Brain Waves: The journey never ends

I became overwhelmed; every task, no matter how small or large, appeared daunting. I would wake up in the morning with a massive pit in my stomach, already inundated by the challenge of conquering a new day.

I became overwhelmed; every task, no matter how small or large, appeared daunting. I would wake up in the morning with a massive pit in my stomach, already inundated by the challenge of conquering a new day.

Tim Power, Contributing Columnist

The day I got accepted to Tulane was the best and worst day of my life.  It was the best because I received a nice scholarship. It was the best because I was finally leaving the community college I had attended for my freshman year. I was finally leaving home to gain those new perspectives I was looking for. I went out to dinner that night with my dad, where we toasted to the Green Wave and ate an amazing meal.

This was also the worst day of my life. On the car ride home, a tree fell on our car while we were driving. It was the worst day because I squeezed out of the car while my dad was trapped inside. I held my dad’s hand while talking to the 911 operator. It was the worst day because my dad was alive at the accident scene and later at the hospital, he was gone.

Grief comes with several misconceptions. It’s important for college students to understand that death is not the only thing that can cause grief; the experience of grief can be caused by a breakup, by parents selling the family home or by moving to a new place. Grief comes in stages and unfortunately, it never does go away. “Grief never goes away, it simply gets easier with time,” said one of the counselors at Tulane’s grief support group, which I attended last semester. The initial shock of my dad’s death is over. There will always be something that will challenge me to address that fatal night, though over time it won’t be as vivid.

For someone going through the grieving process, it is important to remember that it’s just that  a process. Regardless of what you went through, no one is expecting you to “get over it,” or move on and feel better the next day. Everyone grieves in their own way, and sometimes that includes being alone. Though I greatly appreciated the support and outreach of my friends and community after the accident, I sometimes wish that I had more time alone. For those that know someone going through the process, allow them to have that space if they ask for it and respect it. Don’t think you are shutting people out or hurting people’s feelings because you’re asking to be left alone. Being alone is a good time to reflect on memories, experiences and indulge in any hobbies or activities you have.

I’m an English major, so I can escape into literature, but it is a personal process: use your alone time to turn your grief into something beautiful, creative, calming or memorable. Not everyone can go to another city to escape painful reminders and raw memories, so it is important to find a space you can go to that doesn’t trigger your trauma, but instead allows for healthy reflection. Back home, I went to my favorite coffee shop whenever things were getting too heavy  it was a place that didn’t remind me of the accident and allowed me to be alone.

Another aspect of grief is that it can be biological. Grief can very easily lead to other disorders, like anxiety and depression. It’s important to remember that this is simply your body’s biological response to the traumatic stimulus and it will get easier with time.  It’s natural, it’s okay, it’s human.

Everyone grieves differently; there is no right or wrong way to experience grief. When I came to Tulane, Counseling and Psychological Services provided a plethora of resources for me, including the grief support group where I met other people that were going through the same thing.

This October will mark a year and a half since the accident, and even though I have come a long way I know I still have a long way to go. It does get easier. I urge others to use this difficult time to engulf yourself in your passions and understand that whatever emotion you feel, it’s normal and okay to feel it. But most importantly, do not be afraid to reach out for help or find someone to talk to. Someone will always be willing to listen. Your feelings are valid. In the words of William Shakespeare, “to weep is to make less the depth of grief.”