Recently many of my friends’ relatives have been passing away unexpectedly. What’s the protocol when something like this happens? How close to you have to be to mention it or talk to them about it? I’ve been having trouble with that. Even more, what do you even say?
There’s really no strict protocol when it comes to helping friends through a hard time, because grief isn’t at all a uniform thing. Some people are really going to want to talk about their memories with loved ones, some are going to want to shut themselves in their rooms and listen to Boyz II Men for two weeks, some are just going to be quieter than usual for a little while.
An “I’m sorry for your loss” or a “How are you doing?” will work fine, but only for people that you’re not really close with. Think: If your mom made you a pie and sent it to Georgetown, would you give this friend a piece of your pie? If yes, that’s a damn close friend and you should probably put a little more effort into checking that they’re okay. A quick “If you want to talk I’m here” can help you gauge where your friend is at, and from that point forward follow their lead—no exceptions. If they clearly don’t want to talk about it, all you can do is be around if that happens to change. Invite your friend to Leo’s a lot for the next few weeks, or maybe choose a dining location that doesn’t remind its customers so much of their inevitable and fast-approaching death.
If your friend launches into stuff about feelings/emotions/memories, listen intently and don’t feel pressured to somehow maneuver it into a super-happy conversation. Even though the finality of things is kind of what gives life any importance at all, that doesn’t mean that death doesn’t suck a fat one. The death of a family member can sometimes be awful and really disheartening, and saying whatever comes up when you Ask Jeeves “What do I say to a friend who had a death in the family?” might not work.
I’m not saying to rule out things like “They’re looking down on you right now” or “They’re in a better place, because I guess some people feel comforted by that … but I’m saying that those sound to me like lines out of the last scene of a Full House episode. Basically, don’t expect to make everything better with a few Uncle-Jesse-inspired words, because life isn’t like that and also you probably don’t have a hilariously bad/gorgeous Uncle Jesse mullet that will distract people from the trite things you say. Offer to make a run for Ben & Jerry’s, don’t talk about yourself a whole lot, and try not to look weirded out if and when they cry. That’s what being a good friend is all about.
Well, the sophomore apartment lottery numbers came out today, and my roommates and I, like all but 37 of the groups, did not qualify for an apartment or a Copley suite. This leaves me really worried about next year. As things are now, I depend a lot on my dorm floor’s common room as a space to work/hang out/meet up with people, but next year it looks like I won’t have that. I should mention that none of my close friends are getting apartments either. Where are sophomores supposed to meet up to hang out at Georgetown? Our student center is a joke and no one wants to go to Lau 2.
Dazed and Confused
I’m going to tell you something very, very alarming. You should probably sit.
Are you sitting? Okay, cool. Listen, I’m just gonna say it. After freshman year, common rooms aren’t really a thing. Your VCW common room might seem like a mini-agora where drunk people stumble into every once and a while, but a common room in Southwest Quad or wherever is more like a J.C. Penney on a Wednesday. Weird smells, bad music, people who don’t want to make eye contact with each other, etc. You can definitely use your sophomore year common room to study or whip up some Easy Mac, but social opportunities in there are pretty limited. It’s not all bad, though! Not hanging in the common room means you probably won’t see any unwanted nakedness this year (hooray!), and you’ll likely have a significantly lower chance of being forced by some random kid to watch a Smosh video from four years ago.
In all honesty, it takes a little bit more effort sophomore year to get all of your friends together. Plan weekly lunches, organize a group to do homework by the Observatory when it’s warm, try to meet someone with a TV so that you can still watched Smash, whatever. Hanging out with friends in your double room will be just fine, as long as you leave the “Keep Calm and Carry On” themed posters at home this time. Actually, hanging out in each other’s rooms has the potential to be awesome. Most RAs are pretty lax if they’re not in a freshman building. You’ve just got to be prepared to make your own plans and take the initiative to organize get-togethers, because there’s really no one place where a bunch of sophomores meet up and hang out. Unless I’m not being invited? That wouldn’t happen though, right friends? Hello?
Why do bad things happen to good people? Conversely, why do good things happen to bad people?
Shit is fucked, man.