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Death in the family affecting my classes; Please HELP

phil87phil87 Posts: 2Registered User New Member
edited November 2007 in College Life
I just don't know what to do now. I'll try to keep this short. My close uncle passed away in september. This is the first time someone in my family has died that I know of. The problem is that he caught ecoli and several other infections consequently. His abilities to communicate were slowly going away. It got to a point where his mouth would stay open, could not talk or see, almost like Terri Schiavo. He couldn't communicate to his family his last words. Then I was there when he was cremated, helping to put wax on him so he the cremation could be done properly.

This left a deep scar on me when I began my freshman year at college. I started getting dreams that it was my dad and I couldn't say my last words to him and other similar dreams. I couldn’t concentrate on class as much as I wanted to. Whenever I get stressed out, especially during my tests or even quizzes I would often get these nightmares. My mind would just freeze whenever I took the test, and I would score badly on them. I tried not going to sleep a couple of times but that just didn’t work out. I’m on the border of getting a C in one class and I know for sure that I will have a C for another class. However the reoccurrences of these dreams have gone down a lot during my birthday when I saw them happy and I started to really realize that my uncle is in a good place. Hopefully, I can come to peace when I’m with my uncle’s family and tell them how I’m feeling over Thanksgiving break.

I want to go to med school, but I just can’t imagine having 2 C’s and maybe one 2 A’s during my first semester will effect my GPA and my chances of getting in. These C’s are in my science classes too. In order for me drop the class I have a C in, I would have to talk to the dean and only the dean can make an exception at this point for extreme cases like these. I don’t know how the dean would react to this. Would the dean think I’m mentally unstable because it’s been about 3 months? Would the dean think I’m a cruel person for using the death of my uncle as a excuse for performing poorly in my classes? Would the dean spread rumors to the faculty/colleges about me? How would I be viewed?

Thanks a lot in advance for any advice.
Post edited by phil87 on
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Replies to: Death in the family affecting my classes; Please HELP

  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Posts: 24,853Registered User Senior Member
    My advice is to go talk to someone at your college counseling center, and then talk to the dean. Talk to the counselor first because not only can that person help you with the emotional difficulties you've been having, with your permission that person also can talk to the dean, letting the dean know that you're not another lazy student who's fabricating an excuse for grade problems (I have been a college prof, and have had experience with students who tell lies to try to avoid grade problems).

    It is not at all unusual to still have some emotional upheavals even months after someone one knows has died or has become very ill. That's the price we pay for being human. It doesn't mean that one is in general an emotionally unstable person.

    If you had not before had to participate in a cremation, that may have added to your emotional upheaval.
  • wutangfinancialwutangfinancial Posts: 808Registered User Member
    I'm going to be honest: I don't believe your uncle affected your school performance. I think your looking for a cop out. A parent or even a close peer is one thing; but nobody gets that upset over an uncle. Sorry.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Posts: 24,853Registered User Senior Member
    I know that the strength of one's emotional reaction to a person's death or illness does NOT depend on how biologically close the person is to you. One can have strong reactions to friends' deaths and illnesses, yet not have a reaction to the death or serious illness of a biologically close relative whom one doesn't know well.

    "Whenever I get stressed out, especially during my tests or even quizzes I would often get these nightmares."

    There is a chance that those nightmares and flashbacks could be due to posttraumatic stress syndrome. Please share the above info with a counselor or therapist. One can get PTSD from a traumatic experience involving oneself or even a stranger. Of course, one can not make mental health diagnoses via Internet boards: More reason for you to talk to a counselor or therapist.

