It’s a Friday night. My friends and I had already planned a movie night so we’re scattered around my room, "Nerve" playing on the screen and Emma Roberts’s character is about to…my phone rings. It’s a close friend of mine. I figured she was just calling to say hello.
“Hey, what’s up?” I asked her in a hushed tone. Immediately, I knew something was wrong.
“Hey, so I’ve got some bad news…” My heart immediately dropped to my stomach. My thoughts immediately went to my mom. Was she okay? Did something happen? Or even worse, was it my little sister? She continued, “Your uncle died.” Time seemed to slow down but my heart beat increased tenfold. I scrambled up as fast as I could, my fuzzy socks slipping on the wood floor. I ran into my hallway.
“What?” I asked her, hoping I had heard her wrong.
“Your mom just found out and is freaking out,” she said.
“I — I have to go.” I hung up and immediately called my mom. I knew it was real as soon as I heard her voice. “Mom?” I could barely get the word out. It wasn’t long before I was sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of my dorm hallway. I couldn’t believe it was true. He was actually gone. If I’m being completely honest, I still can’t believe it. After crying for about an hour, I forced myself into a shower, where I cried some more. Everything else I had been stressing out about — finals, presentations and everything in between — all seemed so unimportant. But as much as I would have liked for them all to go away and let me grieve in peace, that wasn’t the case. I had to keep on pushing through the rest of my semester without letting my grades slip. Here’s what I learned from losing someone close at the end of my first semester freshman year.
1. Even though my entire world feels like it’s moving in slow motion, the world around me is not.
Finals and deadlines are still nearing, which means I need to keep working hard before I have off for an entire month. I don’t have to be happy about it but I do have to finish as strong as I started. Make the person I lost just as proud as I would if they were still here.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask professors for extensions.
They want what’s best for me and will be more than accommodating. Just by emailing them, they were more than willing to reschedule tests and understood that what has happened would take an emotional toll on anyone.
3. It’s okay to cry.
Cry often and cry hard. I am allowed to be upset over this. I am so used to being the person who is strong for everyone and for everything but I learned that it’s okay to be sad. I cry still. Whenever I get sad, I don’t hold it in anymore. I just let it all out and while I may not feel completely brand new afterword, I do feel better than I would have if I held it in.
4. Having a solid support system is everything.
As soon as I found out, my friends were there for me and everything I needed, whether it was a laugh, a shoulder to cry on or a distraction. The amount of love and support I received was overwhelming. It was enough to drown out some of the sadness for a while. Without them, I would have been in much worse shape.
5. Appreciate family.
You have no idea when they’re going to be gone. I was so blindsided by the loss of my uncle and I think that’s a large part of what made it hurt more. I thought I had more time to see him and spend with him, but tomorrow is promised to no one. Appreciate everyone you have in this very moment because you never know when you’re going to lose them.
To those who are going through the same thing as I am, you’re not alone. You are strong. Things will get better. Just make them proud.
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