Navigating the five stages of grief that come with college

For some Terriers, Sept. 5 marks the return of classes and the onset of the new semester, for others, it is the first day out into the realm in college (the one that occurs beyond all the partying in Allston).

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

And while there is celebration to be called for in this monumental step to pursuing higher education, the reality of entering college is far more emotionally taxing than what appears on the surface. 

Much like the framework that describes how humans adapt to loss, the start of a new semester can feel pretty similar to the five stages of grief. There’s denial about things starting, anger in adapting to a new environment, bargaining with yourself, continual sadness, and eventually acceptance. 

But despite how scary or desperate things may seem, there are plenty of ways to navigate through this major life change without melting under the lack of AC and emotional pressure. 

With drop-off comes a weird flurry of nostalgia. You are vividly reminded of the past 12 years of “first days” but this one comes with something different. You are waving goodbye to your parents not in a “see you in six hours” situation, but more like “see you in two months.” It’s a strange situation to adapt to, and you may feel like you’re in denial for a few days. The dorm room you now live in is not your bedroom, and the dining hall you eat in is not your kitchen. 

It’s true that things will feel eerily off putting, but to conquer denial, there is only one solution: self-reflection. Introspection is a must when it comes to assimilating into a completely new lifestyle. Rather than focusing on what’s different, it’s critical we analyze how we can situate ourselves into our new reality by paying attention to our present, physical and emotional needs. 

Anger may come more abruptly, and almost unexpectedly. In fact, you might think that more than anything you’ll be sad about the big move. Yet, nothing really fuels frustration quite like not knowing where your things are after the chaos of move-in or feeling like nothing you do is right. You’re definitely going to feel like things are unfair at some point or another, but the best thing you can do is be patient with yourself and know when to step away — no matter how you choose to let off steam. 

Make no mistake, everyone will reach a point of desperation at some point during the semester and will attempt to negotiate with fate. It’s natural. It’s inevitable. The most important thing to remember is that how you’re feeling is temporary. The bad times are not permanent and, much like with the good, they fluctuate. 

Sadness is perhaps the most persistent and tumultuous feeling to have while in college — and it’s not hard to see why. The security created by new relationships can sometimes be oh-so reminiscent of past experiences and send with it shock waves of despair. This can be seen in the all too common “FOMO” phenomenon or social isolation.

Finding your “people” or making new friends is not something that is instantaneous for everyone — and that’s okay. Still, it doesn’t lessen the pain of eating in the dining hall by yourself or spending the night alone in your dorm. 

Unfortunately, sadness is something that doesn’t have a cookie-cutter cure for all. How everyone copes is different, but what’s critical is that you find outlets, resources or distractions as you work to become adjusted to this new environment.

Acceptance is perhaps one of the more difficult stages to achieve — even for seniors. Sure, you can fulfill all your requirements and have a bunch of friends but still feel lost towards the end of the whole college experience. 

You don’t necessarily have to accept that BU is the right fit for you, or that this is the place you’re destined to be just because you got in. How we embrace change varies from person to person, but what matters is how you make it out in the end. If anything, you’ll hopefully be fulfilled and empowered by what you have done and the connections you have made.

As they say, good things take time — so in persevering through these tidal waves of emotions I encourage you to be patient and take things slow, and always remember that there are resources to help you from each end of campus.

More Articles

Comments are closed.