Good Grief: Death and College

Life is beautiful when we have the chance to live it. I’ll be honest — I  procrastinated this article as long as I could and this is going to be extremely difficult to write.

I’ve experienced more loss before I was 20 than some people ever feel in a lifetime, and the last year or so has been extremely difficult. It happens often that during our 4-6 years college, someone close to us will pass away -- whether it’s someone close to us like our parents or a more distant loved one, like a family friend. The effects of death can be detrimental on our mental, physical, and emotional health.

So let me tell you my story about life and grief. In December 2016, my mom was diagnosed at 43 years old with stage 4 lung cancer. A disease seen in old smokers had found its ways into my mom's lungs and had spread by the time it was discovered. She had 6-12 months to live, with a 2% chance of survival. Being the best mama, she hid it from me while I was taking finals, but the hammer came crashing down the night I came home from Boston U.

My mom fought really hard to live, but she often wanted to give up. I traveled a lot this past spring semester to be with her as much as I could. On June 9, my mom passed away, just a week shy of her six-month prognosis. I lost my best friend and became an orphan, but she was no longer in pain and that’s all I wanted.

I cried less than I thought and I’m not sure if it’s because of my breakdown at our last ER visit, which I knew was our last.

It’s said that grieving is the beginning of the healing process, but no one tells you how to grieve. Everyone has an opinion about how much life changes, but no one will give you instructions on how to handle the loss.

Grief comes and goes. It can weather down the soul until nothing’s left except the dark ache of loneliness. I’ve been told that it gets better, but I have yet to feel it. Most days, it’s possible to feel okay, sometimes I can even feel good, normal even. But sometimes, I’ll take an exam and go through my messages to call her, but I can’t. Then comes the grief ambush.

A grief ambush happens when your senses are overwhelmed with emotion, stemming from grief and loss. It can happen when you see a photo, smell a perfume, or experience something that you once would have with the bereaved. There can be an endless amount of triggers.

Some days will be hard. There will be times when you can’t stop crying, or you can’t get out of bed, or your emotional pain could manifest into physical pain. But there will be good days to give you hope, days where you look forward to seeing the sun shine and the road ahead.

As Tupac said, “If you can make it through the night, there’s a brighter day.” Take a grief day when you need it, feel everything deeply, and find a way to be comfortable in it. Your path hasn’t been traveled before so make it yours and embrace it with dignity and grace, even when it’s hard.

 

I won’t lie, I haven’t figured out how to handle any of this. But I promise, if anyone else is struggling through this, I’m here to hold your hand. 

 

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