"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge -- myth is more potent than history -- dreams are more powerful than facts -- hope always triumphs over experience -- laughter is the cure for grief -- love is stronger than death." Robert Fulghum
The death of a friend, partner, or family member is quite likely the most painful experience any of us will ever face. We can talk about death and grief, but, sadly, this preparation will be of little comfort when someone we know dies.
Grief is most personal and very complicated. There is no one way to do it, and what helps you may not help someone else. You can try to avoid grieving, but it will haunt you. You can try to rush through grieving to "get over it", but it will resist you.
In the weeks and months to come you may have some rather upsetting experiences. You might, for an instant, see or hear this person. That is normal; don't worry. You may have dreams about this person. Sights, sounds, flavors, and smells may remind you of this person. All of this is normal. It can be frightening when it first happens, but it is your heart's way of remembering and letting go of the person.
Grief takes time and understanding. Grief takes you through all of your emotions. Grief leaves you feeling exhausted and it can give you great energy. There is no one way to do it, but there are ways to go through it, and we would like to share these ideas with our campus as we all go through this time of grief.
- Everyone grieves a death on campus. Even if you did not know the person who died, you will know people who are grieving the death, and you can imagine the sorrow of the family. A death on campus can remind you of others you know who have passed on and it can remind you of your own immortality.
- Grief is painful, and the pain heals you. The pain you feel honors the person who has died and it speaks to the love you had for the person. Grief is not weakness; it is a measure of what you have lived with the person and how you will continue to live with this person in your memory.
- Numbing the pain only delays the pain. As tempting as it may be to numb yourself (alcohol, dope, food, or sex) please remember that grief has its own schedule, and anything you do to delay grief will only complicate it further.
- Take care of yourself. While we encourage people to not use things to become numb, we do encourage people to take care of themselves. Grief is very demanding. During grief you may need more sleep, you may need to eat more, and you may need more time with friends. You may need some longer work outs. You may need to watch funny movies. In short, be sure to give your body what it needs. Just keep an eye on over doing it.
- Grief should not be done alone. While you may need some time alone to think and feel your way through this death, it is best, generally, to not be alone while grieving. There is no shame to grieving, and people will need you as much as you need them. There is no one way to grieve, so don't worry that you will bring people down when you are with them. There will be plenty of people who want to be down with you. Being down is an honorable part of grief.
- Find the people who are feeling what you are feeling. Let those that want to cry be together. Let those who want to laugh be together. Let those who are angry be together. But also understand that from time to time, everyone needs to come together.
- Keep your routines, but don't worry about classes and work. Your grades, your pay, the work you do, and what you are learning are all important, but not as important as your grief. Know that when you are ready, you will be able to get back to classes and jobs and you will be able to catch up. Grief can give your brain a tremendous sense of focus when it is ready. Faculty, staff, and employers know what you are going through. And remember that is okay to go to class and to work even when you don't feel like it. There is nothing wrong with going through the motions. While grieving you eat even if you are not hungry, you go to bed even if you are not sleepy, and you go to class even if you are in no mood to listen or talk. Keep your routines as much as possible, but let your heart and mind be with the one you have lost.
- Begin to think of how you will remember this person. In time you will want to tell stories about this person who had died. You will want others to know this person too. Begin a collection of your favorite memories. Gather photos, letters, and other things that memorialize this person. Know that in the years to come you will be sad and happy on the anniversary of this person's death. Know that it is okay to do something special on this anniversary. Don't listen to people who tell you that you should be over it.
- You may want to work on something bigger for this person. You may want to start a campaign, or set up a scholarship, or make a donation in this person's name. You may want to host an event in this person's memory. There are many ways you can create lasting memories of this person who means so much to you.
- Help is where you find it. Friends and family will be very important now. Church and community may become important too. Know that people on campus are also available to be with you through your grief. The Counseling Center staff will work with you as you grieve, but you will also find tremendous support among other faculty and staff including advisors, hall staff, coaches, and student leaders. There is no shame in grieving so please let others help you while you are helping them.
If you have questions about grief, for yourself or for friends, please contact our staff.
The Counseling and Testing Center
409 Potter Hall
You may also submit questions via email at:
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