Picture this: It’s December first. Christmas lights are strung all around, jingles are playing wherever you go, and all you can think is: ‘when will this be over?’
I remember one of my friends asking me the question: “How can you not like Christmas?” and I just thought, ‘well, why would I?’ Constantly going through a bereavement made me immune to the excitement of Christmas, because I realised that each year, the number of people sitting around the table was dwindling.
It is a tough subject to tackle in university, when everyone around you is so excited for the holidays, but speaking from personal experience, I’ve found a few ways to get through it.
One of the best and most common services that you can use is Cruse, a bereavement service that helps children and young people cope with bereavement. I would suggest using Hope Again, the young people’s equivalent of Cruse if you’re seeking help or general advice on how to deal with the bereavement.
With this, you can attend face to face sessions or groups for support if you need someone to talk to. Sometimes, it is better to talk to somebody you don’t know rather than a friend, or someone who can understand what you are going through. Even now with my closest friends, I do not speak about the bereavements I have endured because I know most of my friends have not experienced it in the same way that I have.
That is why I personally reached out to Cruse over the phone during my first year at Kingston University, when both of my grandparents died towards Christmas of that year. If you are struggling, the nearest Cruse centres are in Sutton and Richmond, so pop in for a visit if you are feeling hopeless.
My second suggestion would be not to rely on the student welfare services. In this day and age, help is limited, even though Kingston’s Health and Wellbeing Team offer free counselling for students to need it, there is a waiting list that’ll take months before you can get on it. Even political party the Liberal Democrats acknowledged that universities must do more to help their students mental health.
In my experience, I found it easier to go to my GP to receive help rather than that to wait around for the university to offer it. The results may not be different, but it is easier to go to your doctor who knows you and your medical history rather than the university service who will not know you personally at all, unless you make yourself known.
Another important tip is to remember it is okay to take a mental break. In these situations, we tend to forget how to stop and deal with the emotional trauma that comes with it.
I remember during that time in my first year, I felt so hopeless as to how to deal with it. In hindsight, it would’ve been beneficial for me to take some time off, but I was so wrapped up in my academics that I forgot to take care of myself.
In this case, the best option is to fill out an Interruption of Studies Form including how long you wish to leave for and why after speaking to your course leader. Academics are important, but your mental health should take precedence over it every time.
Lastly, take your time. It is a shocking thing to suffer a loss whilst in the middle of an academic term, so do not beat yourself up if you feel like you are not making progress.
For me, it took a whole year to get over the initial shock of losing someone and accepting that they would not be there the following Christmas.
It is okay to be resentful; that feeling never fully leaves you. Just remember the person for who they were. Add a little ornament to the Christmas tree. We did this for my dad – we made an angel with his name on it, and it has been sitting on our Christmas tree for four years.