By Emma Shortall

Managing Editor

I open the email from President Sterritt and instantly I start shaking. I am in full disbelief. I should’ve known it was coming, but this all changed so quickly and so abruptly. Why did it change within 24 hours, why yesterday could we have people over, but now we can’t?

In the email from President Sterritt, she states that as a result of our rising COVID-19 positive cases (we currently have 66 on the dashboard) the rest of this semester’s classes will be conducted remotely, there will be no in-person group activities, we will continue with take-out dining and all gatherings of any size are prohibited, therefore no on-campus or off-campus guests are allowed in any residences, including rooms and common areas. 

As someone who has followed the COVID-19 protocol for the whole semester, I am extremely hurt by the decision that we are not allowed to have any on-campus visitors or students, other than of course our roommates. I only live with one other person, so she and I plan to tough it out and go stir crazy together. I believe other students and myself would be more than happy to be wearing masks all day every day if it just meant we could even spend a minute with our other friends on campus. 

Trust the majority of your student body, we want this all to go away too.  

Looking at the COVID-19 Dashboard, it looks as though there are around 1,400 students on campus and there have been 66 positive cases. Doing simple math, that is around 5% of the campus has tested positive, but what about the other 95%? 

We are sent this email, yet there are still so many unanswered questions. Are we still allowed off campus for essentials? Can we still go to the grocery store? We have been able to this whole semester despite possibilities of exposure. Can we not see our friend while wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and getting tested regularly? Can we not even see our neighbors who live in the same residential area as us, despite all of us testing negative time and time again? It simply doesn’t make sense.

What if we completely shut down campus, with no one allowed in? This would limit outside exposure while still allowing us to socially distance with our friends. We would still have online classes, but even the slightest social interaction would make this all a tiny bit better. Food from Alliot could be delivered to the students on the meal plan, and for others we could InstaCart our groceries and order delivery. I’d rather be using all my Alliot swipes to see my friends’ faces. 

Who is enforcing these new rules? I messaged a Resident Assistant shortly after we got this email and she had no clue about what steps the school is going to take next. How can the people who are supposed to be our support system in the residences not even know what’s going on? There needs to be a warning for these Resident Assistants, as well as for the students so we are prepared when our lives are suddenly flipped upside down.

This situation seems like a subtle way of getting us off-campus without the school losing money. By making it our choice, it’s no one else’s fault but our own for leaving. The Administration seems to be gently guiding us out the gates, yet that is the last thing we want to do. 

I am extremely hurt by these decisions, in particular, the no visitor rule, and I’m sure many of my fellow peers feel the same. No one wants to be isolated from their friends when they’ve done nothing wrong. Work with us who have been following these rules so we can stay healthy while also staying sane these next few weeks.

By Lena O’Donnell

Visual Editor

On the evening of Thursday, Dec. 5, around 50 students and community members waited in the Farrell Room, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate, they wrote on cards to declare their commitments to combat racism. Students were busy writing before Rebecca Haslam, an assistant professor in the Education Department spoke up to introduce the discussion : “This all of our work, this is all of our problem, this impacts all of us,” Haslam said.

Photo by Lena O’Donnell
December 5 at 8:00 pm in the Farrell Room, (MIDDLE) Rebecca Haslam starts off the event with talking about racism and how there needs to be more done on this campus to fight it.

“We wanted to do something sooner rather than later in order to “show up” literally and metaphorically for Students of Color on campus,” Haslam said, before reading aloud an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham Jail. “We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied,” she said. After they stepped outside to the Teaching Gardens, where they spoke their commitment while lighting a candle.

Photo by Lena O’Donnell
Saint Michael’s College President Lorraine Sterritt wrote her commitment to make our campus more inclusive, welcoming, and accepting of all.

“It was great to see my peers take time out of their busy schedules to recognize and participate in the efforts the Ed department is making toward a more inclusive, welcoming, and aware community, said Mallory Bauer ‘21.

