CAPS Peer Educator Hilaria Barajas shares her personal experiences with the grieving process and offers advice on dealing with this difficult situation.
DEALING WITH THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE
By Hilaria Barajas
The loss of a loved one can be a very painful and confusing time. Whether it come predicted or not, when a loved one passes sometimes you feel as if your whole world has come to a pause. There is never a right or wrong way to deal with death. There are different stages of the grieving process and you might not experience all the stages. That‘s ok. It is important to remember that everyone goes through their own personal grieving process at their own time, and there is no “right” way to grieve.
My mother passed away when I was 17 and I was a senior in high school. She had been dealing with diabetes since I was born but she was strong. Although she had some rough times in and out of hospital because of her sickness she still seemed unfazed and continued to dedicate herself to her family. However, November 7th, 2012 was the last day she would be able to continue with her incredible strength and passed away from a stroke.
Everything after her death kind of went in a giant blur. This is where my grieving began and I entered one of the many stages of the grieving process: disbelief and confusion. At the time, everything seemed unreal and I felt disconnected to reality. I would later find out that these are very normal feelings to deal with after the death of a loved one. It is a sudden change to have someone so close to you gone so quickly. It felt as if she was just on a much-needed vacation or visiting family in Mexico.
I felt like a zombie at the funeral service. I was greeting people and politely thanking them for paying their respects to my mother. The woman in the casket did not look or feel like my ama and I found it difficult to cry. Looking back, sometimes I feel as if I should have been more sad or remorseful, as if that was something that should have been expected of me. However, I would like to make it clear to anybody that has shared or is going through a similar experience: there is NEVER a right or wrong way to feel and deal with this kind of stress. It is ok not to always feel sad, or to not always cry. Every experience is unique and everyone responds to death differently. Your feelings are valid.
That being said, you might not always be prepared for the different amounts of emotions you will feel, all at different intensities and durations. Confusion, disbelief, guilt, anger, sadness, shock, anxiety and despair are just some of the feeling that get mixed around. They are completely normal and really just part of the process. Again, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It can be beneficial to indulge in these feelings, to feel them fully so you can accept them and move forward with how you feel is best for you. It can be unhealthy to quickly try to make yourself feel better or to resist certain feelings. This can be more detrimental in the long run. Time is better at healing when you come to acknowledge your feelings and emotions when they arrive. Your feelings are always valid.
Mourning is another part of the process and different for everyone too. Many people mourn through religious practices or by just speaking to loved ones about your loss. It is no easy task to hold the weight of your loss alone, and that’s what makes mourning important. There are people who are willing listen. There is also a healing aspect in physically involving yourself in the remembrance of your loved one. I found it therapeutic to do activities that my mother loved to do, or to wear pieces of clothing that she would love to dress up in. Methods of healing could include writing about your loved one, drawing, dancing, cooking, listening to music, reading…the possibilities could go on and it really only matters that you FEEL. Methods that tend to turn off your brain or distract your mind for only a little bit, like watching lots of TV, won’t help much in the long term healing process. There is no one right way to mourn but healthy methods will help time do its job in helping you feel and heal. Your feelings are valid and ultimately you know what’s best for you. You are not alone. You matter. Your feelings matter. We are here for you.
If you do need someone to talk to, CAPS is always an option. CAPS services are free for all UCSC students to use (you already pay for them in your fees) and someone will be there to listen and express interest in your feelings. You can check out all the resources CAPS has to offer on the website or the CAPS blog. If you would prefer to talk to someone off-campus, CAPS can also refer you to outside resources. You can also call CAPS at 831-459-2628 to access crisis services.