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Students cope with losses during holidays

ANGELA SAOUD | Wednesday, December 10, 2003

For most people, the holidays are a time of happiness spent with family and friends. But for anyone who has recently lost a loved one, the holidays often become a time of sadness.

“Losses are harder to deal with at the holidays, because this is a time of gatherings and celebrations with loved ones,” said Mary DePauw, Saint Mary’s director of Career and Counseling Development Center. “The person becomes very missed at these times.”

Saint Mary’s junior Genevieve Tauer lost her father on Oct. 4, 2003, at the age of 62.

“Everything is different without him,” Tauer said. “We usually go to my sisters’ for Thanksgiving, but this year we decided to have it at home because we all feel closer to him there.”

Tauer says the strong faith in God her father instilled in her is helping her to grieve.

“My dad always encouraged us to have a personal relationship with God,” Tauer said. “He told us to turn to God with everything, to trust him, because he would get us through.”

Saint Mary’s senior Laura Coristin lost her father Nov. 4 at the age of 50.

“He was sick, and for the past two years it’s been really hard to watch him suffer,” Coristin said. “I tell myself that he’s much better off now because he’s at peace, but at the same time the thought that I’m never going to see or talk to my dad again really hurts.”

DePauw suggests that the holidays are a perfect time to honor a lost loved one. Working at a homeless shelter or offering a memorial at church, home or school are all good ways to honor the life of a person, DePauw said.

This year, Tauer’s mother has insisted that her five daughters do not buy her anything for Christmas.

“We can’t give her what she really wants,” Tauer said. “Instead I’m going to go to the Salvation Army and serve meals to people who can’t afford them, and then I can give that to my mom in memory of my dad.”

Tauer and her four sisters are also constructing a scrapbook of pictures and memories of their father to present to their mother for Christmas.

Tauer offers helpful advice for helping others who are living with loss.

“Pick people you know will support you and tell them exactly what you need,” Tauer said. “If you need to be alone, tell them. If you need to talk about him, tell them. Just be patient with yourself, and don’t expect anyone to fill the void of the loss. Ask God to do that.”

Coristin believes that in a world where things can change so quickly, it is important to let others know how she feels.

“Burying a parent is an experience like no other,” Coristin said. “Make sure you take the time to appreciate the people who love you because you never know what might happen to you or to them, and it would be horrible to live with regrets.”

DePauw, who is a licensed psychologist, emphasizes that it is important to offer encouragement and support to those who are living with the loss of a loved one.

“The most important thing you can do for that person is to acknowledge it directly,” she said. “Ask the person how they’re doing, offer to visit the grave of the loved one with the person and give support in anyway they need it.”

Reaching out and extending kindness to others and not judging are all important aspects of helping someone live with the loss of a loved one, said DePauw.

She also recommends looking into other sources of support such as various books, journals and support groups geared towards lending support in times of need. The Career and Counseling Development center can help direct students to these sources.

“We in our Center are here with an open heart to listen and support students living with the whole range of loss that becomes more apparent at the holidays,” said DePauw.

She reminds people living with a loss that it is normal and important to go through the grieving process.

“We wouldn’t have been given tear ducts if we weren’t meant to cry,” said DePauw. “Don’t keep it inside.”