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What I Learned from a Death in the Family

Dealing with a death in the family is never an easy thing, no matter how well you knew the person. I have experienced death before: grandfathers, family friends, even an uncle. But these were different. Some were anything but sudden, while the others had not been a part of my life in a significant way. But just a few weeks ago, I learned of my uncle’s death. At first, I didn’t quite know how to respond. I didn’t even know whether or not I had heard correctly. But I had; he was gone. And here began my emotional rollercoaster. The first day, I was upset, no doubt, but I hadn’t seen him in quite a while, and even before that I never saw him much. It still hadn’t hit me he was gone, and what that really meant. 

The next day, it all began to set in. I was physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and just generally out of sorts. But what I realized early on, was that what was affecting me most wasn’t my own loss. Sure, it was hard to process that I would never see him again, and I did love my uncle, but what upset me the most was when I thought about my mom. This was her baby brother. My mom is the second oldest of five, with this uncle in particular being the youngest. Because he died out of state, my family had no answers as to what had happened and only found out because his place of employment called to ask if we knew where he was. This type of uncertainty not only bothered me, but I knew it had to be tearing my mom apart. It was her loss that made this the hardest for me. Her loss, and the fact that I couldn’t be there for her in person in this time. And as I worried for my mother, I couldn’t help but think about the rest of my family, my aunts and uncles, especially my grandmother. This was her son, her youngest son, and now he’s gone. Sure, my uncle wasn’t perfect, but he was well-loved. Just thinking about all this throughout the day grew my own grief for the grief of my family. Yes, I had my own grieving to do for this loss, but it was my family’s grief that caused me the most pain.

Which was a strange feeling for me, because I also felt guilty about what seemed like a vicarious pain. Shouldn’t I be more hurt by this? Shouldn’t I have built up this relationship in life more so that I would be commiserating with my family more than grieving for them? Am I more distant from my family than I thought? These were tough questions to deal with. It felt awful that I wasn’t grieving the way I knew my cousins were, or the rest of my family was. I wasn’t grieving for the deceased, I was grieving for the affects his loss had my family. Was something wrong with me? And this guilt compiled when I would mention it to anyone or began crying in public, because I had to ask myself, is this a show? A grab at attention? Even when I sought the help of counseling services, I wondered if I had taken it too far, if I just wanted to have someone’s attention and sympathy. And maybe, there was a part of me that craved that, but that didn’t stop me from getting help, and it shouldn’t stop you either.

Talking with somebody really helped me to better understand my feelings and know that they weren’t completely different than those of others. I encourage all of you, if you are going through a time of mourning, seek out somebody — anybody — to talk about with it. When I spoke to my counselor, she asked me if I had talked about it with my friends yet, and I said no. I didn’t want to be a burden. But she encouraged me to talk to them anyway. It would help me to feel better and others to understand why I might be acting off. So please, if you are in emotional pain for any reason, seek help, talk to somebody, and know that your feelings are valid. It can be really difficult, I know. These emotions don’t make themselves easy to deal with or understand, and they may not even feel justified, but I promise you they are. No matter if you were inseparable or distant, the people in your life shaped your life in some way or another, and losing them makes you take a step back and see that. And understand too that grief doesn’t only come with death, but change as well. If you’re feeling like you can’t work through these feelings on your own, and even if you’ve convinced yourself you can, please seek others out. You are not alone, your feelings are not unheard of, and are valid, and you matter. You are not a burden, you are a treasure to be cared for and cherished, so please, care for youself in your times of grief. And don’t be afraid to cry. 

 I'm currently a junior at Millersville University with a major in International Studies and German and a minor in Government and Political Affairs. Outside of Her Campus I am invovled with Student Government, Society for International Human Rights, and German Club. When I somehow miraculously have free time I usually spend it being a total geek: gaming, watching youtube, watching netflix, you get the gist. Besides all that I also enjoy being creative in a variety of mediums as well as ice skating. I'm looking forward to the next few years at MU and I can't wait to see where it will all take me!
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