By Bethany Armstrong
During college, AMF helped me not to feel alone. Grief is hard. It is consuming, it is lonely, and it is overwhelming. But, AMF gave me purpose and courage. It gave me purpose to see life beyond grief. It also gave me courage to realize there were others, just like me in college, who had lost someone so dear to them. These people understood the ache my heart felt. Their ache was different, but they understood.
Giving back can sometimes feel easy in college. You go to classes, you study and you may have a job, but you have time to give back. Also, you want to give back; especially when something as significant as death redefines your view of the world. That was my life in college: school, work, and AMF.
Then, I graduated. In the midst of finding a job, I wasn’t sure how to give back. I’d given back mainly through my grief – learning to grieve, learning how to help my peers with grief. My grief redefined who I was in college and then made me feel lost once I walked across the graduation stage with my diploma in hand.
Now in the real world, it has been difficult to figure out where I fit when it comes to grief. There aren’t as many grief support groups for young adults in the “real world”. So, in the midst of my inability to find a good place to “fit”, I have worked hard to keep a heart of compassion as I have watched friends and family members lose someone dear to them. By remembering my pain, when I hear of others who are grieving, I am able to reach out to them – to let them know I am thinking about them and that I am available to listen, if they need to talk. Being sensitive to their grief and acknowledging the myriad of emotions they are experiencing can go a long way. Sometimes all that is needed is someone who will sit in silence.
I also give those who are grieving permission to feel. I always wanted that after I lost my Mom. I wanted someone to tell me in the middle of my darkest moments, “what you are feeling is okay.” Since I didn’t have that, I am always quick to tell someone that their feelings are valid. And it makes a difference. Validity is another gift we can give to someone who is grieving.
Over the years I’ve realized that being there in these ways for those I know who are grieving is a way of giving back. And I’m looking forward to staying involved in AMF’s Alumni Network, which is just getting off the ground. If you are interested in connecting with other alumni who are still connected to AMF, join our Alumni Network! Email for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love to hear from other AMF alumni – how have you continued to give back after college? Let’s share our experiences so we can grow as a community!
By Bethany Armstrong