Social Work Warrior Student Wellness: Grief & loss

The past year has challenged all of us. From a global pandemic to devastating events highlighting racial inequity and a very contentious election – we've all had a lot on our plates. At times it has been difficult to concentrate and to figure out this 'new' normal, but we are here to help. Our Social Work Warrior Student Wellness series highlights student experience accounts acknowledging the physical, social and emotional toll of the last year, while at the same time recognizing the resilience displayed by our social work student community. Throughout the series, we encourage students to identify their stressors and challenges, acknowledge loss, be open to new ways to cope, invest in themselves, keep moving forward and remember the first step to helping others is helping yourself.

It feels like I have lost so much in the last year - bonding with my classmates, hands-on learning in the field and campus life.

Over the past year, we have all experienced some degree of grief and loss. From losing loved ones, jobs, and homes, to the experience of being part of a community with fellow students on campus, and more. In the fourth installment of our Social Work Warrior Student Wellness series, we delve into the ways in which students have experienced grief and loss, including hiding it, masking it, and carrying on, along with the importance of establishing a support person/team to walk a path of healing and remind us to share our wins as well - no matter how small.

Did you let others witness your grief? Did you share your wins?

My warrior story

Coming into my senior year I was filled with excitement and looking forward to a future where I could connect with fellow students and professionals in the field before I started my professional career. I was not the type of student who stepped foot on campus my first day and knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I took a variety of classes from across the university ranging from romance languages to psychology before landing on social work. I was drawn to social work after learning the many ways I could use the degree to help impact my community and the lives of those who reside here.

As the pandemic took hold, every aspect of my life began to change. No more classrooms with fellow students and hallway chats. No more home visits as part of my field ed training. No more campus events where me and my friends could take a break from homework and just to have fun. As the months went on, the impact of the pandemic continued to take hold and then George Floyd was killed. Across the nation voices rose up in a call for justice and recognition that yes, racism is still widespread and could no longer be swept under the rug. My sorrow around the life I thought I would have and anxiety about my future felt like a weight I was carrying alone. Things felt even worse after my aunt passed away last fall and we weren't able to hold a proper funeral due to COVID. I didn't know how to handle the loss that felt like it was seeping into every aspect of my life. I knew I needed to be strong and just keep moving forward, but there was also a part of me that harkened back to my social work training – I needed to put the words I say to my clients into action and reach out for help. I needed to share how I felt – good and bad – with someone.

I started with my sister. She is married with a few kids so I don't like to bother her, but she was always there when I really needed her. I gave her a call one night and it felt so good to say all of the things that I had been holding inside. She had even been having some of the same feelings! We made a pact to have a walking phone chat once a week. This would give us the chance to practice some of that self-care we always hear about and step away from our virtual lives on the computer. Accepting that my feelings were valid and I was not alone has really helped me heal and manage new challenges as they arise. I know that in order to help others, I need to first get help myself. Just like I tell my clients, there is no shame in asking for help.

Resources

Warriors have your back

  • If you need confidential support, you can make a request online for telehealth counseling through CAPS. You won't have to leave your home to talk to someone, it is free for enrolled students and offers one-on-one, groups, workshops, and so much more. The School of Social Work has also partnered with CAPS to offer virtual private counseling sessions on Tuesday's and Thursday's from 4 – 5 pm – learn more via Get Involved.
  • The W Food Pantry supports students with food and toiletries to those currently enrolled in classes.
  • The HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher) Program helps financially stressed students reach their goal to graduate with housing support, textbooks and other school supplies, clothing, transportation, and child-care assistance.
  • Feeling under the weather? For student health care services to prevent and treat common physical illness visit Wayne State's Campus Health Center.
  • Are you looking for energy, financial, food, health, housing, internet and cell phone service, mental health counseling, transportation, unemployment, and water resources in the Detroit area? Check out our Detroit area community resource lists for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
  • Are you looking for a job or need help determining your career path? Visit our career resources page that includes our online job board.

Stay connected

  • There are a variety of student organizations where you can connect with fellow students and explore a passion.
  • Consider participating in Social Work Peer Support (SWPS), a peer-to-peer student-led learning community aimed at supporting Social Work Warriors through their academic and field education journeys. SWPS hosts individual discussions and group activities including virtual Sunday Funday's.

Academic support

  • Your advisor can be an invaluable source of motivation and support. If you haven't been seeing your advisor at least once per semester, make an appointment today at advisingworks.wayne.edu.
  • Are you looking for writing or research support? Learn more about our specialized writing and research coaches offering free support to Social Work students.
  • You are always welcome to visit faculty during office hours or email them to inquire about assistance with course deadlines.

Financial aid and scholarships

  • School is expensive and there are a variety of resources both in and out of WSU to help: start at the WSU Office of Student Financial Aid to see what options are available to you, check out WSU private scholarships which open March 1st each year, use the Michigan scholarship search tool for those who reside in the mitten state, ask your supervisor if your employer offers tuition assistance and lastly chat with your advisor – attending part-time may be a more affordable option and WSU offers an Installment Payment Plan.
  • Are you nearing graduation? Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which can provide loan repayment relief to those at qualifying 501(c)3 non-profit employers.