The Simpson College community is still raw from the loss of Jake Hartvigsen, a junior music education major from Audubon, who died Saturday of terminal brain cancer.
With this loss comes a flood of emotions to those who knew and loved Jake dearly, as well as to those who did not have the chance to know the 21-year-old before his death.
Student Development, Counseling Services, Smith Chapel staff and other campus resources quickly and appropriately addressed Jake’s passing and provided accommodations for any students, faculty and staff needing care during this difficult time.
To be clear, we at The Simpsonian commend Simpson staff for their outreach and support during this time.
But an underlying issue exists for college students when it comes to adequately dealing with grief and sadness.
As any student who has suffered a loss during the academic year – whether it’s a family member or close friend who becomes sick or dies – can attest dealing with that loss while also trying to handle regular college requirements can prove to be an insurmountable task.
Simpson faculty members are compassionate toward students and generally understand the needs of students going through the grieving period.
Missing class for a funeral or needing extra time for a missed assignment can be reconciled with faculty as long as the student expresses his or her needs and accepts responsibility for making up anything missed.
But the fact still remains that college students are dealt a stiff hand when it comes to grieving properly and accepting their own sadness.
Death is never described as easy for those who get left behind.
It’s something that lives on long past the funeral, long past the missed classes and long past the first day back.
But college students can’t afford to press pause on their lives and dwell in sadness and grief. There’s only so much time that can be allotted before deadlines need to be met and the regular schedule comes back in full swing.
While it’s true we need to get back at it and continue on with our lives, there exists an undue expectation of acceptance following a major loss.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s time to “get over it” or move on.
If you feel sad every day, feel that sadness completely because your feelings deserve to be validated.
Take the offer from Counseling Services to talk, even if you don’t know what to talk about yet. Sitting down and devoting time to yourself and your feelings is healthy and does not make you weak.
From your fellow students, please accept your feelings for what they are and take the time to process them as needed.
Please let your professors know if you need time, but respect the fact that they have requirements that need to be met. Work with them and make it as easy as possible for all involved.
Most of all, feel how you feel without shame or embarrassment. Sadness, anger and resentment all manifest in their own way with grief.
Accept that others grieve in ways different than you. Accept that sadness can come creeping back long after trauma. Accept that college students need compassion and support.
Above all, stand together and support each other during this time and any time of grief or struggle.