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Advice and Announcements for VSU Students

Being A Supportive Friend

by Rebecca Smith on July 1, 2014 in Being Positive, Break Ups, Friendship, Grief

When a friend is going through a break up or a hard time it can be hard to know what to say or do.  Most people mean well when they say certain things, but it can end up sounding more hurtful than helpful.  Here are a few statements that can really miss the mark:

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1.  “It’s for the best”

2.  “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone else”

3.  “Just try not to think about it”

4.  “He/she wasn’t good enough for you anyway”

5.  “Why would you want to stay with someone who did this to you?”

I know these sound good in theory, and most of them are probably true statements.  However, they don’t work because our emotions are stronger than our intellect during a breakup.  We know something in our head, but don’t feel it in our heart.  For example after watching a scary movie I KNOW there isn’t a serial killer in my shower, but I FEEL like there is because now I’m scared.  So, I pull back the shower curtain to double check.  My emotions win, not my mind.

The same thing happens during a break up.  Even if your friend KNOWS the breakup is for the best, they aren’t going to FEEL like it yet.  They still feel extremely hurt and upset.  It is hard for friends and family to watch someone they love be so sad.  Most people want to cheer someone up or just make them feel better.  The intentions are good, but only time will help your friend’s heart get on the same page with their brain.  Trust me, no one wants to get over this break up faster than your friend, but you can’t fast forward through time unfortunately.

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So what can you do when your friend is still in love with someone and has been hurt?  Sometimes you just have to let your friend feel sad.  Things don’t always have to be “alright”.  They mostly need you to listen and give them a hug.   Yes, they will need to talk about it, and most of the time they will feel guilty about needing to talk about it so much.  Processing their feelings will help them.  They also need to cry.  It can be hard to watch someone cry, but being there during that time to offer emotional support without giving any suggestions will be valuable to them beyond belief.   Your friend can’t be rational at this point.  Let them know it is okay for them to be sad and again, give them a hug.

It may be helpful to remind them that it is healthy to balance a break up by feeling sad for awhile and then trying to find a distraction to give the brain and heart a little break.   Encourage your friend to vent, and then try to distract them by going out and doing something fun.  People going through a hard time need both time to feel the reality of the situation and time to pretend they’re fine and that everything is okay.

Remember, your friend didn’t choose to go through this break up.  Most likely it was forced upon them.  They still see good qualities in this person, and for an undefined widow of time they will jump to take this person back.  It is easier for you to see how this person has hurt your friend and to hold on to that anger.  Your friend will be irrational about the negative and want to cling to the positive things they miss about their ex.  It is hard to listen to, but realize they will start to get better with time.  Like I said earlier, break ups take time to get over.  Try to be patient.  If you feel they need to talk to a counselor because they are having trouble moving on, then encourage them to go.  It does help a lot of people to talk to someone who is a neutral to the situation and a counselor will keep what is said confidential.

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The reality is that emotions can take a long time to heal and that is okay.  Also know that your friend can move forward and still feel sad at the same time.  They may start to move on and still feel “love” for their ex.  It is normal to go back and forth for awhile, like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back.  Eventually their pain will lessen and finally their brain will kick into gear all those things you’ve been thinking from the beginning.  And if you say those phrases above months after the break up, they may finally hit the mark.

Losing a Loved One

by Rebecca Smith on April 24, 2014 in Friendship, Grief, Loss

Loss is hard.  Fortunately, most college students who are dating don’t have to deal with their boyfriend or girlfriend dying.  It does happen, but it is a lot more rare than a typical break up.  However, many students do lose grandparents, a parent, brothers or sisters and even friends.  It makes you think about how fragile life really is.  It can make you stop and evaluate your choices in life.  There are so many things people take for granted when it comes to the people they love.

It is easy in the every day stresses of life to believe that the people you count on the most will always be there for you.  I have met with a lot of students who really can’t imagine losing their boyfriend or girlfriend or even their close friends to death.  It is easier to imagine losing a grandparent or distant relative.  It is a little harder to comprehend the loss of a parent, a sibling or a friend who still has so much life to live.

That is usually why it can be harder to accept.  No matter how a person dies, when it happens to someone you love, it can be hard to understand and accept.  So, how do you move forward after losing a loved one?  You’ve probably heard it takes some time.  It isn’t easy, no matter what anyone tells you.  Your mind, your heart and your soul are going to go through a long process.  The grief process has five steps.  1. Denial  2. Anger  3. Bargaining  4. Depression  5. Acceptance

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You notice that acceptance comes after a lot of other emotions cycle through.  No person grieves the same either.  That is why it is hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving.  Some people want to talk about the person and feel better when they open up.  For others, they don’t want to talk about it.  They do better when they stay busy and distract themselves a little more.  For most people, you can’t go wrong with giving the person who is grieving a hug and asking if there is anything you can do for them.  Sometimes just bringing them a home cooked meal is enough.  Just knowing that you care and you want to help is better than nothing.

If you are the one grieving, be patient with yourself.  Some days you’ll wake up feeling better only to crash back into depression or anger a few hours later.  It is a long grueling process, but time does eventually help.  The days and weeks pass and your brain will start to adjust.  At first, you may be resistant to letting go of your pain.  You don’t want your loved one to feel that you’ve forgotten them.  I remind people who are grieving that you can still remember them without feeling so much pain.  You can start to remember them with a smile and actually feel happy in your memories instead of feeling so lost or sad.

Life has a way of marching on whether we like it or not.  Days, weeks, months and then even years pass.  New people come into our life.  They don’t replace the people we lost, but they fill in the gaps that are still there in our lives that need to be filled.  The only positive thing about loss is being able to empathize and understand what other people are going through when they experience it.  You will be able to relate and give encouragement to those people because you’ve been their yourself.  This may help you, in a way, deal with your own loss.  Giving to others has a way of healing your own heart from the pain.

Even though we are all different, all of us at one point or another are going to experience a loss of some kind.  I hope you never have to experience what the people of Aurora, Colorado are experiencing.  I also hope as a college student you don’t have to go through the death of parent, sibling, friend, boyfriend or girlfriend.  It is hard enough to get through the stresses of college.  Going through a major loss can make it a lot more complicated.  If it does happen to you, know that you have choices.  You can withdraw from classes for the semester and take a leave of absence.  This will allow you to focus on your family or getting help for yourself without having to stress about papers and tests.  Many students have had to do this and come back to school after a few months feeling a lot more prepared to deal with class.  Other students need the distraction and choose to stay in school at this time.  There really is no right answer on how to best deal with situations like this.  Do what you think is best for yourself and your situation, and try not to compare yourself to others students.

Also, find trusted family and friends to talk to and gain support from.  You may also decide counseling is something you would like to try.  It can be helpful because you are able to open up without feeling like your burdening your family or friends who may be dealing with their own grief.  Many people have stated that counseling has been helpful, but it isn’t for everyone.  You can do some research to find out what ways of grieving will work best for you.  Just remember it is a process.  It is okay to be angry, upset and sad.  However, if you feel you’ve been stuck in one part of the grieving cycle too long, it is time to do something to be able to move forward.  One step at a time is the best way to approach the grieving process.  Feel free to look into any of the websites listed below that may be helpful.

Coping with Grief and Loss

Understanding Grief

5 Stages of Grief