Everyone always tells you all of the great things that will happen at University, all the new things you’ll learn, all the new, exciting people you’ll meet. However, once the excitement wears off and life starts, you realise that no one had prepared you for losing a loved one and the things that life was going to throw in your way.
Losing a Family Member
I didn’t have the greatest send off to University. After being rejected from my first choice I already had some doubts and worries about leaving home. Then, about a week before I was supposed to move to university, I received a phone call from my Dad telling me that my Grandfather had passed away. This was a huge shock to me. It was the first person I had lost that I couldn’t imagine being without. But still, the deadline for moving to University was coming up and I made the decision to go.
I will not lie and say that the first semester became easier, because it didn’t. I returned home often, but even then I was not processing all the emotions I was feeling properly. Looking back, instead of processing these emotions and thoughts healthily, I was burying them deep and acting as though nothing had changed. When I went home for the Christmas break, things really started to deteriorate for me. On New Year’s Eve, we received a phone call in the middle of the night saying that my cousin had been taken to A&E. In a huge, panicked rush, we arrived at the hospital and were told that my cousin had passed.
And so, the cycle of repressing my emotions and not processing my feelings started all over again.
Amidst the act of pretending everything was okay, I still went out and made friends. I still went on nights out and I still went to my lectures. I say this because there is no one way of dealing with the death of a loved one. There will be a lot of posts that you see on social media that will tell you everyone is going through the same thing as you; that your depression and your loss is something that everyone has and that everyone just accepts and gets on with.
And this is NOT true.
Losing a loved one is difficult. Losing a loved one while you are away from family and trying to live independently is even harder. You are not weak for seeking out help. Just because you feel like you should be independent doesn’t mean you have to deal with the burden on your own. That is not what being independent means. Being independent is knowing that the choices you make are healthy and benefit you as a person.
Looking back I wish I had known this. I wish someone had told me that it was okay to talk to your tutors. Not knowing these things I could have done to lessen the weight on my shoulders, caused my mental health to deteriorate and to this day I am still fighting against depression and anxiety. Looking back I try to remember all the good things that happened: the friends I made, the things I learned. But most importantly to be proud of how far I have come despite all of the hiccups on the way.
Small things you can do
- Go and talk to your personal tutor.This is so so important, and they will help you out with more than you could know.
- Keep in contact with your friends and family. Sometimes just being around other people helps keep you in a lighter mood.
- Seek out professional help. All universities have a mental health/ counselling unit and they are there to help!