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The Lafayette community has suffered a tragic loss with the death of first year student, Hanne Tischler. As the shock waves ripple through the campus, we can anticipate the varied reactions people may have to this loss, and bring our attention to personal and communal healing.

The following are some emotions that people typically experience following a loss, though they do not follow a strict sequence and not every person experiences all of these feelings. First, there is often a feeling of shock, numbness or, more accurately, a lack of feeling. You may find yourself having a difficulty concentrating and feeling motivated to complete academic work. Particularly on a college campus, the occurrence of a death can disrupt our sense of security, of being safe from the troubles of the real world. There may be a sense of denial or disbelief as well.

As the shock and denial dissipate, a person may find him or herself feeling anxiety, sadness, guilt or anger. The anxiety may relate to facing the inevitability of death in general. Sadness may result from feeling the emptiness created by the person’s absence. Guilt may be experienced for outliving the person or for feeling that one might have prevented the death from occurring. Anger may also be felt toward the deceased for leaving this world and leaving us with our pain. Furthermore, for some people, the awareness of Hanne’s death may trigger a resurgence of memories and feelings associated with previous losses. This can occur for people who did know Hanne as well as for those who didn’t know her. As a result of this loss, individuals may experience changes in emotional state, relationships, and eating and sleeping habits. Hence, it is especially important to attend to one’s emotional and physical health.

We at the counseling center encourage you to acknowledge, accept, and share your feelings about this loss. Often survivors find it helpful to commemorate the deceased by sharing stories and memories with each other. In addition, we strongly encourage you to use the services of the counseling center. Meetings can be arranged with a counselor by visiting the 2nd floor of the Bailey Health Center or by calling x5005.

There are no right or wrong ways to express your sympathy and concern. Asking the bereaved person how you can help is usually a good first step. Remember that their needs may change over time, and what is helpful at the beginning of their grieving process may not be so later on.

Be available: Spend time with the person when they don’t want to be alone, while understand that they may also need privacy.

Listen: Don’t feel the need to “fix” or “heal” the bereaved person. Let them express their thoughts and feelings. Sharing silence can be another way of listening.

Be definite when you offer assistance: Make specific offers to spend time or to help out rather than making them come to you for help.

Keep in touch: Remember that even though the person may not being showing outward signs of grief after the first few weeks, they are still likely to be experiencing the loss. Check in periodically to let them know you’re available. Send notes or emails to let them know they are in your thoughts.

Avoid platitudes: There are not always easy answers or reasons to explain loss. Be careful about making statements that oversimplify the nature of the loss or are not sensitive to the bereaved person’s religious or spiritual beliefs.

Take care when sharing your own grief: While you may have empathy with the bereaved person, talking too much about your own experience takes away the focus from them.

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