In the past few years at the University of Richmond, an average of 26 students each year went to CAPS to deal with grief. In addition, an average of 80 students and faculty go to the Chaplaincy for grief counseling each year. These are 17-22-year-olds trying to balance living their lives as students while handling the debilitating effects of grief.
I happen to be one of those students. I have been fortunate enough to find support and my preferred kind of counseling on campus to help me with my suffering from the loss of my mom, but I worry about other students who have not found help, kindness and understanding here at Richmond to help make the grieving process a little bit easier.
Grief makes everything harder. If the average Richmond student thinks stress levels here are out of control, I dare them to imagine how much more impossible every challenge seems to the student who is preoccupied with grief. Everyday activities can be exhausting and small emotional burdens can feel powerfully oppressive. I'm becoming accustomed to taking an extra 15 minutes out of every morning just to convince myself to get out of bed. I live in fear of depression, of rock bottom, of giving up and of death. Death is a fundamental part of my life, and sometimes I don't know how I still manage to breathe.
Considering how agonizing grief is and how downright unfair it is for people our age to have to handle it, one would think the professors here would be capable of reaching out to students who especially need kindness and understanding. I'm saddened to have recently realized that this is not always the case. One of my classes happens to incorporate several discussions regarding hospitals, sickness and death, to the point that at times I feel the urge to exit the classroom or in some way withdraw myself from the conversation. I told my professor about these experiences in an e-mail and he quickly responded, saying that I had expressed a personal issue that has nothing to do with class.
I am personally affronted and hurt by this response. Shouldn't all professors have some kind of training regarding how to treat students with special circumstances? I'm not saying that I want special treatment or an easy "A," I would just like to stress how much of an impact a few kind words can have on a person's morale, especially a person who is grieving. Fortunately for me, I have people like Tina Cade, the director of multicultural affairs; Chaplain Kate O'Dwyer Randall, and several invaluable friends to help me through the day. I wish I never had to encounter insensitivity among the people in charge of my education, but I guess I just have to deal with it, and keep living in this world, even though it's a world without my mom.