Embrace grief, don’t try to avoid it

By Kassidy Tsikitas | Photographer

When you’re in college, you’re in between wanting to scroll through your phone without a care in the world and having to start the search for a “grown-up” job. The years go by fast and so do the “happy birthdays.” Then, right when it seems like everything is going your way, you discover something new: grief. It’s one of the scariest feelings anyone can experience.

Just a few weeks shy of my 20th birthday, I was hit with bad news. It was a Sunday. I was attending church with family, and during our prayer time after receiving Holy Communion, I prayed to have a great summer and for my friends and family, no matter where they were, to be healthy and happy. We walked out of church, and my mom got a call from a family member. The look on her face brought me back to the times when my grandparents passed. I asked out loud, “Who died?”

The irony of it all was like a slap in the face. That day, I decided to pray for others to be healthy and happy, and the next minute, I found out someone I went to preschool with had died at 19 years old. She didn’t get the chance to grow another year. The first feeling was guilt — “Why didn’t I ever get back in contact with her?”

There are multiple stages of grief that people often experience. A study from Healthline talks about the five common stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The study also points out that grief is not linear. People may experience these stages in different cycles.

I would like to add that grief isn’t only dealing with a death. It can also consist of ending a relationship, losing a job or even starting a new chapter in your life.

Grief is an emotionally and physically draining event we have to experience, but we should never go through it alone.

On an episode of “A Slight Change of Plans” — a podcast hosted by Dr. Maya Shankar with guest speaker and world-renowned psychotherapist Julia Samuel — discussion centered on the importance of talking about your emotions to fully process and accept grief.

“Our most natural instinct as humans is to avoid suffering, but you say contrary to all of our instincts, we have to allow ourselves to feel the pain in order to make progress,” Shankar said.

In the discussion, Shankar and Samuel talked about the person we become when grief first touches our base. Samuel also mentioned that our first reaction to that reality, which we didn’t want or choose, is shock. What I took from this episode is that sometimes you have to sit with the pain of what just happened, think about what you need and let others help you.

Avoiding grief in favor of confinement can send you into a downward spiral. Taking little steps every day to enter a new community and process your life without this person can help you transform into your new self.

If you are grieving and struggling to process, don’t seclude yourself. Let others in. Help yourself unpack the events that have happened, whether they occurred years ago or recently. Let the calm after the storm come.