Never feel bad for how you feel. Everyone deals with these things differently. You’ll already be feeling a lot of challenging emotions: guilt doesn’t have to be one of them.
Don’t get caught up thinking things like “I shouldn’t be this sad,” “I should be feeling this more,” or “Crying and grieving make me weak.” There is no “should,” there is only what you feel. Don’t let society or others define your feelings and don’t try to squeeze your emotions into boxes, stages, or anything other than the full expression they need in order for you to move forward.
Take a moment when you need it. Faculty and staff have been explicitly instructed to be understanding of all of us over the next few weeks, but that doesn’t mean their accommodation is going to fit you. If you have to step out in the middle of a lecture, miss a class, or wait to finish an assignment, do it. Diving into things too quickly can sometimes just make the problem worse. Read a book, take a walk, have a cup of tea in town, play some music, or do something else to be able to break away for a minute and just focus on your needs. If going back to regular student life is what you need, then do that.
Reach out when you need it (or when you aren’t getting anywhere). This community is filled with people who want it to get easier for you. Reach out to your close friends, RAs, ADs, CAASHA, the SHAC, the Chaplain, the Dean of Students Office, or whoever you need to to talk things through. Remember you’re not being a burden on these people: not only is helping you their job, it’s also something everyone on that list is deeply passionate about. If you need to talk through some things or if you haven’t been progressing in your own self-care, look to those people.
Be honest with yourself about “when you need it.” Sometimes an excuse to avoid reaching out or taking a moment, besides the example statements in number 1, is the belief that there’s someone else who needs it more than you. Never, ever trick yourself into believing this is the case. If you need it, you need it, and that’s it. Don’t negotiate your need for help based on what someone else might need. The people are there if you’ll reach out.
Check in with yourself and others; meet people where they are. There are no universal stages of grief, there is only grief. Be honest with yourself about where you are and how you’re feeling. Don’t expect others to be in the same place as you, the same place as they were yesterday, or really any place at all. Check in with them instead of putting words in their mouth. Ask “How are you?” genuinely. You can’t be everything to all people, and if someone close to you is dealing with this very differently, to the point where it isn’t comfortable or productive for you to be around them, it’s ok to say so. Looking out for others will bring us through this, but that will only be possible if you look out for yourself first. By caring for each other and ourselves, we will heal.
You aren’t Superman, and that’s ok. You can’t be everything for everybody. Don’t stress yourself out wondering what the right thing to say or do is. Still, try to focus on relationships and support when you talk to other people. Basically, if you don’t want to hear something yourself, other people likely won’t either. Trend away from “I’m so sorry” or “It must be really hard” (see 5), instead saying things like “We’re all here for each other” or “I’m here whenever you need” (but only if it’s honest). You’re not going to be able to help everyone, but that’s ok. The best you can do is give people the space and the agency to be able to grieve how they need to.
Love. Carleton is a special place. Our hearts are heavy, but they are also filled with love: love from one another, love sent to campus from alumni and families, and love for the students we’ll remember these next few weeks and beyond. This community is a family, and we’ll get through this exactly how we came into it: together. Remind your friends you love and care for them. Hug. Take the time to surround yourself with the people you love. Remember it’s ok to laugh. Hug again. It is through love that we will heal as individuals and as a campus, and it is through love that the Carls we’ve lost will remain a part of us forever.
And, if nothing else, always remember that it’s ok for it to not be ok. Remember that while we all grieve and heal in our own way, we are all grieving and healing.