The student’s mother died last week. Her grandfather had died earlier this year. She has previously lost her father, and her only sibling. Her mother didn’t have life insurance, and she’s trying to figure out how to pay the funeral expenses.

I can’t comprehend what she’s going through. I can only stretch my imagination and recognize that I’m still coming up short.

She’s a tough kid, hard-working, motivated, an excellent student, and genuinely nice. She came back to school right away because it was easier than being all alone. And she’s the “I never ask for help” type.

So I asked her to come to my office so I could go over what she missed that one day–the only day she’s missed all term. And so I could talk to her, make sure she did have some support (two uncles, and her boyfriend’s family has “been great,” fortunately), let her know that I wasn’t concerned about whether she was on-time with the assignment inconveniently due today, and give her some “grown up” reassurance that her grief was normal and she shouldn’t feel guilty or stressed if it interfered with normal life for a while.

I didn’t tell her, but I’m going to work on getting donations from colleagues to help out with the funeral expenses.

But I’m an emotional wreck now.

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6 Responses to Loss

  1. fillyjonk says:

    I hear you. While I have never had a student in such severe circumstances, I have seen my share of students dealing with chronic, severe illness (student going through chemo who never missed a single class day), who lost parents, who went through other ugliness (student involved in a divorce who had her laptop with all her notes stolen and destroyed by her ex)

    It is exhausting. And frustrating sometimes – I see people like that who manage to soldier on, and it’s all I can do not to dope-slap the people who ask for “excused absences” because they’re going to the midnight opening of a movie and “will be too tired for class Friday.”

  2. oscar.gordon says:

    “but I’m going to work on getting donations from colleagues to help out with the funeral expenses.”

    That is mighty decent of you.

  3. trumwill says:

    When I was a few years out of college, I had a friend who was still in college. She had a housing situation with three other girls. The father of one of them died suddenly and unexpectedly in his forties. Just took a nap on the recliner and never woke up.

    The girl and I were not each other’s sort, so I can’t say that we were ever close or liked one another very much, but she was pretty pleasant to people (at least those who were her sort) and nobody deserves to have that happen to them.

    The thing that happened next was weird. After some initial comforting, her roommates (including my friend) were basically scrambling trying to get the girl’s boyfriend not to dump her. He was considering dumping her because if had been five days and still all she wanted to do was sit around and be sad. I tried to express to my friend how f’ed up that was and that he needed to go, but from their point of view his frustration was entirely reasonable and they were made for one another if they could just get him to hold on for a few weeks to get past this.

    The relationship didn’t make it.

    • fillyjonk says:

      She was probably better off without him. Brutal for him to dump her then, but seriously? Expecting someone to be “better” five days after their dad died suddenly?

      • Brandon Berg says:

        To be fair to him, maybe he just wasn’t looking for the kind of commitment that sticking with her through that would imply.

        • trumwill says:

          It’s possible, but if he’d given that indication, she probably wouldn’t have dated him. The “her sort” I refer to is the hyperchristian goody-goody crowd.

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