- Erin O'Donnell
Gaining from ‘Living With Loss’
A program called Living With Loss is offered by the university for students who want to cope with grief and loss. The purpose of the group is to offer students who have experienced the loss of a loved one to find support and the opportunity for healing by sharing and learning from others who may have had similar experiences. I attended Living With Loss for the first time on Feb. 24 and was very pleased with my experience.
My world turned upside down when I found out that my father had passed away from COVID-19. I had to leave school, see the rest of my family under the worst circumstances imaginable and come to terms with what was going on in my life. I knew that I had to return to school at some point to finish out the semester, but I realized that I was still sad, confused and overwhelmed. I have always been one to advocate for myself, so I knew that once I read the email that explained what Living With Loss was about, I was going to make it a priority to attend.
Although I knew I wanted to go, I truly had no idea what to expect. Was it just going to be me? Were there going to be a lot of people there? Am I going to be comfortable crying in front of people? What are the counselors going to ask me? These were some of the many questions that I asked myself before entering the session.
Elizabeth Kellett, the Assistant University Counselor at the Mount, ran the session alongside Elaine Coates (who is a Counseling University intern). The pair made me feel like I could open up about anything that I was feeling and thinking about. They also gave me all of the handouts they had given out in previous weeks for my own reference as well as the sheet that laid out what we would be speaking about in that session.
During the meeting that I attended, we spoke about how it is difficult to cope with grief in college and what the physical and emotional symptoms of grief are. I think the most helpful tip that I received during the session was that searching for meaning, such as “Why did this happen? Why this way? Why now?” is completely normal. Having these thoughts flood my mind each and every day has been exhausting, however, after the meeting I was reassured that they are normal thoughts and feelings during the grieving process.
Something else that I was reassured of during the meeting was that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I remember the first day that I went without crying after knowing that my father had died and felt guilty afterwards. I thought to myself “Why aren’t you crying? Do you not miss him that much?” On top of already being upset due to my father’s passing, I found myself making myself feel bad about a day where I actually felt a little good. One of the handouts that I received in the meeting explained that grief itself is the natural emotional response resulting from a significant loss. The more that I keep telling myself that all of my feelings are a part of this natural process, the more I am able to come to terms with the feelings and thoughts that I have.
Counseling services run the meetings at 4 p.m. every Wednesday in the Gelles Conference Room in McGowan and on Zoom. I would recommend anyone who is grieving a loss to attend a Living With Loss meeting because of the helpful resources that the counselors provide as well as the comforting environment that aids in the grieving process. As stated in all of the emails regarding Living With Loss “whether you have lost someone dear to you recently, or in years past, please know you are not alone.”