Grieving While In College

Nothing’s harder than navigating through the four plus years of an undergraduate experience in grief. 

What is often stated as the “best years of your life” can all come crashing down with any emotional/mental inconvenience. This is not taking into consideration the familial pressure to succeed, financial setbacks, or everyday struggles that college students are most susceptible to. Outside of the average ups and downs, death is a critical trigger as most students are a good distance away from their loved ones.

I spent my first year of college on a roll. I had worked the first seventeen years of my life endlessly toward my dream of leaving Chicago, IL and being a trailblazing first-generation student. My freshman year was wildly productive. My grades were great, I was involved in three campus organizations, it felt as though I was living the ideal life of a college student. Subsequently, I then fell into the summer of my freshman year eager to go back to campus and hit the ground running. 

But, the fall of my sophomore year my grandmother passed away. This shook the table of stability that I credited to my university. For whatever reason, the feeling of “making it out,” made me feel as though I was untouchable from any emotional connections back home. My grandmother’s death ripped that safety blanket right off. My safe haven was tainted with emotional angst. I felt pain in a place I thought was bound to be the “best years” of my life. 

While I was fortunate enough to go home for the burial and funeral, that familial comfort came and went. I was then left to work through my sophomore year spearheading organizations on campus, working retail part-time, as a full-time student.

Quite frankly, I spent the 2018-2019 school year in denial. I was too busy working through the motions of life as a student, a student leader, as well as managing an adult life working off campus. I did not allow myself the time to feel pain. 

Within the avoidance of my emotions, I lost 15 pounds without even realizing it. By the time I was home for the summer, I barely fit any of my jeans. This led to a huge insecurity as not only did I not feel like myself at this weight, but I was disappointed in the fact that I did this to my body. 

I spent the summer of my sophomore year highly isolated in a path of self-discoverance. I wanted nothing more than to be at one with myself and get back to the empowered, untouchable woman I was my first year of college. Despite my acts of self-care, I came to the realization that the woman I was 2-3 years ago is not someone I can ever be again. 

Grieving while in college is no easy task. I am just now a year later coming to terms with the fact that I am “grieving” and that it is okay to do so. For a majority of this semester I’ve fought against these emotions until I realized that I became my biggest roadblock. I allowed myself to float in emotions that I never dealt with, while still running away from them. I let my creative drive die down and have done the absolute bare minimum to just be a scholar, desperate for my time to come home. 

As of late, I have turned a new cheek and began to rediscover ways to navigate grief. It’s a hard but necessary realization to come by, but our happiness is in our own hands. Taking steps to pull yourself out of emotionally trying times is key to personal growth and development and whether we like it or not, there will come a time in which that we all will have to face the uncomfortability of growing past what holds us back.

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