Our Angels: Coping with Grief on Meredith's Campus
“Health” comes in numerous forms. Physical health, mental health, spiritual health and social health are all vital and important parts of being a “healthy” human. A year ago today, I got the call from my mom that informed me of my father’s death. I was in class when I got the call. Two years ago, on Oct. 10, I lost my grandmother.
Coping with loss is an intense process, especially when trying to balance all of the different forms of health that are thrown into jeopardy. The intention of this article is to help students better understand the resources available on campus. From the obvious resources like the counseling center to those you may not think about (such as RHA), we’ll discuss how these resources are prepared to help you if something happens to you or a loved one.
Taking care of your mental health is why the counseling center exists, free to access for all students. Staffed with licensed counselors to meet one-on-one in a completely confidential setting, their main focus is students’ mental and emotional health. Janet Ogbon, senior counselor at Carroll Hall, explained that grief is an isolating emotion, especially since, most times, none of your peers are experiencing the same thing. When speaking on the Counseling Center's approach to grief, Obgon says, “One of the biggest things we emphasize … is reaching out, which can feel so contradictory to where that person is.” While grief is an individual experience and will be treated individually in counseling, the resulting isolational experience is nearly universal and that is important to combat. Ogbon encourages students to check out the Actively Moving Forward (AMF) organization for peer support.
While the counseling center works to improve your mental health, organizations like the Residence Hall Association (RHA) can help with your physical and social health. Heidi LeCount, director of Residence Life, told us that Residence Directors and Residence Assistants are trained in “a framework of helping skills,” designed to help ResLife approach students with empathy and with the ability to connect students to necessary resources. Additionally, ResLife is trained to recognize red flags in students and check in to ensure students meet their own basic needs, such as self-care, getting food and getting enough rest.
Students who have faith and those who don’t can both benefit from taking care of their spiritual health. In this way, the Office of the Chaplain is available for everyone. Office of the Chaplain Student Worker Lilly Wood often says to prospective students that “Dr. Battle is here to help you, in whatever way you need her.” The Office of the Chaplain is non-denominational and works to create comfortable spaces for all students, even those who don’t have a name for their spirituality. She says, “it’s all about students and making doubly sure that they’re as healthy as can be.”
I spoke to the Dean of Students, Ann Gleason, about the process for students dealing with their health in multiple facets. Gleason says,“ I believe that loss can ebb and flow. Somebody may want to talk to a counselor at first or someone [else]. . .because those feelings may be overwhelming.” She encourages students to always be active in their own healing process, because everyone’s healing process is different. She emphasized the importance of seeking out those relationships and not being afraid when those feelings ebb and flow over time.
Coping with loss is not a solitary experience, and should never be. Students reading this may not be the victims of a loss but may have grieving friends. Ogbon encourages students whose friends are coping with grief to be genuine when they talk. It doesn’t matter so much that you know the right thing to say, but that you demonstrate your genuine care for them. LeCount says that students whose roommates are coping with loss are best advised not to leave your roommate alone, mostly in the sense of just trying to be there emotionally.
By Savi Swiggard, Associate Editor