Connor Vezina ‘22 also came in support representing the Diversity Coalition. “I really appreciated what the Ed department did. I’ve been waiting for faculty to become more involved and I think this was a great first step to make the campus as a whole more aware that actions need to be taken,” said Vezina. 

Photo by Lena O’Donnell
Shaun Clem ’23 writes his commitment to combat racism in our community.

The event wrapped up with singing around their commitments that were placed on a string of lights. Elementary Ed Professor John Tapper led the singing while strumming his guitar. All the written commitments are displayed around the third floor of St. Eds.

Photos by Lena O’Donnell

By Justin Madison

Contributing Writer

Suicide. One word and anyone who hears it mentally flinches. We all know what it means and what it implies and we shudder when we’re forced to talk about it. It’s a topic that reaches more people than many, meaning it should be easier to talk about, yet it isn’t.

Knowing someone who dies is a difficult thing to go through, and I know from personal experience how the absence reaches more people than the person who is gone would expect. 

When one of my high school classmates killed himself, people from all over the town came together. Even people from neighboring towns and cities who knew him or even knew of him showed up at many of the services offered to grieve his departure. 

In his life, he touched so many people and all of them felt the effects of his death. One person can have a lasting impact on someone and when that person passes, all the people they have interacted with are affected as well. So many people who had all split off on branching paths of life all are affected in the same way when someone decides to kill themselves. 

I have seen the tragedy firsthand on multiple occasions.

One would think that in a society where we have access to social media boards and discussions, we would be more open to the ideas of reaching out for help when we experience feelings of depression or begin to contemplate suicide. Instead, there seems to be an online environment that encourages suicide and in a way that glorifies the systemic problem. 

How often has someone scrolled through their feed and seen a post about how, “If I kill myself then technically the problem would be gone,” and chuckled. It’s become casual to humorize the topic in order to avoid any sense of awkwardness that may arise. We’ve all heard things like this, and although we may laugh at first it is a laugh of discomfort. When we move on from the surface concepts of these jokes there is a real epidemic that is being ignored. It’s easier to jibe about suicide than it is to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Knowing what I know about the topic, I always feel guilty for laughing and guilty for playing along, just because it is easier.

It’s in this awkwardness that makes it taboo to seek help. In her TED talk, “Casually Suicidal” Sarah Liberti, a student at Adelphi University, shares her experience with this taboo topic with her friend. This friend had told her before that people who want to commit suicide are better off dead. When Sarah comes to this friend for emotional support in her depression and suicidal thoughts, her friend abandons her and essentially encourages Sarah to do it. Seeking help only brought Sarah to a dead end. 

But if her friend had been more accepting and educated about the ideas of suicide, then maybe there wouldn’t have been a barrier in the discussion in the first place. 

Help is always available, with hotlines and services almost everywhere to seek out if someone is feeling depressed. But not everyone utilizes these as much as they should. I should know because I used to know many people who were too conscious of their image to admit that they needed help. They put on a strong face and made it impossible to tell they were even struggling in the first place. 

They lived for so long with all their emotions and insecurities bottled up inside until they eventually consumed them and they couldn’t take it anymore. And now they’re gone, and they didn’t have the strength to admit that they needed help. 

It could have been prevented, all of them. The issue arises in the fact that people in our digital society chose to humorize the situation because it makes them feel weird because it makes them mentally flinch. With so many young people on the internet who may or may not possess suicidal thoughts, we can expect to see future increases in suicides of college-aged students. 

So long as it remains taboo to talk about your faults and seek help, nothing will change. Suicide may be an epidemic as of today, but it is preventable so long as we take the right actions and make a change. Be the type of person, in real life and online, that instead of humorizing the topic, reach out to those who need it. Instead of making it a taboo conversation, make it something that we should be proud to talk about.

