Our classmate, Connor, was a remarkable young man who touched many lives in profound ways. Whether you knew him as a dear friend or were acquainted with him through classes—or even if you are just learning about Connor now—his death poses many challenges. This is especially so because Connor was so young and so full of life. Such a death can leave us feeling shaken, unsure, and vulnerable. Perhaps especially for those with little or no experience yet with death, it forces us to realize that life is not always fair, and that bad things can happen to very good people. Common reactions to loss include:
- Sadness, yearning, depressed mood
- Feelings of helplessness and loss of control
- Panic and anxiety
- Fear of death
- Shock, denial, numbness
- Remorse or regret
- Changes in sleep and/or eating patterns
- Anxiety/autonomic nervous system arousal
- Exaggerated startle response
- Increased somatic complaints or physical illnesses, such as headaches, colds, stomach aches, and back pain
Changes in Behavior
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Avoiding stimuli that are reminders of the deceased
- Increased use of alcohol or substances
- Changes in activity level
Changes in Thinking
- Poor concentration
- Confusion, forgetfulness
- Feelings of unreality
- Preoccupation with the deceased
HOW CAN YOU COPE?
It is important to take care of yourself following a sudden loss.
- Talk to family or friends.
- Seek counseling.
- Read poetry or books.
- Write in a journal.
- Pray and seek spiritual support.
- Listen to music.
- Remember other difficult times and how you have survived them. Draw upon your inner strength.
- Be patient with yourself.
- This is especially hard right now – but try to maintain a normal routine. Putting more structure into a daily routine will help one to feel more in control.
- Get enough sleep, at least plenty of rest.
- Try to get regular exercise. This can help relieve stress and tension.
- Keep a balanced diet. Watch out for junk food, or high calorie comfort food binges.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Limit alcohol or drug use. Such substances should not be used as a way of masking the pain.
- Do what comforts, sustains, and recharges.
Each one of us has an individual style of coping with painful times. The list above may help you generate ideas about how to manage your feelings of grief. Talking to friends who have dealt with loss in the past can help you generate new ways of coping. Only you know what coping skills will be best for you. Healthy coping skills are important in resolving a loss. They cannot take away your feelings of loss. They can, however, help you move forward in the healing process.
HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT OTHERS WHO ARE GRIEVING?
People who are grieving often feel isolated or lonely in their grief. This is especially true as most of us are away from campus right now. Soon after the loss, support from others may decrease. As the shock of the loss fades, there is a tendency on the part of the griever to feel more pain and sadness. Well-meaning friends may avoid discussing the subject due to their own discomfort with grief or their fear of "making the person feel bad." They may "not know what to say."
People who are grieving are likely to fluctuate between wanting some time to themselves and wanting closeness with others. They may want someone to talk to about their feelings. Showing concern and thoughtfulness about a friend or loved one shows that you care.
- Talk openly to the bereaved person about his/her loss and feelings. Don't try to offer false cheer or minimize the loss. Allow the grieved time to talk.
- Be available. Call, text, check in. Even your virtual presence and companionship are important.
- Listen/be patient. Listening is an often overlooked gift of yourself. Allow the bereaved person to vent feelings. Don't judge the person's thoughts or feelings. Don't feel you need to offer advice. Listening itself is very powerful. You don’t need to have the answers.
- Take some action. Send a card, write a note. This is important not just immediately after the loss, but especially later, when grief is still intense but when others have resumed their daily lives and support for the bereaved may dwindle.
- Encourage self care. Encourage your friend to care for himself or herself physically, emotionally, and socially. Encourage your friend to seek out support and/or professional help, if appropriate.
- Accept your own limitations. Accept that you cannot eliminate the pain your friend is experiencing. Grief is a natural, expected response to loss and each person must work through it in his/her own way and at his/her own pace. Be supportive, but care for yourself too.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND SUPPORT?
The Loyola Counseling Center is currently offering counseling services for students. Services are free and confidential. Call 410-617-CARE (2273) for information and to make an appointment. We also have emergency counselors available anytime the University is closed. They can be reached at 410-617-5530.
Professionals in Campus Ministry are also available to offer support and can be reached at 410-617-2222.