Resource Reflection: Coping with the Loss of a Family Member

6 Sep

School, for me, has always been a top priority. I know I want to go to graduate school for higher education because I enjoy working with college students during their transition years. I want to assist them in making this transition as smooth as possible. I give it my all by submerging myself in school, earning good grades, and participating in different clubs–all to make my dreams come true.

However, recently, I faced a circumstance that stopped me in my tracks. I lost one of my aunts, and although I wasn’t really close to her, my aunt’s passing still hit home because it brought back many memories of my grandfather’s passing several years prior.

Unfortunately, I had no control over the cards I had been dealt, or the fact that I was meditating on a lot of past and present hardship the week before starting my senior year at the University of Arizona.

Losing a family member isn’t something that many of us like to talk about, but we all have to deal with it at some point in our lives. So, I’m hoping, that in sharing my experience, and the strategies I have used to cope with the loss of my loved ones, you may feel like there is hope and someone is easily accessible to help you through your pain.

My sophomore year of college, I was really excited about my schedule for the spring semester. I was finally enrolled in every class that I wanted, scheduled for the times that I wanted, and I was ready to rock the new year.

On January 28, I received a phone call from my cousin, telling me not to freak-out, but that my grandfather wasn’t doing okay. Tears streamed down my face. I did not believe what she was saying. Three long minutes later, she called me again to let me know that he had officially passed to a better life.

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At this point, I couldn’t hold myself together anymore. The rock in our family had just left us. My only consolation was to think that my grandparents were finally together again.

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After three extremely long and heart-shattering days with family, I made my way back to Tucson because I knew I couldn’t miss many more days of school. During those days, I contacted my professors and let them know why I would be missing classes, and most of them understood. We may think of professors as “grouches” that don’t understand what’s going on, when in reality, if we approach them, we realize they often have our best interest in mind, and have been through similar circumstances, including the difficulties of undergraduate life.

During difficult times like these, many of us don’t want to open up or talk to anyone, but the university has great resources that can help us cope faster and more efficiently than doing it alone.

To start off, The Dean of Students can help excuse us from some of these necessary absences. The student has to have missed at least five days of school in order to be granted an excuse. The process is really easy. We have to meet with a representative from the Office of Advocacy and Assistance (520-621-7057) and provide the appropriate documentation. The Dean of Students is located in the Robert L. Nugent building on the first floor.

There is also this great service called Counseling and Psych Services (CAPS). This program gives us the opportunity to talk to a professional in case we need more help. This was exceptionally true in my case.  I was trying to be strong for my father, and because of this, I hadn’t grieved appropriately. It was getting harder and harder for me to concentrate in school. CAPS helped me navigate my personal situation. If you need help, you can reach them at 520-621-3334, or visit the third floor of Campus Health.

Lastly, I was able to really vent with my co-workers, my kind boss, and my closest friends. I know that many times these situations are extremely hard, and we don’t want to talk about them, but that’s the best way for many of us to express our feelings, and to understand that people are there to listen and help. Sometimes it only takes one person to hug us and we’ll automatically feel better. I’m sure there are many people in your lives whom you can talk to; it’s just a matter of starting the conversation, and opening up.

When you go through a hard event like this, I want you to know that it is perfectly okay to ask for help. There are many people and amazing resources that we just don’t take advantage of, often because we don’t know about them, or are too afraid. Remember, there is always someone willing to listen to you in your time of need! Take advantage of that.

I wanted to include the last two pictures that I took with my grandfather. They are both from New Year’s, which is the last time I was able to see him, and tell him how much I loved him. Although it sounds cliché, never forget to tell someone that you love them!

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–Veronica Atondo

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