Coping with Personal Loss while Attending School
“You feel free to ask, and I will feel free to say no.” This simple phrase was one which my mom lived her life by. What it means is this: anyone can ask her for anything, and she will answer honestly either yes or no. This saying is now something by which I live my own life, and apply to just about everything including school and instructors.
During my first quarter attending Ivy Bridge’s transfer partner, City University of Seattle, my family endured a heartbreaking loss. On November 7, 2012, my mom passed away after battling breast cancer for four years. As heartbreaking as this was, it was expected and I drew a deal of comfort from knowing that she was not suffering anymore.
When something like this happens during a semester, a student typically withdraws from classes. This was not something that I wanted to do, since my mom was one of the strongest supporters of my education and I knew that she would be heartbroken if I lost my motivation and forward progress. So, in the days leading up to the 7thI reached out to my instructors through e-mail simply to let them know what was happening.
It was at this point, when I made the initial contact with my instructors, that I put my mom’s saying into action. I asked them what could be done during this time to ensure that I would be able to successfully complete the term. Unanimously, my instructors sent replies bursting with support and assurances that I could let them know what I needed, that they would work with me to adjust deadlines and drop assignments if I fell too far behind. Thanks to this initial communication, when I received the call from my grandmother at 3 am, I was able to send a quick message to my instructors that I would not be participating in class for the rest of the week. There was no need to explain why this was, or when I would be back, since they were already aware of what was going on.
I was able to take the time to spend with my family and close friends, which I will remember forever. I was able to support my grandmother, uncle, and stepfather through the heart-wrenching process of planning a funeral for someone who left us far too soon. Then I was able to get back to what I now call the “New Normal,” returning to my courses at the start of the next week, with the knowledge that I had the full support of my instructors.
I finished the semester with a 3.939 grade point average, after spending 8 days catching up on the assignments that I missed. I attribute this, in large part, to the support of my instructors.
I am sharing this with all of you in the hope that some of you will take the lesson and apply it to your own lives while attending school. It is, at its core, very simple. Do not be afraid to communicate with your instructors. If you don’t ask for what you need, you will not get it. The worst that could happen is that an instructor says no, but I have talked to several in the weeks since and have gathered that most – if not all – of them would be willing to work with a student that is willing to work with them.
My mom supported my work with this blog, and my contributions to Ivy Bridge both while I was a student and beyond. She will be dearly missed, and forever remembered for the positive, upbeat person that she was. Every day that I log in to my classes, I think of her and how proud she is that I found the strength to continue on.