There's no correct way of dealing with grief, but as a college student, it can just seem like a whole different process. You've moved away from the familiar, you're dealing with a lot of stress and changes, and you feel disconnected from your old life. People very often go through harsh times, but being in college can often aggravate the situation manifold.
That being said, you will start to feel better, and that we promise. Grief is a natural part of life, and you'll get through it. You just need to know the best ways to handle it.
Here are our top tips:
The five stages
We know, it's a little cliché, but it is quite important to remember the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Grief differs from person to person, but these five stages are extremely common.
The reason we bring this up is to tell you that you're not alone, your emotions and feelings are extremely valid, and whatever you're feeling right now, has been felt before.
We have to mention, the five stages were introduced as a way for people to "get over" grief, which is really not the case. There is no process to "getting over," there's no right or wrong way to handle grief, but there are healthier coping strategies.
Never feel like you have to get over anything, never feel weird for not going through all five stages, and don't feel hopeless if you experience all five stages, and still don't feel better.
Every grieving process is unique
Grief is a journey, one that is unique to absolutely everybody involved. How you feel, react and cope is entirely down to you. There's no set time, there are no set rules, and there are no set coping mechanisms. Sometimes, it really is just trial and error.
If something feels really right for you, go with it. Don't listen or take inspiration from somebody else going through grief. Don't compare yourself to friends, family or even movie characters.
Mourning doesn't have a set face - it's not always breaking down in tears, nor is getting super angry. However, you react, is your process.
As a student, you'll probably feel like the only person on campus going through something like this, this really is not the case. It would be wrong of us not to mention the unique circumstances, though. Often grief can interfere with academic performance, sleep, mental health issues, and social anxiety. This combined with a plethora of people telling you that "these are the best years of your life," isn't a great mix.
We know that. Here are certain ways that you can handle the grieving process, in a safe way.
This is our top tip. Getting professional help from a supervisor, counselor or doctor could truly be one of the best decisions. If you're super overwhelmed, helpless, or are having scary thoughts, you should talk to somebody who can help.
Grief therapy is a popular choice for many people, and it lasts as long as you need it to.
Speaking to doctors about sleep problems or health concerns could lift a slight weight off your shoulder, as grief can very often trigger certain anxious symptoms. This is completely normal.
Lastly, talk to your teachers and student services, tell them what you're going through. They will be able to extend deadlines, help with work and offer academic support. Again, this could be a significant weight off your shoulders - you never need another thing to worry about, do you?
Yes, we know. It can seem like it goes on forever. Honestly, mourning can be hard, long and exhausting. It can take a lot of your energy which can affect your day to day life.
Listen to your body, pace yourself and rest. Don't try and rush anything, or work too hard. Don't schedule too many things in your day, this will just add more stress to your day and make you feel very overwhelmed.
We hate to break it to you, but you can't rush the grieving process. You've just got to let it run itself out.
Pace your days, schedule in sleep, great food and time with friends. Don't fill your diary up with stressful diversions to distract yourself, it just doesn't work.
Grieving can also make everyday activities seem like much harder work. Getting out of bed in the morning? Suddenly, it's a big task. Preparing food - where did all your energy go? Going to the shop for some milk - why did it take you twice as long? Don't worry, just give yourself the extra time to do these activities. You deserve it. We repeat; pace yourself.
Resist bad temptations
There are certain "escapisms" which, truly, do not work...especially in the long term. Things like:
Throwing yourself into work or studying
- Other harmful coping mechanisms.
All of these will give you momentary relief, pleasure or distraction. However, they do not help in the long term and can really exacerbate the entire process.
Focus all your energy on yourself, not other substances or work. Eat great food, get enough rest and looks after yourself. Nothing will cover up the grieving process or take it away. You might as well try and handle it in the best, healthiest way possible. Temptations are tricky, learning how to avoid them will make you feel stronger, better and less regretful.
Long term feelings matter way more the short-term satisfaction.
This really applies to all the religious, spiritual students out there. If you follow a religion or practice, try not to stray away from it.
It can be really easy when you're grieving for losing faith, but many people have found spiritual enlightenment and support in their darkest times, from religious methods.
Try contacting your place of worship and utilize all the services that they offer. Pray, find a connection and ask questions. Doing this might just bring a little more clarity, understanding, and comfort to the situation.
When you're in a low place, you tend to isolate yourself quite a lot. This isn't uncommon. This can mean cutting yourself off from your religious, spiritual background. For the most part, this won't make you feel any better - it could make you feel like you're losing something else, perhaps a part of your identity?
Talk to people
In the same sense, many people isolate themselves from friends and family when they're feeling low. Sometimes it's out of lack of energy, sometimes you don't want to "burden" them with your problems, and sometimes you don't feel like they'll understand.
Talking to those who love you will make you remember just how supported you are, even during the low times.
Talking to those who have experienced something similar will help you get a lot of feelings off your chest. You'd always be there for your loved ones if they needed you, and they'll be there for you. Sometimes you just need to reach out to them.
Talking helps. Don't bottle it all up.
Let your emotions out
We live in an era, especially for men, where crying and showing emotions is sometimes frowned upon. Do you know what we say about that? Forget it.
Let it all out, until it feels like there's nothing else to let out. Cry, yell, scream, express it through art, music, writing. Do what you need to do. Literally, nobody will judge you.
Again, none of this is necessary. Some people really don't feel like crying or yelling or making sad music. That's fine.
