College Grief: The Struggle to Keep Moving When Time Stops


Courtesy of Alyssa Hill

Alyssa Hill, left, around age 3, with her mother.

Alyssa Hill, Staff

College is a time when some people begin to form closer connections with their parents. As we grow out of our rebellious, angsty teenage phase and get hit with the reality of adulthood, we begin to respect our parents for everything they have gone through and done for us. Soon, we are calling Mom every night chasing the feeling of what it was like to be a kid. We tell our troubles to someone who will support us even if we are the reason for our own demise. The man and woman who gave us our eyes and raised us into who we are now give us advice as we pave our own future.

But, what about those of us who have lost a parent? Now that we are adults, we see all the things that they have done for us, but we can’t show our appreciation. We can set flowers by their grave and think fondly of our memories with them, but how can we gain insight on how to be successful? Some of us had to say goodbye while still in our angsty, rebellious stage and now regret how we left things.

It’s difficult. Their voice will echo throughout your head, and you’ll hear them again; yet, there are other moments you lie awake for hours trying to remember it. Triggers can happen anytime. Sometimes you will hear someone sharing a story from childhood about their parents, and it will make you break down. Your roommate might be on the phone with their mother, and it reminds you of that void in your life.

A few weeks before Christmas 2021, my family and I spent our time in hospital rooms. My mother, who was declared cancer-free in June, was sick with COVID-19. Her blood pressure rocketed, causing a stroke that made her slip into a coma. Only one visitor–covered in protective clothing, gloves, and a face shield–was allowed at a time. Due to the restrictions, only a total of four people were allowed to visit her: my father, my two sisters, and me. My brother didn’t get to see his mother. My grandparents didn’t get to see their daughter. My niece and nephew didn’t get to see their Mamaw.

It is crazy how much you relive every moment that you have with someone when they are on their death bed. In my teenage rebellion, I kept secrets from her; yet that December, I told her everything. I told her everything that I wish I had told her sooner but was too ashamed to. I told her all the hurt, trauma, love, and pain. Call me crazy, but I saw a tear escape her eye.

My mother passed on Dec. 17, 2021, at 46 years old. My brother and nephew couldn’t attend the funeral because they, too, were diagnosed with COVID.

The craziest thing is that all of this happened during my winter break from IUB. After being proud of finishing my first semester as a freshman, all this happened. Only a couple weeks later, I would be back in Bloomington trying to somehow manage my way through school with grief, guilt, and sadness on my shoulders. It was the darkest time of my life. How can the world stop for me, but keep turning for everyone else? It makes you feel lonelier in the college town that you are living in, especially if you just moved there. There were many times that I cried on my bedroom floor, wondering why my friends didn’t seem to care about my agony. People are so caught up in discovering who they are that they won’t be aware of when you need them the most.

It’s now more than one year later. A crush of end-of-semester papers and deadlines are in front of me. I am still trying to survive college without the support my mother. For those of you who have endured this, you are not alone. For those of you who haven’t, cherish the moments you have with everyone who supports you.