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ISSUE 115 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/1/2002

Still learning to grieve

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 1, 2002

This is six too many for a university, let alone a small private college like St. Olaf, whose 2000-2001 enrollment was approximately 2,900. The community on the hill has gone through tough times together in the last 18 months. During the fall of 2000, John Schockemoehl, a senior at Olaf, was killed when a drunk driver sideswiped the car Schockemoehl was a passenger in. Then, the first day of spring break that same school year, Chris Hoppe, Sarah "Sally" Heitman, and Anna Bonde, all Class of 2003, were killed when a drunk driver crossed lanes and struck their car. As if that wasn't enough, Tim Cashin ('03), died in a boating accident during the summer of 2001. And most recently, the St. Olaf community lost Meredith Reynolds ('03) in another car accident. Funerals, memorial services, and dedications have been a form of dealing with our losses as a group. But what about as individuals? College students have a lot to deal with without bringing the deaths of loved ones into the picture. The St. Olaf Counseling Center, located in the Old Main Annex, offers support for grieving and mourning. Eric Berghe is one of Olaf's counselors that specializes in grief and loss. "Many Oles come to the counseling center for grief recovery. We have had a grief group and have a pretty active network of students who have lost loved ones and stay in touch with each other," said Berghe. After last year's accidents, Berghe wrote up his own pamphlet for the students at St. Olaf. Berghe wrote about the stages of grief that are natural and normal in response to traumatic events. These stages include denial/shock/numbness, suffering and yearning, and recovery and reorganization. The suffering stage may include sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, and physical, behavioral and cognitive symptoms. Eric said, "My first suggestion is to be reasonable with yourself, maintain traditions with family and friends that are comforting. Get sleep, eat well, exercise, and be close to those who love you, and TALK." Berghe emphasized that there is not a time limit to these stages. The time it takes to recover is based on the individual and his/her situations and circumstances. No one should expect to recover at the same rate as someone else. For those people who are not struggling with a loss themselves, but know someone who is, there are ways to help them. Make contact with the person; do not be afraid to be a friend. Always provide practical help, just saying you'll be there isn't enough. Be a good listener who is available and accepting to the person who is grieving. Be patient with the bereaved person and remember that recovery can take a long time. Finally, encourage and model self-care. Tell the mourner that he/she needs time to grieve and recover, and to attend to physical needs. At the same time, it's important for the friend to maintain a realistic and positive perspective. Justin Bonestroo, '03, was a close friend and teammate of John Schockemoehl. When Bonestroo heard the news he said, "I was shocked. It was one of those things where you remember where you were and who you were with." Bonestroo "just kept living and kept thinking of [John]" to deal with his loss. Bonestroo felt that Schockemoehl had so much more life to live and things to do. Sara Peterson, '03, went to elementary school with Tim "Timmy" Cashin and was re-united with him here on the hill. Peterson had dealt with a death of a close friend from high school before losing Cashin this summer. She said that "it put a lot of things into perspective." Peterson just tried to take something from her loss that would change her life in a positive way. "There still isn't really closure for me," said Peterson. St. Olaf came together to mourn the loss of John, Chris, Sally, Anna, Tim, and Meredith. It is important that grieving is done as a community and as an individual. Berghe said, "It can safely be said that we can't go over, under or around grief. We have to go through it, but we have some ability to decide where, when and how."

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