    My condolences to you on your uncle's death.
  • 1989DC1989DC Posts: 263Registered User Junior Member
    you sound more worried about your grade.

    at the end of the day, its just C's
  • lianrilianri Posts: 450User Awaiting Email Confirmation Member
    While I don't think wutangfinancial is entirely right, I do think that the problem here is not JUST the loss of your uncle but probably a combination of that plus an increased pressure from school and all the emotional stress of moving to a new place and, possibly, a decreased work ethic that some students experience in college. In other words, it's like emotional burnout PLUS academic burnout. I think the solution for the former has been rightly advised by others here (counselor, therapist) but you need to make sure you address the latter as well. If the burnout is all too much for you, which it well may be, maybe you could consider taking a gap year or just a gap semester to take a step back and calm down.
  • phil87phil87 Posts: 2Registered User New Member
    Thanks for all the advice. I've scheduled an appointment with the counselor. I'm not suffering from a academic burnout. I took college classes during high school and got over 28 credit hours transferred during my senior year. I actually already got credit for both of the science classes. The material was basically the same. I can take a heavy course load and I'm used to pressure. I just can't take the emotional problems that was caused by my uncle passing way. However these emotional problems are slowly going away.

    And yes, it was the first time I've experienced cremation-Northstarmom
  • ramaswamiramaswami Posts: 665Registered User Member
    Ah, PTSD rears its head. No, you don't have PTSD, nor can you have it from the natural death of your uncle. I am a clinical psychologist and head of a psychiatric emergency service and northstarmom is being totally irresponsible to suggest this. It is too complicated to explain but PTSD has certain specifics; think battle of the Somme, think rape etc.
  • ramaswamiramaswami Posts: 665Registered User Member
    Forgot to give you advice on mental illness on an Internet board! But here I go: you have not mentioned vigilance and scanning etc etc etc. The passing of your uncle itself is no trauma. The participation in cremation again no trauma. Unless you define trauma differently as some do: I have fellow therapists who say they were traumatized by a supervisor who disagreed with their diagnoses.

    You are having a fairly uncomplicated bereavement reaction. If it lasts longer than a year it may mean something else. Preexisting vulnerabilities may accentuate the experience during cremation. In most cultures the dead visit the living in the form of dreams. Early in this country's evolution the communion with the dead was recognized. Example, the layout of the cemetery at Auburn, MA, I think, followed Greek principles of creating an atmosphere of communing with the dead.

    No, don't go the counselor yet. One third of those who enter therapy improve modestly, one third remain the same, one third deteriorate. Chances are high that you will fall into the hands of the trauma-crisis debriefing mafia who will soon make you into a victim.

    Invest yourself into your studies, make friends, attend campus events, join some campus clubs, attend a study skills group, go to the career center and explore if your interest in medicine is genuine, talk to the dean about being sorrowful over a death but do not make it into the reason why you are doing badly.

    Very little PTSD after the Asian tsunami. No PTSD among the Taliban or Al Qaeda. No PTSD among south Vietnamese during Viet Nam war. High PTSD among Americans in Viet Nam. Cultural expectations create and perpetuate PTSD. Even rape victims in Pakistan have much lower rates of PTSD than similar victims in America.
  • PearlinthemistPearlinthemist Posts: 697Registered User Member
    My mother died from a horrible infection (her immune system was weakened by chemo for her cancer). She passed away end of May 04 - about two weeks before my finals my sophomore year. She had been sick all year. I spend more nights in the hospital than I did in my apartment. I was there in the hospital holding her hand when we pulled her off life support & she took her last breaths. I was an emotional wreck. I would cry over the slightest thing, and I was having horrible dreams where she was still alive but would die during the dream. And to top it off... my luggage was lost on the way back from her funeral, and all my textbooks were in that luggage.

    I took my finals anyway. Ochem - A, Ochem Lab - A, Differential Equations - B, Physics - A-.

    Bottom line is, a lot of people have close family members die in college. Yes, it does affect people in different ways, but I don't think it's an excuse for why you're doing poorly. You can talk to your professors and sometimes they can work out alternative grading schemes for you because of your special circumstances, but usually they will only do it if your family member died DURING the same term as your course.

