Finding help for grief carriers

Sonoma State’s Grief and Loss Group provides students with the emotional support that some need after losing someone close to them.

“Many college students have experienced recent losses or more distant losses that continue to impact them,” said Laura Williams, licensed psychologist for counseling and psychological services.

The Grief and Loss Group was put together by Counseling and Psychological Services to provide a safe and confidential place for students to meet and talk about their feelings and experience of loss. According to Williams, students have told her it is difficult to express their feelings of grief with their peers because they don’t want to be the “downer” of the group.

University of California Berkeley’s website contains information regarding death and grief in schools, which states that being in the college environment helps numb the pain until it is mostly forgotten. School is a way to distract students from feeling sadness because they are so busy with their studies and social lives.

“Students often tell me that it is difficult to express feelings of grief in a college culture where they ‘should’ be enjoying themselves,” said Williams.

Williams believes that today’s culture is uncomfortable talking about death and loss. Humans tend to ignore grief and try to live as normally as possible, never dealing with the death close to them. There is a process one must go through to work through the grief they are feeling, and while people say that everything heals in time, that isn’t always the case.

“Time doesn’t heal everything, it just distances you from whatever has happened,” said junior Caitlin Simpson. “You’ll never be able to stop thinking about them, but if you struggle through the pain to stay strong, you learn to appreciate the smaller things in life.”

According to the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages can occur in order, but for many people they do not. Bargaining is when someone questions everything they did when the person they lost was alive.

This can have a negative affect because people cannot change the past, and focusing on it can be negative to someone’s recovery of grief. Resisting the acceptance of death will only prolong the process of grief, while these steps will help people overcome their loss and cope with the passing of someone they held dear to them.

During the meetings of Sonoma State’s Grief and Loss Group, students talk about their losses and how they’ve changed their lives. They also celebrate their progression of healing from losing someone close to them.

“Common areas of discussion are emotional reactions including sadness, detachment and anger. They work on negotiating new roles with families and friends and caring for others also affected by the loss,” said Williams. “They discuss ways to move with and through the grief, build meaning [and] allow themselves to feel happy again and heal.”

Even though each member has experienced a loss, each person’s experience of loss is different because it depends on how close he or she was to the person that passed away and how old the student was when the tragedy occurred. They come from different backgrounds and have their own strengths and weaknesses.

“The group strives to support each person’s unique process and experience,” said Williams.

The Grief and Loss group meets weekly on Fridays at 3 p.m. Those coping with a loss can contact Counseling and Psychological Services and ask for Williams to schedule a brief meeting with her to see if the group can meet their needs.