Something Lost but Something Gained

Quite recently, my grandfather unexpectedly passed away. This, of course, was and continues to be incredibly difficult on both myself and my family, but it was especially tough as a first-year student in only her second trimester at a fast-moving and academically rigorous institution like K. My grandfather’s death came at an incredibly inopportune time; though there is obviously no “convenient” time to lose a loved one, I felt overwhelmed by sorrow as well as the pressure from my commitments with school, work, and student organizations. I had two lengthy writing assignments due, a midterm coming up, work tasks to complete, two unfinished externship applications with deadlines approaching fast, an article to write for The Index and another for NaKed magazine, and next to no time to complete them all as well as to grieve with my family. Not long after initially learning the devastating news, I began to feel as if I would never have enough time or energy to “bounce back” from something like this – this feeling of hopelessness, luckily, did not last long, as the students, faculty, and staff at K refused to let me drown.

Upon e-mailing all three of my professors and informing them of my circumstances, each and every one of them not only offered condolences, but extensions on my various assignments. What’s more, they were also sensitive to my inability to participate in class at my usual level, and each made sure to check up on me in a discreet manner, letting me know they cared for me as a human being, and not just for my grade (one later wrote to me that she understood that “being a good daughter sometimes clashed with being a good student,” and encouraged me to focus on being the former).The same was true of my editors at The Index and NaKed magazine, all K students themselves, who empathized with the feeling of being overwhelmed with “family stuff” in addition to life at K, and generously accommodated me by extending deadlines, even despite their own busy schedules and numerous other commitments.

In addition, I was encouraged on numerous occasions to visit the counseling center, which I eventually did. Not only was my session completely free of charge, but the trained professionals at the counseling center worked with me diligently to find appointment times that would fit my already-hectic schedule. I found the sessions to be a reprieve from my daily life; they were a chance to grieve in private without judgment as well as a good place to learn how to find time for myself and my family amidst all my other commitments with school, work, and extracurriculars. What’s more, my counselor made sure to follow up with me afterward and let me know she was always available to me – not only after crises such as a death in the family, but for any and all concerns I may have in the future regarding my mental health.

No one wants to think about crises that might arise after they leave for college. I know I never did, and I know I never wanted to – but I am glad for the numerous outlets for support I have found here at K since arriving last fall. Perhaps at another college or university, the loss of a loved one on top of everything else would have been too much – but thankfully, for me, this was not the case here at K.

I miss my grandfather every day, and I believe I always will. But the people at Kalamazoo College were not only compassionate and accommodating in light of my loss, but they helped me to realize I could handle unexpected moments in life, even the incredibly painful ones. Since returning to campus after the funeral, I can honestly say that the bright days have outnumbered the dark ones – and that’s a testament to the people around me as much as it is to myself.

-Addie Dancer ’20