Navigating the Hardships of Life
by Brooke Wolfenbarger | published Sep. 12th, 2020
When we wake up in the morning, we never know what the day might bring or what hurdles we might need to jump through. People don't wake up expecting to know they will experience a loss and have to grieve. We can't predict when times of loss will hit, but we can take steps to lessen the effects.
College can be a stressful time for students because there's so much going on. The last thing that a student needs is adding loss to the equation, which can make life even harder, especially if they are far from home.
Many Kinds of Losses
Grieving looks different for everyone and there isn't just one kind of loss a person can go through. Brian Barry, an associate professor in the Psychology and Sociology department, teaches the course Death and Dying and explained some other types of loss that people, especially students, go through.
"Most of us when we think about loss are thinking about one kind which is to have something and no longer have it," he said.
According to Barry, there are two other types of loss that people can go through, but it is important to keep in mind that all types of losses are different and you can't compare the impacts.
Barry listed, "Expect to get something and then not get it ... if you get what you want but it's disappointing," as other kinds of losses people can go through.
Whether you lose a close family member, do well at a job interview and don't get the job or you're at college, but the experience is changed in some way that doesn't meet your expectations — any type of loss can have a heavy impact on a person, especially a student.
There are five common steps that go along with grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Dallas Calkins, a third year Film and Animation student, lost a grandparent and experienced these steps.
"Everybody grieves differently, everybody feels differently," she explained.
One person's experience will not be the same as another person's, which leads to a different process of grieving. For Calkins, grieving was not instantaneous and it took her a while to cope.
"It took me about two weeks to really really understand what was happening," Calkins said. "It took me a while to accept that it was happening at all and when I finally did I never really understood the denial part of grief until then."
Addressing the feelings that you are going through during a time of loss is important. Part of that process could happen in one of two ways or even a combination of both; with a solid support system by your side or some independent time to process and grieve. For Calkins, it was both of those things.
Different Support Systems
Distance from home during a time of loss can be difficult for students because they are away from their families, which can be a big support system. However, college gives students ways to find other support systems that they can lean on when needed.
Barry believes, "Students typically develop a support system on campus that can in many cases be superior to the one at home."
"Students typically develop a support system on campus that can in many cases be superior to the one at home."
There can be a lot of reasons why and Barry believes one of those reasons could be a student's parents. Parents, at times, may not take student problems seriously, or alternatively take them too seriously. This can cause students to reach out to their peers.
Even though Calkins was home when she experienced her loss, she found a lot of support within her friend group from school.
"They were extremely supportive," Calkins said. "A couple of my other friends reached out to me and they just wanted to make sure that I was okay and everything was going well."
It's not just important to know how to grieve, but it's important to know how to be a supportive friend. It is crucial to listen and to be a helping hand, whether it be a shoulder to cry on or just giving them space. Every person is different when it comes to grieving, so each scenario will require a different level of support.
There are some who need time to themselves to process and try to understand the loss they are going through. Calkins also fell into this category.
"Sometimes I think that being alone is what really helps me to deal with how I feel about a situation," Calkins explained.
Whatever way you grieve, the key is to make sure that the ways are healthy and won't hurt you more. It is important to understand that whatever you are going through will not last forever. There was a time that you weren't feeling sad and overwhelmed and that feeling will come back, but it is important to keep in mind the feeling of loss will always be with you in some sense.
Keep in Mind
Barry put it simply when he said, "You wouldn't be human if you didn't [let it bother you]."
Grief and loss are a part of life and you never know when you are going to experience it, so it is good to be prepared for when it does. Whether you are at college or at home with your family, having a support system or even two will be very beneficial. Calkins had a big takeaway from her experience.
"Try not to run from the feeling, let yourself feel it ... feel it when you can and work through it as soon as possible," she said.
"Try not to run from the feeling, let yourself feel it."
Not having weight on your shoulders is always a good thing. It is important to keep in mind that people around you are there to help. Professors are there to work with you during these times to make sure you are still succeeding, while also keeping your mental health up.
Whether it is being with friends, being alone or even keeping a journal, there are lots of ways to get through any kind of loss.