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Grieving at Stanford

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Stanford seems like bliss–there’s the eternal sunshine, the palm trees, the smiling students… In fact, Stanford students are so loath to admit to any kind of misery whatsoever that when asked “How are you?” the standard response is “Great!” We’re the university that talks about climate change and social justice issues, but the one thing that we talk about least is grieving.

Whether it’s a celebrity’s mass-mourned death or a close family member’s passing, grieving in college is hard. No one wants to be the person who answers “Terrible,” when someone asks, “How are you?”

There is definitely an audience for grief counseling at Stanford–I’ve had too many friends silently struggle with the loss of a relative or friend. But even though most of us have probably lost someone during our time here, death is not a concept we talk about.

The resources Stanford provides for students dealing with grief are hard to find. A Google search dug up grief.stanford.edu, a website with a directory to campus resources and a memorial page where students, faculty, and staff can submit electronic memorials. Only 12 memorials have been posted so far.

CAPS and The Bridge are two suggested resources for counseling, but as Matt Daniel ‘18 put it, “I didn’t really know which Stanford institution to talk to. The Bridge has peer counseling and CAPS has psychological help, but it felt like my grief fell out of those lines.”

To investigate, I called CAPS to find out what grief counseling resources were actually available. It turns out that there is a bi-quarterly Student Grief and Bereavement Workshop. The workshops are opportunities for members of the Stanford community to talk about their grief in a safe setting, moderated by a CAPS counselor and a representative from the Office of Religious Life. If students want to pursue additional one-one-one counseling, however, they will need to make an appointment with CAPS.

I also called the Bridge to ask if they offer grief counseling, which they do, both over the phone and in person. But I couldn’t help but wonder: if I was deeply struggling with grief, would I have taken the steps and initiative to call CAPS or the Bridge and ask for help? At least, in my experience, I didn’t necessarily look for these resources when I needed them most.

More should be done to promote and advertise these services, especially since grief is so universally experienced. By silencing speech on grief, we are complicit in the idea that negative feelings are abnormal. Instead of bottling up stress into a week of screaming at midnight before finals, maybe we should talk about grief and sadness and stress. Maybe we should be okay with the idea of answering “How are you?” with “Not good.”

Samantha Wong '18 is the former Executive Editor of vol. 252 and former Managing Editor of The Grind. She is majoring in Human Biology with a minor in History. To reach her, please contact slwong 'at' stanford.edu.