Just don't bottle it up, because that's completely counter-productive in the whole situation.
We get it, you might not want to talk to people or cry on somebody's shoulder. Many people don't. Like we said, grief is a completely unique process.
If you feel like getting something off your chest, but you're not sure how to do it in a way that feels authentic to you - try journaling.
Jotting down your feelings, your thoughts; both negative and positives will help you put everything into perspective. It will help you articulate just what is going on inside your brain and body.
If you start to feel a rush of a certain emotion, jot it down. Every day is different, putting it onto something physical will help you a lot. We promise.
It doesn't have to be every day, nor does it have to be perfect. Just try it.
Think of thoughtful ways to remember them
Closure is a great thing in the grief process, sometimes this requires a bit of a grand gesture. Create your own little event or way or remembering your loved one. Celebrate their life with a fundraiser, a party, a physical object.
Spreading their ashes, visiting their favorite spots or creating a little memorial for them could be just the perfect thing for you.
You'll see people going on sponsored runs, skydives or obstacle courses for their loved one. It's a really sweet, selfless way of remembering somebody that obviously meant a lot to you.
Exercise naturally raises endorphins, releases stress that we've held in our bodies and helps us feel good about our body and mind. Research has also shown that exercise can help you retain information, great if you're struggling to remember things from your lectures - another common side effect of grief.
Going for a light jog, exercise classes or an hour in the gym can have great benefits to your wellbeing.
We have to say, everything has a happy medium - exercising too much can have adverse effects, and you shouldn't use it to distract yourself. Just be aware of that.
Your diet is important, ordering takeout isn't good for your body or brain. Overeating and under-eating are also both very common things to get stuck into when you're unhappy or stressed.
Having a healthy, balanced diet will have effects on your mood, bodily functions, brain functions, and immune systems. After all, there's nothing worse than getting sick when you're already feeling pretty sad.
Basically, look after yourself, even when you really don't feel like it. You'll thank yourself later, we promise.
Ah, lack of inspiration when you're down - that old chestnut. Reignite that spark, gain that passion back in your life. No matter what it may be, just go for it.
This can take time, just don't lose your passion. Do you like art? Treat yourself to a trip to the gallery? Like music? Spend some time listening to your favorite artists? Love to write? Create a private blog just to jot down some of your ideas.
You could also start a new hobby, one that's relaxing and not a distraction. Knitting and painting are peaceful hobbies and ones that allow you to be at one with your mind.
Have some fun
It's very common for people to feel a little bit guilty when they have fun, have a laugh or feel happy. Allow yourself that privilege in life. Don't shut down positive feelings, as guilty as you might feel.
In fact, when you feel ready, it could be useful to seek out fun activities. Hang out with friends, play on games, go to events, concerts, festivals. Stop saying no to super fun activities and start saying yes.
Obviously, don't use these as a distraction, use them to make you remember that you will feel happy again, you will smile, you will laugh, and everything does get better.
It might not be a straight line; there will be major downs, but there will also be major ups. Embrace it all, and have a bit of fun. You deserve it.
Remember, you're an individual
You'll be reading a lot of books, watching a lot of self-help videos and taking opinions from a lot of people. Although, it's very positive that you're seeking help - please, keep doing that, don't use it as a be-all-end-all type of guide.
There is no right or wrong way to do this, you're an individual and this grieving thing, it's totally yours, and you should own it.
Of course, read the blogs, the articles, take the tips and the suggestions, but never go against your gut instincts. If something doesn't feel right, chances are, it's not.
It works both ways - somethings that feel great for you, might not be included in the book you're reading. That's completely fine - it doesn't make your process the "wrong" way to do it. Just go for it.
Eliminate any stress
We've already mentioned talking to your teachers, but we'll mention it again. Eliminating the stress of your studies just while you're on the mend can be a great help. Otherwise, you may start to feel overwhelmed and very lost.
There are other ways to eliminate stress - perhaps keeping track of everything with a diary or an online tool, space commitments outs, make your to-do lists smaller and reach out to people for help with some of the stresses.
Once your confidence and energy rise, you'll slowly be able to study more and add more items to your schedule.
Keeping organized, even in a bad place, might seem like a mundane task but it is very worthwhile. Make sure you're putting things into your phone calendar - you don't want to miss an important meeting or appointment, that will just add to your stress.
One thing is for sure, something might just seem like a really big deal at the time but, in all honesty, it isn't as serious as you might believe. That paper deadline? Your teacher will completely understand. That group meeting? They'll forget that you missed it once. That doctor’s appointment? You can reschedule. That lecture? You can find the notes online.
It's never quick, it can seem like it goes on for so long, and just when you feel like you're making progress, you can be set back by something.
Reminders can trigger you; smells sights, thoughts...they can all throw you back to a place where your grief rushes back. It can be random, it can be every day.
Listen, there's no deadline to grief. You don't have a set amount of time to feel back to normal; what is "normal" anyway? You might just have to find a new normal.
You're not weak because it's taking you long, your journey is dependent on so many factors, which you cannot control.
Be patient, stay safe, stay healthy, make moves and let it all out. We're not saying that it's easy, but we are saying that you can do it.
Sometimes, we wish there was a set process or medicine that can heal a grieving soul. Unfortunately, it's something that we all have to deal with in our own special way. Take the journey in the best way that you can, break out of bad habits and work on yourself.
Don't feel guilty about taking time to focus on yourself, don't try and do everything alone and don't lose interest in things that you care about. You can do it.