How to Grieve Away from Home

Three days after saying goodbye to my friends and family and flying back to school in Seattle, my grandma passed away. It wasn’t unexpected, but that didn’t make it any less painful. At home, my extended family immediately came together to comfort and support each other, while I was on the other side of the country where no one even knew my grandma. At first, I felt alone, scared, and sad. Two weeks later, I still miss her but I have found these strategies to help myself cope and move forward.

1. Do something to honor who you’ve lost

The day after I lost my grandma, I went skiing. It may seem weird that this was the first thing I did, but my grandma was a lifelong skier and even got married on top of a mountain and skied down afterwards. By doing something I knew she’d love, I felt connected to her. It also helped to be out socializing and exercising. Whether it’s taking a walk, doing art, or watching a movie, do something that was special to the person you’ve lost.

2. Use Your Resources

At my school, we have a free counseling center where I can get grief counseling. There is often a stigma about using mental health services, but using them is no big deal. I found it helpful to have someone to talk to, explain the stages of grief to me, and reassure me.

3. Keep them close

My grandma gave me her favorite amber necklace for my senior graduation. When she got sick, I started wearing it more often. Now, I almost never take it off. I think of her every time I see it and smile. Whether it’s a piece of jewelry, clothing, or a photograph, find something that reminds you of them in a positive way.

4. Stay connected to your friends and family at home

Before my grandma was sick, I didn’t even have the numbers of most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Now, they are a part of my close support system. I reached out to them and asked them to keep in contact, and they have. Sometimes it’s just a text asking how I’m doing or a quick phone call, but keeping in contact helps me feel supported and close to them. They, after all, are the ones who know how I feel. Reach out to the people who are grieving with you and stay in contact.