VSU Counseling Center

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Advice and Announcements for VSU Students

Saying Goodbye

by Rebecca Smith on May 8, 2014 in Anxiety, Being Positive, Friendship, Loss

May brings about mixed feelings in a lot of people.  Most students are happy to be done with classes and finals or even happy to be finally graduating.  However, being done means you’ve completed one thing and you are moving onto the next.  Moving on means saying good-bye.  Some students are only saying good-bye for the summer.  Others may be saying good-bye forever.  Saying good-bye also makes this a very sad time of year.

graduation-group

Transitions are hard.  College is constant transition.  It is hard to maintain relationships and friendships throughout the four years of college and beyond.  Sharing space, classes and experiences bring people together.  What happens when those things no longer exist?  Some relationships and friendships move on together but some pull apart.  The unknown can be scary.  Even with technology making it easier to stay in touch, it still can be hard to keep up with your friends once you are scattered again across the country.  Even if it is just for the summer.

Most of  us have a hard time saying good-bye.  A lot of people will start pulling away a few weeks or months earlier to make the actual separation time easier.  When that day comes they like to either sneak away or leave with a very quick good-bye.  They don’t like the emotions of good-byes and try to avoid them at all possible.  If you used to watch the Office you know that Steve Carell left the show before the last season.  His character, Michael Scott, was leaving his job to move to Colorado with his fiancee.  He told everyone in the office that he was leaving on a certain day, so everyone planned to say good-bye to him on that day.  However, he started to say good bye the day before he said he was leaving.  No one really knew this was their last chance to talk to him, so they didn’t make it a big deal.  Michael left the office at 4pm that day knowing he wasn’t coming back on his “final” day.  He sneaks away instead of letting everyone really say good-bye because it was just too hard to deal with all those sad emotions.

This may seem like a good way to handle things, but it doesn’t allow the other people to express their emotions.  Some people may feel like they don’t have any closure.  It may be easier on the one leaving, but it doesn’t make it easier on the person or people who are being left.

goodbye

Some people will cause a fight before they have to say good-bye.  They purposefully try to push the other person away believing it will make the separation easier.  This person may believe their friend or friends won’t stay in touch.  Rather than risk that rejection, they reject them first by causing a conflict.  This may cause the relationship or friendship to really end.  While maintaining a relationship or friendship long distance isn’t easy, it is possible.  It isn’t always necessary to end a relationship in order to deal with a separation.  If it is what both people want, that is fine.  However, if it is just one person making the decision, they risk losing great friendships to avoid possible future pain.

Some people become more clingy in the months or weeks leading up to a separation.  They want to spend every waking moment with the person or people before they leave.  They want to relive a lot of memories by talking about or doing things that they’ve done with their friends in the past.  When they do say good-bye they become very emotional and end up saying good-bye several times before they actually leave.  This is a lot of pressure to put on a relationship or friendship before a separation.  Everyone has a lot going on before school ends.  It can be hard to balance your friends with having to study or get work done before you leave.  The added pressure of making too much time for your friends can cause conflict.

There is no best way to say good-bye.  We all tend to handle it awkwardly.  As this time of mixed emotions is looming before you, just do your best to be yourself.  Let your friends know in your own way that you will miss them.  Then remember that time has a way of working things out.  You will either be able to maintain the relationship or friendship across the miles or other things will fill up your time and you won’t miss that person as much anymore.  Some people are meant to be in our lives just a short time.  Other people tend to be life long friends that no distance seems to be able to change.  The end of the school year is a bittersweet time for everyone.  Cherish your memories and be thankful to Facebook for keeping you somewhat connected either through the summer or through your lifetime.

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

Grief

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