As a college student, it’s natural to fear death, or perhaps think that you’ll live forever. But death is a natural part of life — which is why it’s important to learn how to deal with death, dying and grief.
When a loved one, friend or classmate dies (or is dying), you will go through a grieving process. Losing someone close to you is very difficult emotionally, and it takes time to recover from the loss. But by understanding the process, you can recognize your feelings, and start to understand loss (and grief) as a natural part of life. The grieving experience will also show you that you are strong enough to cope with tragedy, and can handle other stressful events that you may face in the future.
The grieving process usually consists of the following stages. Of course, each person is different, so you may not go through all of these stages:
At first, it may be difficult for you to accept death, and you may start to deny the reality of death. But you can typically get through this stage by expressing and sharing your feelings about death and dying.
During this stage, you’ll probably ask, “Why me?” It’s normal to be angry at the unfairness of death — and you may project your anger unto others. Having social support and people to talk with can help you work through your anger.
You may try to “bargain” with whatever deity you believe in — perhaps even offering to give up part of your life in exchange for the life of the person who is sick, or who has passed away.
It’s common to feel guilty for things you did or did not do prior to the loss. But it’s important to forgive yourself. Accept that you are human, and that you don’t always know the impact of your decisions.
You may at first experience a sense of great loss. Your moods may change often, you may feel isolated, and you may even withdraw from others. It takes time for someone who is grieving to get back to who they were before. Encouraging and reassuring someone who is in this stage will not typically be helpful.
As you go through changes in your social life because of the loss, you may feel lonely and afraid. You can help lessen these feelings by reaching out to people you trust, and even making new friends.
Accepting a loss does not mean that you are happy about the situation. It simply means that you are ready to accept and deal with the new reality in your life.
Eventually, you will reach a point where remembering the person you lost will be less painful. You can begin to look ahead to the future, and the good times that are ahead.
The grieving process is not easy. It takes time, and some days will be better than others. Here are some ways you can get through each day:
You can play a critical role in helping someone who is going through the grieving process.
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It's OK to be afraid. Many college students are afraid of death because they’re upset about not being able to do everything they want to do with their lives, or they worry about how their death might affect their friends and family. It’s normal to have these fears and acknowledge them. But if you find yourself obsessed with thoughts of death and dying, you may want to talk with someone in Counseling Services about your feelings.