Something that many people experience but hardly talk about enough is the new rise of grief
you feel once you have finally made it to college. What should feel like a celebration, moving out
and pursuing higher education, feels vaguely like a second reckoning with past traumas and
underlying emotions. Whether that means grieving your childhood home, the death of a loved
one or the symbolic death of childhood as a whole, it can seem suffocating to balance between
the newly acquired freedom of college with the guilt of your past still looming over your head.
I personally dealt with the passing of my father in 2012, and although time has healed most of
the wound, I could not stop the pest in my head that reminded me that he should be here on
move-in day. The twinges of jealousy I feel when I overhear others talk about going home to
their parents for holiday break must be pushed down and regurgitated as a gratitude that at
least other people can still experience that, if not me.
Things that meant nothing to me before, such as passing a big yellow school bus, mean
everything to me now. Where did that time go? It may be comforting to know that everyone is
experiencing the same existential dread in some way, or that may not be endearing to you at all.
At the very least, it is important to recognize the resources provided on your campus and seek
out peers going through similar situations. On a campus full of thousands of people, your
experiences may not be as unique as you thought. Solace comes to me by living in the present
and recognizing the privilege I have to attend college in the first place. Here are some more
ways to work through grief that I have found helpful in the past.
Strategies for coping with grief
You have most likely heard the phrase “you are not alone.” This is an extremely easy
sentiment to ignore. It is so effortless to become enveloped in your own sadness to the point of
isolating yourself from others, when in reality what we are feeling has already been felt before.
Bringing up the conversation of growing up and moving on should be easy with the right friends
or family, as chances are they have thought the same things. You can begin this chat by
bringing up an old memory about the person or thing that resonates with you and share stories
of moving on.
Furthermore, researching grounding techniques to get your mind away from the past can create
a sense of stability in where you are today and how far you have grown. For me, shifting my
mind away from my thoughts and into my external environment around me can bring me back to
the present. Take notice of the smells, sounds and feelings around you. What do they remind
you of? Do not be afraid to dig deep.
Most important, is recognizing the difference between healthy vs. unhealthy grief. Unhealthy
grief is manifested into bad habits and obsession while healthy grief allows itself to be accepted
and felt. Instead of simply pushing down feelings of dread and loss, allow yourself to cry when
needed and express yourself through your work or hobbies. To grieve means to eventually heal,
and that is a process that must not be skipped despite how uncomfortable it can feel.
Author: Isabella Gleason