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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 poignant way.

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 the condition.

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.

Campus resources

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.

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Last Updated 8/15/18

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