People should be able to say, “I got help and now I want to live” instead of shedding tears at their friend’s funeral. My final word to anyone reading this is that if you yourself are feeling any suicidal thoughts or if you know someone who might, It is okay to seek help. It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling, and when you finally admit to someone else that you are, you’ll feel so much better. 

I couldn’t say it to my friends and classmates who have killed themselves, but I can at least say it now. 

By Courtney Kelly

Staff Writer

“Classes are so small here that teachers really notice when you’re not there, and it reflects poorly on your effort. Then if you ever need help later in the semester, having not been in class can really work against you. It’s important to make being present in class a priority ” 

“Socially, reaching out to upperclassman can really help. Seniors aren’t as scary as they may seem.”-Jacob Kent ‘20

“I thought I could just apply the same study habits I had in high school to college, which involved me doing everything last minute and procrastinating. Second semester, I realized I needed to get it together and manage my time better. I started trying harder and made sure to plan out time to get my assignments done before the night they were due, then I handled my classes much better.” -Madeleine Morse ‘20

“You’re going to stress over work, we all do, but you have to just sit down and get through it anyway. Most of our parents are out working hard to be able to pay to put us through college, so doing the best you can in classes is returning the favor” -Jake Brodbine ‘20

 “Don’t take it so seriously. Be more present in your experience. We live in a beautiful state, appreciate the nature that’s out there. Appreciate time with your friends. You’re not going to remember some quiz you had in business class, verses a real experience. Go into the mountains, go into the city.”

“Having patience with yourself that you’re not going to have a bunch of friends and things are going to be figured out in the next two weeks. Patience. You think everything is supposed to be figured out right away, and it’s not.” -Todd Wright, Director of the Adventure Sports Center

“I thankfully figured out that everybody was at least a little stressed out in social situations, so that helped me. Everybody is an awkward weirdo and everybody feels awkward, uncomfortable, and anxious staring new conversations, and new social experiences.”

“I would definitely tell my freshman year self that ‘this is not representative of college, this is just an unpleasant transition time, and that will get better.” 

“You’ve got to come to class, even if you’re in a miserable place, and feel like can’t do anything. Even if you just sit there. Even if you’re behind on work. No matter what, the first thing you should try to do is get to class. We’re going to be supportive and in most cases be more than willing to help you. You have to communicate.” -Allison Luedtke, Professor of Economics

“I worried a lot about my appearance, I always felt fat. I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in, or other people seemed to be more put together than me. I look back now and think to myself

‘What was I worried about? I think it’s an age where you just never feel quite right all the time. I wish I could tell myself ‘you’re really cute, stop worrying about how you look’.”

“I’m a huge advocate of talk therapy and all those professionals that can help you with those big questions and whatnot.”

“I knit all the time. That always helps calm me down and focus. Finding a hobby that takes your mind off things is something I would suggest to cope with stress.” -Jane Kay, Adjunct Professor of Mathematics

Talia Perrea Visionary Editor

Talia Perrea
Visionary Editor

On November 22 and 23 Katherine Ort, ’20 presented her senior seminar project “Trapped.” The show was a 40 minute long movement piece written by Talia Perrea, ’20 about anxiety. This show depicts what it may feel like to experience an anxiety attack through movement with no spoken dialogue in the show. Ort, Perrea, Patrick Richards, ’20. Charles Thompson, ’20, and Madeline Shanley, ’22 all starred in the show.

By Melanie Roberge

Staff Writer

Stuck in a snow rut? Not sure you’re a winter person? As the snow creeps in it’s easy to lock yourself inside to escape the cold. But even if you don’t know how to ski or snowboard, there are plenty of fun, outdoor activities to stay physically and mentally healthy during these colder months. Here are five ways you can get outdoors and moving this winter season.

“We do ice climbing, mountaineering, and snowshoe trips for the spring season,” said Adventure Sports Center student-instructor Stephen Higgins ‘20, emphasizing that you don’t have to have any experience to go on these trips. “You come in, you pay anywhere between 5 and 15 bucks depending on which trip you go on and that gets you all the gear.” 

