In the early part of this school year,
I was called into my Hall Director's office to recieve
some bad news. One of my residents, Curt, had died
in a car accident that monday morning. He forgot his
laundry from the weekend, and decided to drive home
before his afternoon classes to get it. Curt was from
a small town, and many of his friends went to college
with him. His roommate was, in fact, his best friend.
During RA training, we touched on how
to deal with many issues, but I was totally unprepared
with how do deal with this. What should I say? Am
I doing the right thing? How can I help his roommate?
While I had these questions, I was also trying to
deal with the grief that I felt.
Not knowing what else to do, I passed
around a card and had the residents on the floor sign
it, and since I had just made a set of door decorations,
I placed Curt's in the card. Some guys on my floor
who knew him well, along with myself and my hall director,
attended the funeral the next day. We stayed for the
reception after the funeral, and spoke with his family
and friends. It was a tough day for everyone, but
also a day of healing. It was so nice to be able to
trade stories about Curt with the other people in
Later that week, members of Curt's family
came to move his stuff from his room. I was scared,
to be quite honest, and the questions of "What
should I say?" and "How should I act?"
ran through my head. I soon realized, however, that
I wasn't going to make things worse no matter what
I did, and speaking with his brothers and his uncles
was not scary. Not scary at all.
I don't claim to be an expert on dealing
with grief and loss, but I hope that I can be of some
help. A pamphlet that helped me tremendously is available
from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
You can contact their counselling center and they
will send you ordering information. I highly suggest
that each RA have this pamphlet on hand in
the even that someone close to them dies. Below is
an excerpt from this
pamphlet about what you can do...
1. Take some kind of action. Make a phone call, send
a card, attend the funeral, help with practical matters.
2. Be available. Allow the person time so there is
no sense of "urgency"
when you visit or talk.
3. Be a good listener, accept the words and feelings
telling them what they feel or what they should do.
Be a good listener.
4. Don't minimize the loss, and don't be afraid to
talk about the loss.
However, don't give cliches or easy answers.
5. Allow the bereaved person to grieve for as long
or as short as they
6. Encourage the bereaved to care for themselves.
Encourage them to
grieve for as long or short as they feel they need.
7. Acknowledge and accept your own limitations. Utilize
resources, your university counselling center, your
hall director, other staff members, etc.
Winona State University, MN.
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