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When a loved one or classmate is dying or dies, there is a grieving process. Recovery is slow and emotionally uncomfortable. The grieving process can be less painful if you try to understand that loss and grief is a natural part of life. Learn to accept your loss and believe that you can cope with tragic events. Let your experience be an emotional and psychological growth process that helps to deal with future stressful events.
The Grief Process
The grieving process usually consists of the following stages. Note that not everyone goes through all these stages.
Denial and Shock
At first, it may be difficult for you to accept your own dying or the death of a loved one/classmate. As a result, you will deny the reality of death. However, this denial will gradually diminish as you begin to express and share your feelings about death and dying with other students or friends.
Many students try to bargain with some sort of deity. They offer to give up an enjoyable part of their lives in exchange for the return of health or for the lost person.
You may find yourself feeling guilty for things you did or didn't do prior to the loss.
You may at first experience a sense of great loss. Mood fluctuations and feelings of isolation and withdrawal may follow. It takes time for you, the grieving student, to gradually return to your old self and become socially involved in what's going on around you.
As you go through changes in your social life because of the loss, you may feel lonely and afraid. The more you are able to reach out to others and connect with friends, the more this feeling lessens.
Acceptance does not mean happiness. Instead you accept and deal with the reality of the situation.
Eventually you will reach a point where remembering will be less painful and you can begin to look ahead to the future of promise.
Ways to Cope with Death and Dying
- Discuss feelings such as loneliness, anger, and sadness openly and honestly with other people.
- Maintain hope.
- If your religious convictions are important to you, talk to a religious mentor (clergy member or campus minister) about your beliefs and feelings.
- Join a support group.
- Take good care of yourself. Try to eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest. If you find yourself fatigued with a decrease in appetite, take a multivitamin daily as a dietary and energy supplement.
- Be patient with yourself. It takes time to heal and some days will be better than others.
Ways to Help a Bereaved Student
- Be supportive but do not attempt to give encouragement and reassurance when a student is in the depressed stage of grieving. It will not be helpful.
- Talk openly and honestly about the situation unless the student does not want to.
- Use an appropriate caring, conversational tone of voice.
- Listen attentively and show interest in what the grieving student has to say about his/her feelings and beliefs. Share your feelings and talk about any similar experience you may have had. Avoid using the phrase "I know just how you feel."
- If symptoms of depression are very severe or persistent and the grieving student is not coping with day-to-day activities, encourage that student to get professional help.