“If you can walk, you can snowshoe,” said Eben Widlund, the assistant director of the Adventure Sports Center. “Ice climbing and mountaineering are a little more technical but not any more physically challenging.”

The Adventure Sports Center has a variety of equipment for every outing, always included in the single outing fee. “If people are interested in getting out on their own, most of the equipment you would need to go out snowshoeing is available for rental,” Widlund said.

Demery Coppola ’21 repels down a steep slope in Smuggler’s Notch last March. Mountaineering trips with the Adventure Sports Center are only $15 and provide all technical gear necessary
(Photo by Matt Heller)

It’s really important to find something to do during the winter here if you don’t ski or snowboard. The three winters before this year have been filled with me learning how to ice climb and getting to the point where I can teach other people how to ice climb,” Higgins said. “We live in Vermont and it’s a really beautiful place.”

For only $65, students get access to Petra Cliffs Climbing Center in Burlington as well as two guest passes a month to try it with a friend during the academic year. The Learn to Ski and Ride program is an affordable option for those students who wish to join the ski and snowboard community. For only $50, this Sugarbush program includes two full-day lessons, rentals, lift tickets, and (at the end of the program) a free season pass.

Anna Tuttle ’20 climbs in Smuggler’s Notch last February. Ice climbing trips with the Adventure Sports Center are only $15 and provide all technical gear necessary
(Photo by Matt Heller)

Ice Skating: $5

Local ice arenas also offer public skating hours for a low price. The C. Douglas Cairns Recreation Arena in South Burlington and Leddy Park Arena in Burlington both offer public skating for only $5 and $3 for rentals.


For students who don’t or can’t ski or snowboard and feel trapped in snow and homework, they have to be creative when pondering activities to do outside. “I had knee surgery my Freshmen year and couldn’t snowboard for a few years,” said Kenzie Day ‘21. “Me and my friends bought really cheap sleds at Walmart and went sledding a few times at the huge hill at the Burlington Country Club. It was wicked fun.”

Indoor Sports:

SMC Intramurals plans to offer Wally Ball, Basketball, Soccer, and Floor Hockey for the upcoming Spring semester. Sign-ups begin in January. The link to sign up is on the SMC Athletics website under Intramurals. Join as an individual or with friends to make a team!

By Hannah McKelvey
Contributing Writer

By Hannah McKelvey Contributing Writer
Have you ever looked in a mirror and not liked the way you looked? Perhaps your hair looked askew, you did not like the way your jeans fit, you hate your prominent forehead, or maybe you were not feeling yourself. These thoughts pop into my head almost every single time I have looked into a mirror. So a few years ago, I refused to have a mirror in my room.

It initially started with laziness. I had moved into my sophomore year dorm, I was living alone, and it was during the dark times when Target did not exist in Vermont, so I didn’t go out looking for a mirror. As the days passed, not constantly checking myself in a mirror, I started to notice how much less I put myself down.

I would stand in front of the mirror and pick and probe at all of the places that I thought had too much fat or that I was too pale because you could see the small spider veins on my thighs.

Mirrors surround our everyday lives, whether we know it or not. They hang in our bathrooms and throughout our homes, and reflections flood our computers, phones, windows, and screens. Constantly looking at myself and realizing I do not fit the ideal body that our media and society portrays created a toxic relationship between myself and how I look.

This unrealistic expectation that society sets for us pushes younger and younger girls to have unrealistic expectations when it comes to body image. The average woman is 5’4” and 170 pounds. The average woman model is 5’10” and 110 pounds. It makes a lot of sense that our society has a body image issue when you really think about it. Too many people long for a different body then the ones that they have. They want to be skinnier, taller, shorter, they want a different nose.

Back in 2011, blogger Autumn Whitefield-Madrano started a mirror fasting challenge. She went one month without looking at any reflective surface because she realized she was spending a lot of time worrying about her appearance. After a month, she started to believe that she didn’t have to worry about how she looked to be a functioning human.

