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Celebrating Life for 5 Years: Here’s What I’ve Learned

It might not be the happiest topic of conversation, but grief is something that has become more significant in our college lives than the lives we lived before school. As we grow older, the inevitable begins to become a reality, and it can be tough being in your 20s trying to navigate the complicated stages of emotion that come from losing someone in your life. It’s been five years this week since I lost my mom/BFF to pancreatic cancer, so with half a decade under my belt I kind of feel like a professional when it comes to getting in your bag about your loved ones. After building a heavy hardware toolbox of coping mechanisms, I am eager to share them with others whose souls need fixing. With that in mind please understand that there is no linear way of grieving, it is a unique process that I hope to make a little easier with these tips and strategies. 

If you’re a friend of someone who has lost a loved one, it can feel overwhelming trying to balance your support of your friend and your mental health. Sometimes we try not to focus on our own needs for fear of taking away from our friends in need of support, but logically, how supportive can you be to a friend if you yourself aren’t feeling 100% of your energy? That being said, try your hardest to know your limits, and try to plan activities that will benefit you both like cooking a new recipe, going on a fall drive to admire the leaves, going to the movies to unwind, etc. 

PS!!! Do not give your grieving friends lasagna! I guarantee they have at least three full dishes of it from the neighbors. Instead pick up some uncut bagels and cream cheese, Eggo waffles, or other breakfast snacks because I’ll tell you firsthand, eating microwaved lasagna at 7:45 a.m. before class is an experience I think we could all live without. 

If you personally have lost a loved one or a friend, I’m sure you know the difficulty behind finding a new life road map. It is so hard because you don’t really know where to begin, which goals are healthy to set, or how this will affect your daily life for the coming years. I don’t have all the answers to picking up the pieces of a fallen life, but I wish I had gotten a therapist sooner than I did when I lost my mom. I was for some reason convinced I could outlast grief, which ended up delaying my emotional process significantly. Friends are awesome to rant to, but sometimes a professional has the advice to help you feel better than you did before. I must also add that retail therapy is real and it works. Buy something cute for yourself, you’re literally dealing with some of the hardest human emotions that there are to feel. 

Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out if you are affected by loss. I was lucky to have a girl from a different high school go through something similar to me around the same time, and whether or not she knew it, she made me feel a lot less alone. When I was younger I worried I had overstepped by reaching out to her, but now that I have seen friends go through what I did and been on the other side of it, I can tell you we want to help. Humans are, at the end of the day, human. And no matter how hard some of us suppress them, humans have feelings and want to help other humans feel good.

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Faithe Shatford

U Mass Amherst '23

Faithe is a senior studying education and English at Umass Amherst. They are from Gloucester Ma and like to play music.