A Time to Mourn
Over the past year, I have recognized that our ASU community has faced loss.
In the spring semester, our Nepalese students were hit with the news of a destructive earthquake in their home country. In the summer and approaching the fall semester, our student body mourned the deaths of classmates.
As a counselor to students, I am privy to some of the private losses our students have faced, especially of family members and friends from childhood. Death is a painful reality and I see the suffering of students. In honor of those in mourning, I respectfully submit this post about grief.
Six Basic Principles of Grief
1. Time does not heal.
Time simply passes. Facing the pain in small, manageable doses over an extended period of time — that is how one finds healing. It’s an intentional and difficult journey. Let others walk with you — friends, family, ASU faculty and staff, a church or spiritual group or your ASU counselors located in the University Clinic.
2. Grieving is a natural reaction to death.
However, grieving does not feel natural because emotions, thoughts and physical feelings associated with the death can be difficult to control. It can be overwhelming. Frightening. Accepting the reality that you are grieving can allow you to progress on your grief journey.
3. Each person’s grief response is unique.
Grief is best understood as a process in which bodily sensations, emotions, thoughts and behaviors surface in response to the death. One individual may cry while another may respond with humor. We cannot predict how long, how intense or what your grief will look like. Your grief response is impacted by things such as your relationship with the individual, how the individual died, your support system, your past experiences with death, and your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to dealing with stress, adversity and high emotion.
4. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
However, there are helpful and unhelpful forms of grief.
Constructive grief work can include: spending time with trusted friends; writing letters to shred or save in a notebook; creating art; journaling feelings and preserving memories; and listening to music (create a playlist in honor of the deceased). Sleep. Your body needs sleep because grief is hard work.
Destructive behavior is a sign to seek professional help. Destructive behaviors include self-medicating with alcohol and other substances, reckless sexual activity, and other high-risk behavior to temporarily numb the pain of loss.
5. Grief is ongoing.
It never ends, but it does change in character and intensity.
6. Grief requires identity work.
You can explore and define yourself in light of the loss. These questions might help you with identity redefining:
- What did the person mean to you?
- What did you learn from her or him?
- What have you learned about yourself, other people or life?
- Are there things you appreciate more?
- Who are the people who have been there for you? Were they the people you expected? What have you learned about them?
“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.” —Sarah Dessen