While new studies in England show that mirror fasting is only a temporary fix, it does give light to fix a problem that seriously needs addressing. The studies show for a person to accept themselves fully, they should look into mirrors and have a positive dialogue about how they look; like giving yourself at least one compliment every time you look in the mirror.

For me, living without a full-length mirror two full years has provided a way to detach from how I look, and not worry whether I fit into societal beauty standards. I can put on an outfit and simply walk out the door. It no longer crosses my mind whether an outfit matches or how a pair of jeans fit.

Whether you try a mirror fast or try looking into the mirror and complimenting your body, I hope you eventually love yourself and body because everyone is beautiful. I have a long way to go to fully accept how I look and who I am. But I feel invigorated by the fact that I no longer criticize my body every single time I face a full length mirror.

Hannah McKelvey ’20 is a Media Studies, Journalism & Digital Arts major.

By Meaghan Robidoux
Staff Writer

The stresses of moving and being almost completely on your own for the first time can be daunting. I get it.

I am a Biochem major here currently trying to complete my first semester of college. Not only am I balancing the demanding curriculum, but I am also a student-athlete on the cross-country team. I have been struggling with being sick all semester. I have heard that many incoming first-years get what is called “the freshman plague.” I also sprained my ankle towards the end of my cross country season. I have gotten almost every form of cold imaginable as well as bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection.

Recently I have had to take leave from school because I was having vision changes. My vision became blurry and I suddenly couldn’t see very well. Right now I am in the middle of a diagnosis and the uncertainty is hard to cope with. Doctors took my symptoms very seriously. Numerous tests were run and rerun to double-check everything. And they still have not figured it out. There are three possible diagnoses. The first option is a virus that started attacking my retinas, which only takes a few months to heal. The second option was vitelliform macular dystrophy, genetic eye disease that causes progressive vision loss and has no treatment. The last and final option is treatable but not something you want to hear, cancer. The stress and worrying was enough to make me sick to my stomach. I knew I had to try and look at the positives because there was no way I would be able to finish the semester if I didn’t.

With that said I’m going to give you a few tips on how to manage the
stresses of being an incoming first-year from what I have learned. Whether that’s trying to get through a tough time, balancing academics, missing home or anything else that may be going on.

One, don’t be so willing to judge someone you don’t know. Everyone has a different story. Whenever I am going through a rough time I try and think of the things that I am grateful for: my friends, my family, my incredibly supportive team- the list goes on. Staying positive in a troublesome or stressful time may seem impossible, but thinking of one positive thing no matter how big or small makes a difference.

It’s okay to not be okay.

Two, it’s okay not to be okay. I know I’m not alone. You can’t just be positive all the time, but you also NEED to take care of yourself. Take time to do something that you like for once. Listen to some music or take a well-deserved nap. Something that I find helpful is running and I’m thinking of trying yoga. You need to be able to have a place where you can go and just be happy or sad. It’s okay not to be okay because life isn’t always fair, and life isn’t always what it seems. Lean on your friends and don’t be afraid to communicate how you are really feeling. Bottling things up can be difficult. Take a deep breath and breathe.

My third and last piece of advice is important, so pay attention. When you are going through stuff in your personal life that is affecting your academics, reach out to your professors. They want to see you succeed and will work with you. I had to take about a week and a half off due to medical reasons and all my professors were sympathetic and were willing to work with me. Just explain to them what you are comfortable telling them and go from there.

Not only are you stronger than you think, but you can get through the toughest of times.

Finding something positive in any scenario may be an arduous task at times, but not impossible. You may not think that a simple change in mindset can make a difference, but you would be surprised.

Your mindset has to be paired with you willing to think of yourself first. It isn’t selfish if it’s what you need to be the best version of yourself. You can’t help others if you aren’t well yourself. We as a human race are resilient creatures that are made up of positivity and self-care. Take time to relax and breathe or cry. Believe in yourself. Good luck with your studies and stay strong.

