I’ve been getting emails lately that have prompted me to consider the various ways in which we approach grief, loss, or severe change.  Some seniors (I mean college freshmen!) have written to ask if they should be feeling worse than they are — and others have written to ask if they’ve been overreacting to the intense changes of recent weeks.

As I see it, there are countless ways of approaching the kind of life-altering events you’ve lived through…and I’ve hired some local help to illustrate various approaches to loss, grief, and the “tsunami” of change.  (I asked George Clooney, but he wasn’t available…so had to settle for second best!) 


It feels like a giant boulder has fallen on you, like you’re trapped under something you neither fully expected nor were able to handle when it struck.  You feel powerless and broken.


Life is a jungle in which you’re vainly trying to find a path, a trail of breadcrumbs, or even Tarzan to swing in and rescue you!  It’s all pressing in on you and there are moments when it feels so claustrophobic you could scream.


It happened without you knowing it.  There wasn’t an “Ah-ha!” moment when it suddenly hit you.  The realization sifted down on you like sand, light and unnoticed, and you only gradually are coming to realize how affected you’ve been.  The sadness and lethargy came softly, when you weren’t looking, without any fanfare or sudden onslought.


You’ve got one foot in each world: the past and the present.  The emotional “splits” are at once uncomfortable and painful, yet you just can’t bring yourself to let go of the past and embrace the present…..


You feel betrayed.  Nobody told you it would be this hard, that your leap into the unknown would land you at the doorstep of life’s Porta-Potty.  Why didn’t anyone prepare you better?  And why isn’t anyone helping you through this quietly traumatic episode of your life?


You’re being tossed to and fro by tides you neither understand nor control.  You don’t know which way is up anymore, and you don’t know where you’re going to be when the waves are done throwing you around.  You feel alone, abandoned and adrift….

The truth is, there is no “right” way to approach what each of you have been through since June 9.  Each of you has lived it in your own way, from the way you prepared as grad approached to the way you grieved during your goodbyes to the way you’ve gone on and are preparing for your future. 

You’re not feeling anything?  Ask yourself:  if you’ve shut yourself off to shield yourself from too much emotion or if you’re too focused on projects or your plans to acknowledge that you may be missing friends and sad about what you’ve lost.  Make sure you’re aware of the REALITY of your loss, but don’t force yourself to be intensely emotional–it may just not be you!  And that’s okay.  As long as you’re not in denial, you’re pretty safe….

You’re feeling too much?  You feel emotionally raw, you overreact to the silliest circumstances, you can’t focus on anything and you have no desire to do or see or explore or meet…..  Force yourself to put at least one foot firmly in the present.  As much as you love the friends and the life you’ve lost, don’t let yourself refuse to accept the present.  Look around you…and make yourself step out of your comfort zone to smile at someone you don’t know very well, to set yourself some small goals and achieve them…   ENGAGE in life where you are–it’s not disloyalty to your past!

There are as many possible reactions to grief as there are personalities…  Don’t assume that yours is somehow wrong or unhealthy just because others aren’t experiencing it the same way you are.  Ask yourself some pertinent questions (Am I living in the present?  Am I connecting with the world around me?  Am I being honest about my feelings?  Am I still motivated, even tempered and open?) and seek help from someone you love if too many answers to those questions are “no”.

But don’t think you’re a wimp if it isn’t all behind you by now.  And don’t think you’re a heartless brute if it feels like you’re already moving on.  Be real–communicate with others and yourself.

Oh, and if you can, take a lesson from Humpty-Dumpty and find a minute to watch a sunset, breathe deeply, and pray…wherever you are.

Much love to all of you!  Please write if you’d like to discuss this further! 

(PS:  My little assistant Humpty-Dumpty was made by “moi” when I was teensy and doing crafts at a summer camp…  And you thought I was undomesticated!  I just found him in my mom’s basement.)




  1. oddly enough, this wonderfully thoughtful (and creative) blog post was helpful for me as I adjust to life in Toronto…(c:

  2. i dont want to know anything about that dream. at all. this comment u made, it just made me cringe.

    but good words on this post. thanks for it. nice pics too, i wonder what people were thinking when they saw you taking these? anyways, hope all is well on that side..

  3. haha… hello from niger. yes, it is niger, not nigeria. but close. i just wanted to say that your dream disturbed me and i wasn’t even in it or near it. and also, i wanted to point out that even though this last post of yours was very well done, thought through, and full of wisdom, you just can’t beat a post about me and brett. i mean, look at the comment count!  hahha. just kidding, way to encourage, i wish i had some advice like that last year… maybe i did, and just didn’t listen? either way, it is good stuff.

  4. I have your book and I’m not afraid to use it. Plus I’m going on a 17 hour bus ride tomorrow morning. Thank you very much.

  5. You made it? Dude, that’s awesome

  6. I really enjoyed your post especially the illustrations 🙂 I miss you, Michele! I hope you’re doing well and accustomed to Toronto again… I saw Jenna yesterday, it was fun to spend time with her and her man. He’s really good for her, so I was glad to reconfirm what I said to everyone who asked about it at BFA! Oh! I’m reading your book, it’s SO GOOD! Thank you for everything, Michele, you have touched my life in ways you can’t even imagine. It was so good to see you 🙂 Miss you!

  7. LOVE this post. And, I too am impressed with your domesticity…

  8. Man, why are people so creative??

  9. Hey YOU! I’m at a conference here, and I’ve met this woman who reminds me a lot of you. Hanging out with her (she’s the youth leader) brings me joy because i remember the convos and teasing I gave you. I just wish I could walk up to her like I did with you at the front desk. Miss you – write eh?

  10. I forgot to tell you, but I have finished reading your book and I really enjoyed it. It inspired me to think through a few things and to paint. I have painted three things from your book so far. I’m not very good but it’s like therapy to me. Thanks for the inspiration and the lovely book.

  11. Hey, are you in the Toronto area? Or will you be in the Toronto area? If so, shoot me an e-mail and we should grab a coffee or somethin’ sometime….it would be a shame to repeat what happened a year ago. Anyway, hope all is well with you. I’m off to memorize my lines so I don’t get tortured by my director. – Dussel

  12. Hi Michelle. Did you get my email?

  13. congrats to you and your Zidane… unglaublich. I sat and watched in disbelief amidst 20 Nigieriens saying “I don’t believe it” with a strong accent as a bunch of old men barely sneaked past an amazing futball team. But they will lose to Germany, or Italia, whichever beauty destroys the other… I have no doubt about this.

  14. he’s so cute!!

    oh and….ALLEZ LES BLEUS eh? did you ever think it could happen again???


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