“Moving back into the dorm was awkward, the unspoken knowledge of my mom’s death hanging in the air. Everything was the same, but I was different. The Tyler who had a living mom felt like a stranger.”
-Tyler Feder from Dancing at the Pity Party
After a leave of absence following his dad's death, Kamtha was eager to resume his academic progress. He often felt distracted and constantly worried about his mom and little sister who were 1,500 miles away. Kamtha’s RA suggested he talk to a CAPS counselor about his feelings and the continuing effects of grieving.
Maxine had never felt so furious and sad as she did after she lost two cousins to COVID-19. She learned Stanford had resources regarding her financial, academic, spiritual, and emotional issues, and those supports have helped her. A reduced course load, travel funds, and private places to talk about her deep questions and emotional pain are helping her through the hardest six months of her life.
Esther has been seeing a CAPS counselor to help her cope with stress about her grandmother’s pancreatic cancer. Gran had been Esther’s primary caretaker since was a baby, and she was crushed when Gran died a week before Quals. A Graduate Life Office dean helped Esther both with travel back home and coordination with her research team and principal investigator. A Well-Being coach also helped her make a self-care plan and connected her to KARA, a local community organization, for ongoing grief support.
During spring quarter Cody got an invitation for a Ceremony of Remembrance. Students and staff gathered quietly at the ceremony, which included calming music, readings, and an opportunity to light a candle for the person each griever was thinking of. Cody felt a weight lift as they lit the candle and added it alongside others. With a deep breath, Cody acknowledged their grief at Stanford for the first time, and said aloud, “I am missing my big sister Elaine” in the company of many kind faces.
David wondered if there was something wrong with him. His dad died of lung cancer over winter break, and David has coped by pouring himself into his research. It irritates him that people tiptoe around him or expect him to weep, but he feels numb. He is also still busy with the complex burden of wrapping up his dad’s financial and legal affairs, and has not given himself time and space for grieving.
Winnie surprised herself when she burst into tears during class. The class had been discussing suicide risk factors when she was flooded by painful memories of her high school frosh year. Her favorite cousin, Tita, whom she idolized, had died by suicide at college. Winnie’s family told her to hide this “shameful secret,” and she was never able to mourn Tita openly. Winnie visited the campus Grief Gathering where she met other survivors of suicide and found support and comfort to acknowledge her loss.
These stories are rooted in real student experiences but have been edited to protect confidentiality.