Meg Robidoux’22 is a student who has had a rough start to her first year in college. She hopes that sharing what she has learned from her experiences helps other students.

By Megan Schneider
Staff Writer

Dear Reader,

Have you ever felt so stressed that you can’t event talk? What about the fear of not being understood or being too embarrassed to articulate your feelings?

Journaling helps some people minimize their stress and anxieties by working through their thoughts on paper. Having something that no one else has to see and the ability to say anything you want can have extreme power.

I started writing in my journal every night when I first arrived at St. Michael’s College. It brought a sense of relief. The thoughts that raced around in my head, keeping me from sleeping at night or focusing during the day, were now transferred to paper.

“Things tend to swirl around in our heads endlessly,” said English professor Elizabeth Inness-Brown. “There is something about the act of writing sentences and paragraphs. It makes it more concrete, it makes it more of something you can look at and examine and it is outside yourself.”

Patrick Standen, a philosophy professor who journals, said writing can be more beneficial than talking. “The value of using words and writing it versus the value of just talking with people is that there are those unguarded moments when you are writing,” Standen said.

Many people say they don’t journal because it’s time consuming. Standen
said if you are committed to it, you will find time. Standen does his journaling as he eats his breakfast in the morning. This, he said, allows him to reflect on
the day before and let out any frustrations he still has in the morning. “It becomes, at times, a burden, but
it is a burden sort of in the same way as brushing my teeth. I’m going to do it and I’m not going to class without brushing my teeth and combing my hair.”

Ellen McKenna ’22, who journals for documentation said, “Sometimes I dread doing it to be honest. It’s the
kind of thing that takes motivation, but is so fulfilling afterwards.” Even so, McKenna said just taking ten minutes away from studying or homework isn’t difficult and can provide the stress relief one needs. McKenna typically journals at night reflecting on what she did or what happened that day.

There is power in not just writing your thoughts and reflecting on your day, but having that structure to do it everyday, said Standen, describing the practice as a discipline. “I think most people often still find themselves in that sort of episodic mode where ‘I just don’t have time’
and they let the world dictate to them instead of taking control of their lives.” Standen said.

Standen said that people make excuses not to journal, but journaling can be a joyful way to step away from the many obligations causing stress. You can try it by taking ten minutes of your day to sit down, whether it be morning or night, grab a notebook, and just write.

By Talia Perrea
Visionary Editor

Sunday, November third, was a good day for me. I had a good night’s sleep, woke up early, and was excited for my coffee date that morning at 9 a.m. I left early, so I had enough time to find parking, and my date was waiting for me when I got there. Everything was going swimmingly.

An hour into my date I noticed a missed phone call and voicemail from my Dad. We had plans to meet up later in the day, and he was supposed to call me before he left, so I ignored it. I was having a good time, a phone call with my dad could wait.

I called back at 10:48 a.m. after my date and I said our farewells. My Dad asked me what I was doing, and if I was alone. “Why, what’s up?”

He didn’t answer me. Something seemed off. I stayed on the line with him during the drive back and we made small talk, him teasing me about the date along the way.

When I walked into my townhouse he asked if any of my roommates were home, and at the moment my roommate, Emily, came down stairs. “Can I speak to her.”

I handed the phone to Emily, with the warning that he was being weird and proceeded to put my stuff down. I’m not sure what my Dad said to her, all I could hear was her agreeing, then the phone was handed back to me.

“Do me a favor and sit down.”


“Talia, I hate to do this to you.”

“What’s going on, you’re scaring me.”

“Talia, your grandfather is dead.”

I’m angry that funerals cost so much, and that newspapers make a profit off of grief.

It felt like my Dad just hit the pause button on my life, and all I could think of was, ‘This can’t be happening’. I started sobbing and I got this chill in my body that still hasn’t left. I felt alone.

