When I tell people that my biological father died in January, their eyes bulge, sadness overtakes them and the reactions like, “I’m sorry to hear that,” pour in.
And I just shrug. My family death was more soap opera than it was sad. I hadn’t seen my biological father in 10 years. He was married to someone who wasn’t my mom when I was born, but I never knew that for sure until he died unexpectedly at age 55. But that didn’t make it any easier to grieve.
The rest of the semester was filled with waves of depression and anger: I couldn’t get out of bed. I sent far too many emails to professors asking for extensions on papers, and I had to drop a lot of my job responsibilities or delegate them to other people. Even today, it’s still hard to work through it.
UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services helped but only in so many ways. My counselor constantly reminded me that I needed to be a student first and that my problems focusing on my school work were a procrastination problem at best. It wasn’t until my final session when I reassured my counselor that I would pass all of my classes when she finally reassured me: “I mean, no one asks about your grades from college anyway.”
Being at UNC — following through on that Carolina Way — isn’t easy when you’re grieving, and for many students, college is when most of our first major encounters with death occur.