talk. Sometimes I just wanted to verbalize my thoughts and memories about my grandmother. Often, I didn’t want a response, just ears to hear. As days passed, I noticed I began to spend more time with my friends than ever before and I started calling my mom and my dad more often. Closer relationships began to form with the people in my life that were still here, and it felt great. Now, I call my mom every night and I stress how much I love her. Sometimes it takes a storm to bring brighter days, and although there will always be a void in my heart, I continue to express my love for the ones who are left here on Earth.

Above all, appreciate every single person you are surrounded by. It’s probably embedded in your head to do that already, but I thought I might stress it again for you. Losing someone you love has to be the most painful experience in one’s lifetime, and regret will make the pain that much more extreme. The people you take for granted today could be gone tomorrow. The person you mistreat today could be gone tomorrow. I don’t say this to scare you. I just want to remind you how valuable life truly is.