Loss is hard. Fortunately, most college students who are dating don’t have to deal with their boyfriend or girlfriend dying. It does happen, but it is a lot more rare than a typical break up. However, after last Friday’s massacre in Aurora, Colorado, it makes you think about how fragile life really is.
A lot of people who were injured or killed last Friday were younger people. They were sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends and even boyfriends and girlfriends of people who are now grieving the senseless loss of their loved one. This year has been hard on my family as well. We have experienced a lot of loss since the end of 2011. It can make you stop and evaluate your choices in life. There are so many things people take for granted when it comes to the people they love.
It is easy in the every day stresses of life to believe that the people you count on the most will always be there for you. I have met with a lot of students who really can’t imagine losing their boyfriend or girlfriend or even their close friends to death. It is easier to imagine losing a grandparent or distant relative. It is a little harder to comprehend the loss of a parent, a sibling or a friend who still has so much life to live.
That is usually why it can be harder to accept. The people who lost their lives on Friday, July 20th were mostly in the prime of their life. They were looking forward to seeing a good movie with their family and friends and had no reason to think there life would be over within a few short minutes. Thank God incidents like this are very rare. You are much more likely to be struck by lightening then to be shot in a movie theater or on a college campus. No matter how a person dies, when it happens to someone you love, it can be hard to understand and accept.
So, how do you move forward after losing a loved one? You’ve probably heard it takes some time. It isn’t easy, no matter what anyone tells you. Your mind, your heart and your soul are going to go through a long process. The grief process has five steps. 1. Denial 2. Anger 3. Bargaining 4. Depression 5. Acceptance
You notice that acceptance comes after a lot of other emotions cycle through. No person grieves the same either. That is why it is hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving. Some people want to talk about the person and feel better when they open up. For others, they don’t want to talk about it. They do better when they stay busy and distract themselves a little more. For most people, you can’t go wrong with giving the person who is grieving a hug and asking if there is anything you can do for them. Sometimes just bringing them a home cooked meal is enough. Just knowing that you care and you want to help is better than nothing.
If you are the one grieving, be patient with yourself. Some days you’ll wake up feeling better only to crash back into depression or anger a few hours later. It is a long grueling process, but time does eventually help. The days and weeks pass and your brain will start to adjust. At first, you may be resistant to letting go of your pain. You don’t want your loved one to feel that you’ve forgotten them. I remind people who are grieving that you can still remember them without feeling so much pain. You can start to remember them with a smile and actually feel happy in your memories instead of feeling so lost or sad.
Life has a way of marching on whether we like it or not. Days, weeks, months and then even years pass. New people come into our life. They don’t replace the people we lost, but they fill in the gaps that are still there in our lives that need to be filled. The only positive thing about loss is being able to empathize and understand what other people are going through when they experience it. You will be able to relate and give encouragement to those people because you’ve been their yourself. This may help you, in a way, deal with your own loss. Giving to others has a way of healing your own heart from the pain.
Even though we are all different, all of us at one point or another are going to experience a loss of some kind. I hope you never have to experience what the people of Aurora, Colorado are experiencing. I also hope as a college student you don’t have to go through the death of parent, sibling, friend, boyfriend or girlfriend. It is hard enough to get through the stresses of college. Going through a major loss can make it a lot more complicated. If it does happen to you, know that you have choices. You can withdraw from classes for the semester and take a leave of absence. This will allow you to focus on your family or getting help for yourself without having to stress about papers and tests. Many students have had to do this and come back to school after a few months feeling a lot more prepared to deal with class. Other students need the distraction and choose to stay in school at this time. There really is no right answer on how to best deal with situations like this. Do what you think is best for yourself and your situation, and try not to compare yourself to others students.
Also, find trusted family and friends to talk to and gain support from. You may also decide counseling is something you would like to try. It can be helpful because you are able to open up without feeling like your burdening your family or friends who may be dealing with their own grief. Many people have stated that counseling has been helpful, but it isn’t for everyone. You can do some research to find out what ways of grieving will work best for you. Just remember it is a process. It is okay to be angry, upset and sad. However, if you feel you’ve been stuck in one part of the grieving cycle too long, it is time to do something to be able to move forward. One step at a time is the best way to approach the grieving process. Feel free to look into any of the websites listed below that may be helpful.