Losing a loved one is an indescribable experience which feels different for each individual person. Below Peer Educator, Sareil shares her personal experiences with loss, the pain she continues to cope with, and how she was able to find a community within group counseling at CAPS. For all of us who deal with grief, please know that while your individual experiences are yours alone, you are not alone. CAPS offers grief counseling and grief and loss groups. If you’re in need, stop by CAPS today, or call in at (831) 459-2628.
Living with Loss: The Grieving Student
by Sareil Brookins
“Sis, she’s gone…”
*wails in disbelief*
“No… no. Please… no”
– November 30th 2015 at approximately 10:22 pm
I remember this night so vividly. It’s as if it happened just last night. Some days it hits me in the morning, nights, or 25/8. Death. What is it? Why does it keep knocking at my door, asking for my acceptance? These are questions that will most likely go unanswered. However, what I do know is… living with loss as a student at a University is such a struggle, a pain, a heartache. This is not meant to devalue any person who is not a student at a University, or a person of college age not enrolled in any higher education, or any person in general. This is solely written from my perspective as a full-time student at a University who faced death in past years, but none as close or personal as this.
When my younger cousin died, it was my first year of college, happy as a clam, enjoying the college life as I’ve been advised to by family and friends. I won’t go into detail with how, when, and why, but what I will go into detail is what it is like to live with loss on top of being a college student. I honestly can say it is one of the worst possible physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pains someone can go through. I did not know how I was going to continue doing school (going to class, meetings, eating, etc,) anymore. It was as if my life stopped but the world around me kept going. I felt lost, hopeless, and hurt among many other things.
As a first generation student, older sister, mentor, role model, and leader, I felt the obligation to stay on top of my work and handle this all on my own. But every day I came across the “I wish __insert name__ was dead”, or the “I would rather die than do ____”, or even the “I don’t know how you do it… if I were you I would be doing XYZ.” These subtle yet impactful comments constantly being in my head drove me into a very dark and unempathetic place. I no longer wanted to talk to people around me. People saw my outgoing personality take a total left turn. I felt so alone in all of this sadness and anger and denial. Anyways, in the midst of my sadness and grief, I was referred to CAPS groups. Of course I was standoffish at first, I figured I had been going through this alone for so long I could continue, but once I found out about the “living with loss” grief group at CAPS, I knew I had to at least try it out.
Alas! I found people who could heavily identify with those annoying comments, the random waves of anger, sadness, denial, etc. Being in that grief group literally shifted my entire perspective. I could cry in front of people who just understood exactly why I was crying without having to explain myself. It was a beautiful feeling, but also bittersweet. As a current third year now I definitely give credit to that very specific grief group with the very specific people involved at that time for my healing process and give them the credit in terms of helping me be where I am in my grief process today. I definitely still hurt, because no, time may not always help nor does it make you forget anything. I still wake up being reminded about my cousin’s death.
I guess the entire point of this was to say, getting the help you need, whether it’s at CAPS, at home, in your house/apartment/dorm, a friend, stranger, guardians, etc. it is important that you get it. You have to learn to accept you are struggling and ask for help or go get it yourself. Had I not admitted to needing help and giving into trying something such as the grief group, who knows where I would be today. Being a grieving student sucks and living with loss sucks, but it’s doable and it takes time. So, if a leave of absence is needed? Take it. If you need accommodations from professors because of how impactful the death has been? Request it. If you need a support group, find it. I’m grateful for the people I have in my life who just know when it’s one of those days, and I hope you find that group or person too.
You can find the CAPS calendar here. It is updated with new workshops and groups at the beginning of every quarter, so be sure to check it out to see if any topics might be helpful for you!