We hear that phrase a lot before we begin university, but we don’t realize the magnitude of truth contained within those words until the experience is upon us. Success and failure, love and heartbreak, joy and stress – these are all common experiences we associate with post-secondary student life. We seldom consider the impact of grief as a university experience and so when we become subjected to a personal loss, we often find ourselves unprepared and overwhelmed.
Grief can be experienced in three major ways; psychologically, socially, and physically. We can feel hopeless, disoriented, numb, and blameful of others. Sadness, punctuated with a loss of appetite and fatigue, as well as muscle tension and crying, are all natural reactions to a loss. Many people, and particularly students, also feel angry at the lost individual and have trouble sleeping. Interpersonal tensions and a negative impact on your professional life can also arise from the loss of a loved one (whether through death or another way). With all of this in mind, it’s important to remember that in times like these, grief is warranted and is not abnormal whatsoever. That being said, grief is an individual experience and although normal, can have a lessened impact on your life and emotions through the maintenance of a strong support system and self-care.
There are a number of support groups spread around the Hamilton and Halton areas which aim to provide an opportunity to learn, share, and gain support from others who are going through (or who have experienced) a similar loss. Many individuals find comfort in spending time with family and friends or engaging in various religious and/or spiritual behaviours. Others find strength in solitude (for healthy intervals) or through volunteering and giving. Regardless of the type of support you might need, the key is to remember that there is support out there for you. Grief and loss are some of the most difficult human experiences and it can be difficult to think clearly during such a time. That’s why reaching out to establish a strong support system is important – doing so will allow you to engage the full experience of grief constructively and provide you with the resources to heal.
At times of great loss, it can feel like healing is a far-fetched idea of the future. It’s completely normal to feel this way but participating in self-care activities can help you feel better. These activities might include exercising, crying, reading, consulting a doctor, meditating, and above all, being kind to yourself. In the end, feeling better is a personal experience and you’ll know when you do. We all feel grief at some point in our lives and it is a continuous experience. If there is anything you should remember from this article, it is that even during the most difficult times of your life, you are not alone and there is support out there for you.