Have you experienced the death of someone
you care about?
The information below focuses on the
pain of loss brought on by the death of someone you care about. There
are also other types of loss (e.g., a relationship break-up, geographic
or cultural change). The following information may be helpful in these
situations, as well.
When someone you care about dies, it
is difficult to accept the fact it has happened and to accept the
accompanying feelings. For those who have never had someone close to
them die, it is hard to know what to expect of the grieving process. The
sadness of someone's death may bring up memories and feelings about a
previous loss. Special days, such as graduation and anniversaries of the
death, can make you more aware that someone is missing in a very
The grieving process
The goal of the grieving process is
learning to live with loss, which is a part of life. You do not forget
the person who has died, nor stop loving him or her, but you can grow to
accept the death and your feelings about it, and move on with your own
life. Each person deals with loss uniquely, yet many experience similar
initial feelings, such as sadness, loneliness, fatigue, and numbness. In
the case of the death of someone you love, you may find the most
difficult stage of grief will occur six months to a year afterward.
When the death is of a violent or
sudden nature, anger, shock, and helplessness may predominate as the
initial responses. In circumstances where the death is the result of an
accident, survivors and others may feel guilty for surviving or not
foreseeing the event, and somehow feel responsible ("if only...") .
When someone is in mourning, his or
her behavior changes. Sleep can be interrupted or become prolonged.
Normal eating patterns may change. Some people become forgetful and
confused. Others withdraw from social supports and avoid all reminders
of those who died. Thinking it will numb the pain; some individuals
drink heavily and abuse drugs. Please note: if you have any pre-existing
condition (headaches, diabetes, an addiction) this becomes your
"weakest link," where the stress of the loss may strike and exacerbate
How can I cope with grief?
When someone you love dies, it is
helpful to accept that you are in mourning and to remember that grief is
an emotional process that cannot be completely controlled. You may feel
like you are on a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows--feeling
fine one moment, and then without warning, intensely missing the person
who has died. This is normal. Because death is very disruptive to the
bereaved person or community, many people find they begin to feel better
when they gently reassert control over some aspect of their lives.
Rather than trying to constrict emotions, however, control might be
sought instead through planning a worthwhile activity.
It helps to express your thoughts and
emotions through writing and art as well as talking-especially if you
don't know what you are feeling. It helps to find or create a mourning
ritual that has special meaning for you.
Recognize that you may not do as well
in your courses as you would like. You might want to talk to your
professors about postponing exams and papers. Things that were fun and
significant may no longer seem enjoyable or important for a period of
time, while you heal. If you find that your sadness affects you so much
that you begin to think about hurting yourself or others, it is very
important that you talk to someone about these feelings before any harm
occurs. You should also speak to a mental health professional if your
weight has fluctuated more than ten pounds in a month, or if you are
experiencing any other phenomena that are worrisome to you. In general,
seeking the support of others is helpful if they understand grief
thoroughly. To express grief is not weak; to go on with your life does
not mean you care about the person any less. You do not need to feel
alone in your grief.
Friends, family, fraternity and
sorority members, roommates, coaches, and teammates can be important
supporters. However, sometimes the depth and intensity of a person's
pain is such that others can't bear to hear about it, or don't know what
to say. If what you are experiencing is more than your friends can
handle, know that there are other resources for you as well.
If your religious convictions are
important to you, spiritual support may be vital for you at this time.
The help of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and other clergy are available
through the Newman Center (585-637-5036). If you live
in a residence hall, you may wish to speak with your Resident Assistant
or Resident Director. The staff of the Counseling Center is also always
available to you.
How the Counseling Center can help?
The Counseling Center staff is
available to talk with you about your feelings and thoughts about
someone's death. We recognize that losing a friend, teacher, or relative
can be very difficult, and we would like to help. You can reach us to
set up an appointment by calling 585-395-2207 or by stopping by the
center, located in Hazen Hall.