Mourning Janet Headley, Ph.D., Professor of Fine Arts
Dr. Janet Headley was a wonderful professor and provided meaningful contributions to the Loyola University Maryland community. Dr. Headley joined Loyola in 1986 as an Assistant Professor in the Fine Arts Department, becoming a full professor in 2006. Dr. Headley served as Chair of the Fine Arts Department from 1996-2014. During her tenure at Loyola, Dr. Headley had a tremendous influence on students, colleagues, and alumni. We are saddened to hear of her passing. Whether you had the good fortune of knowing her as a professor, colleague, or if you are just learning about Dr. Headley now, her passing may bring up many emotions and questions. Sudden or unexpected 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, friends, or colleagues.
- 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 overcome them. Draw upon your inner strength.
- Be patient with yourself.
- Maintain a normal routine. Even if it is difficult to do regular activities, try to anyway. 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 family or 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 experiencing 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. 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 openlywith the bereaved person about their loss and feelings. Don't try to offer false cheer or minimize the loss. Allow the grieved person time to talk.
- Be available Call, stop by to talk, share a meal or activity. Your 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, or call. 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 themselves 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.