My Papa and I were close. Days during the summer and nights after school were spent with him. We passed time with made-up games and tractor rides, always ready for the next adventure. We would plant trees as our family continued to grow, and fight with the squirrels who got into the bird feeders. When I got older, although I spent less time at his house, he always knew what was going on in my life, and supported me in whatever I did. When it came time to go to college, we started a new tradition: weekly phone calls. Once a week Papa would call me and we would chat about what was new in my life. During the last month our weekly phone calls came to a halt. Papa, 73, had been sick, and we were waiting for him to get better to resume our calls.

I remember walking upstairs to pack a bag, but all I ended up doing was sitting on my bed, and I remember looking outside as it started to hail, thinking “Mother nature knows how I’m feeling right now: frozen.”

I was living a nightmare. My brother carried my bags downstairs and we got in my Uncle Pete’s truck. My Uncle Nate was sitting in the back and he gave me a hug, and with that we left. My parents were waiting outside the emergency room entrance. They both gave me a hug. My mom stuck by my side, as we walked into our private waiting room.

Not long after we hovered in the doorway as I gazed at the body that was once my Papa. I stared at him as the nurse explained that she could uncover his face, but he still had a tube in his mouth. “Hospital policy,” she said.

We kept the cloth pulled up as I at least couldn’t bare to see him with a tube in his mouth. I tried to understand what happened. How my Papa, who was doing well, died so suddenly. How I could lose someone so important to me. How my whole life seemed to be torn apart in a matter of seconds.

We spent our days at my Nana’s house as we tried to process and plan. We wrote the obituary together, and learned the hard way just how expensive it can be to grieve for your loved ones. Newspapers charge per word in an obituary, and funerals are expensive.

The system is flawed. We live in a country where it is mandatory to have health insurance, but no one cares about life insurance. People are denied all the time due to pre-existing health conditions or are stuck paying a higher fee, so they just opt out.

The United States isn’t built to grieve. When a loved one dies it’s up to you to pick up the pieces. You have to sign the dotted lines, make the official phone calls. Notify all the various doctor’s offices they went to, just so they will stop calling the house with appointment reminders. We don’t need a reminder that they died, waking up and not seeing them is enough. We shouldn’t have to email professors, and track down who to notify in the dean’s office so we won’t be marked with an unexcused absence.

In this country many workplaces only allow two days off when a family member dies. If there is one thing that my Papa taught me it’s that family is critically important.

Death isn’t just the loss of one life. To everyone who feels that loss, it’s their own mini crisis. Death is a part of our existence, and it’s about time that our country starts to understand that. It’s about time that the grieving are allowed to grieve.

People keep telling me that they’re sorry for my loss, or giving me these pity looks. Then you have the people who don’t mention it at all. Who would rather pretend that there isn’t an essence of sadness everywhere I go, then try to provide comfort. They make me feel I need to pretend to be okay. I’ll force a smile on my face, and say that I’m doing fine, when I’m not. I feel this pressure to go back to school, to go back to work, and to go back to my life. No one tells you who to call when the person who you want to speak to is dead. No one tells you how to keep on living.

I need to be treated normal, but at the same time realize that I may need time and space. I need to know that it’s okay to randomly burst into tears, because a song made me think of him, or something happened that we would have laughed about together. I need to feel as if it’s okay for me to miss him, because I do. Everyday.

I’m angry at the system that failed him. I’m angry at the people that couldn’t keep him alive. I’m angry that I’m from a small town and it took so long to get him to the hospital. I’m angry that funerals cost so much, and that newspapers make a profit off of grief. I’m angry that I went so long without talking to him.

Years ago, my Papa started the tradition of planting a tree for every family member. As soon as someone entered the family to stay, a tree was planted that spring for them. My Papa is the only one who can tell you whose tree is whose, but we all know we have one. I don’t want to forget him. I’m scared that one day I’ll wake up and won’t be able to remember his smile, just like we’ve forgotten whose tree is whose.
Grieving isn’t a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of, it’s part of the human experience.