Monday, September 19, 2016

In Grief: College Student Considers Dropping Out of School

Some people succeed because they are destined but most because they are determined.  ~ Unknown

A reader writes: In my 20 years of living there was not a single day that I had spent without my mom. She was my world and I was hers. She was more like a best friend to me. She played video games with me, we went to trips together, she cooked food for me. It was like she was for me and I was for her. And then, within a matter of 3 days, I lost her. She was just 42.

It feels like everything that was within me collapsed. It’s been 23 days and I still think that she'll magically appear from somewhere. Whenever I see something nice the first thing that hits me is let me take it to mummy or let me ask mummy. There's a thought of her in everything I see. It seems like she died just yesterday. And then I realize she's no more- worst feeling ever.
I was a first ranker and my mummy was so proud of me. She used to be awake with me till late at night so that I can concentrate. I feel like quitting. I don't want to study any more. I need time for my own self, my own grief. I cannot take the stress of exams now. At some point I thought I would do it somehow but now I know I cannot do it anymore.

I talked to my teachers and they really supported me. They were very much against the idea of me quitting studies. I'm at the end of the semester and this is the last semester, if I complete this semester then I'll have my degrees. They all know that I'm struggling and are supportive as well, they say I can do it, they say I will pass even if I go through the notes once but they are not getting it, it's not that easy. They are all forcing me to complete this two months in which there will be four exams- 2 theory 2 practicals. They said they'll help me in every way possible but I'll have to complete my graduation. 

I got a 7 days break from college. But it's so hard to keep going when mom's not with me. I know they are all trying to help me but it gets annoying sometime. I owe my triumphs to my mom, I had the ability to do or win anything when she was with me. Without her I'm nothing. I have lost all my confidence. I don't feel like doing it. Most of the time the grief surrounds me. The emptiness within is eating me. I was a happy, cheerful girl before who hardly cried...but now crying seems like a daily routine. I don't know what to do, I'm blank right now. Any suggestions are welcomed.

My response: Dear one, I say this not to place any more pressure on you than you are feeling already ~ but as a mother (and grandmother) myself, I've always believed that my primary responsibility as a mother was, to the best of my ability, to bring my children to adulthood so they could stand on their own two feet. As a therapist I remember being told by one of my mentors that a good counselor is someone to lean on, but an excellent counselor is the one who makes leaning unnecessary. I think that same statement applies to being a parent. Given how you've described your mother, I suspect that she did her best to be an excellent mother to you.

I ask you to think about that statement, and consider what your mother would want for you now. You say that you owe your triumphs to your mom, and when she was with you, you had the ability to do or win anything. That tells me that you have a mother who believes in you, and if you truly think that she instilled in you "the ability to do or win anything," then that ability hasn't gone anywhere; it is still inside of you. It is part of your DNA ~ and it is there if and when you choose to exercise it.

From what you’ve written to me, it would seem as if your instructors know and understand that you are struggling in the wake of your mother's death, but they also see that same ability in you that your mother has instilled in you. You say they "don't get" that finishing your last semester is not that easy for you. I don't think anyone thinks this is easy for you, dear one. Still, you are in your last semester, just short of your degree ~ a degree that will provide a sound foundation and help to shape your future, and your instructors are doing their best to encourage you. Right now you are looking at your future through lenses that are clouded by grief, which is totally understandable. But trust me, the one thing you can count on in grief is that it changes, and you will not feel this way forever. The strengths and skills and talents your mother nurtured in you are with you still, and they will see you through whatever challenges you face, regardless of whether you decide to stay in school or not.

If you cannot bring yourself to do the studying you need to do in order to pass your exams and finish your degree, is there any way you can obtain an Incomplete for these two courses, so you won't lose all that you've invested in them so far?

How I wish you could network with other college students whose parents have died while they are still in school! As soon as I read your message, I contacted National Students of AMF on your behalf, to see what information and resources they could offer you, and this is the response I received from Kiri Thompson, Director of Chapter Development, AMF:
We don't have specific advice for thoughts on dropping out or staying in school because we know that every person's grief journey is completely original. We do suggest that the student talk to the Dean of Students - they work with students who are recently bereft. Try to talk through thoughts and options to see what fits best for that student. See if there are any supports on campus - support groups, AMF chapter, counseling center, etc. that may be helpful if the student would like to stay enrolled but would like support. We just find it helpful for them to have someone to talk to about all the options so they go into whatever decision they make, fully informed. I hope that helps. ~ Kiri
Obviously this is your decision to make, my dear, but when you are faced with a decision like this ~ one with very big consequences ~ you are wise to seek the counsel of someone you trust ~ someone outside the situation who can see things objectively and give you sound, reliable advice that puts YOUR best interests first. I hope you have such a person in your life, and I wish you all the best.  ♥

Afterword ~ Two months later, this reader writes: The things that you said to me touched my heart, and changed the way I felt and I heartily thank you for helping me always . . . I was so confused about the exam and after reading your message I decided to try . . . I told the teachers at the end of the exam about my situation. Then I had to finish my last semester and they were all really supportive. I was absent most of the days and they understood and allowed me to take leaves but they never allowed me to drop out. People on your forum, people around me, my family, my college staff and my mom's belief in me.. all of these helped me –- and I passed the semester and I'll get my degree. You have always helped me in the right way. I'm so thankful to you . . . 

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