    And special note about the premed thing... SO MANY people start off college thinking they are premed (mainly either because they grew up knowing medical doctors were highly respected and paid well - or because their parents want them to be doctors). However, many of these students change their career path because they couldn't cut it in science courses at the beginning of their college experience. I've TAed for gen chem - I know all too well how many freshmen think they are going to be premed, then freak out when they do average on a midterm. Premed isn't for everyone, only the best of the best survive, and that's the way it should be. And as a doctor, you will have to cope with death on a regular basis.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Posts: 24,853Registered User Senior Member
    "Ah, PTSD rears its head. No, you don't have PTSD, nor can you have it from the natural death of your uncle. I am a clinical psychologist and head of a psychiatric emergency service and northstarmom is being totally irresponsible to suggest this. It is too complicated to explain but PTSD has certain specifics; think battle of the Somme, think rape etc."

    If you indeed are a therapist you are being irresponsible to state that a person does not have a mental illness based on their posts on a message board. Indeed, your license probably could be at risk due to your comments here.

    None of us -- including me-- are qualified to state whether or not the poster has a mental illness. None of us knows his history, symptoms or whether he even has a preexisting illness or trauma. Since the poster has described some difficulties that could indicate a mental illness, the poster needs to use their college's counseling center or find a licensed or supervised therapist through other means. That therapist could determine whether or not the OP has a mental health problem and whether therapy would be appropriate.
  • AtlmomAtlmom Posts: 806Registered User Member
    At most schools the dean of students is the office to contact in this case.
    You may can get withdrawals, reduced load permission or even retroactive withdrawal. Just get in touch. Also visit the counseling center and get some help. Feel better.
  • ramaswamiramaswami Posts: 665Registered User Member
    Northstarmom, yes, I am not only a therapist but the head of a crisis center, if you PM me I will give you details to establish this. According to APA ethics, I can indeed offer some advice over phone, Internet and across state lines including ruling out PTSD. William Blake wrote, "you must know more than enough to know what is enough". I didn't exclude PTSD merely based on reported symptoms but took into account various other factors that are too complex to explain to you.

    Let me boldly assert this: the poster has no PTSD, not unlikely, nada, none. Mental illness is not like physical illness, they are a reification, an agreement among a committee based on common language.
  • ramaswamiramaswami Posts: 665Registered User Member
    Forgot to add, since therapy is not without costs and now we are finding severe adverse effects for everything from Zoloft to Risperidol, it is irresponsible to recommend therapy for every little nuisance.

    I am bringing a bit of sanity to a culture that has gotten carried away with this "you must see a therapist" nonsense. Most of life's problems don't need therapy. Worldwide prevalence of schizophrenia, the most severe mental illness is around 1.6% and dropping actually, mild anxiety states are somewhat more prevalent but other than exposure therapy for some kinds of trauma, yes, trauma, like in service in Iraq, very little of our therapies actually work. The fad in the therapy world is dual diagnoses, and now the poster will be diagnosed not only with trauma but with alcoholism or some other subst abuse issue prevalent on campuses and can spend the rest of his/her life digging into family dynamics to understand this nonsense.

    I am glad there are commonsense posters who have accurately zoned in on don't find excuses for poor academics. After the Twin Towers, I was doing some work with those who were in the vicinity, and for every PTSD (low rates) we found 5 times as many trying to get something (the dead broker's account) or get out of something (debt, marriage etc) faking PTSD.
  • futurenyustudentfuturenyustudent Posts: 5,366Registered User Senior Member
    Get some therapy, and then bury yourself in your schoolwork. You don't even need to see a therapist. Just talk to a friend, cry on their shoulder, it might make you feel better. Then bury yourself in schoolwork for a while. I do that pretty frequently when I have something I'd rather not think about.

    It works, and then later on, you end up with good grades, and then you forget about whatever you wanted to forget about.

    And I'm very sorry about your loss.
  • bobmallet1bobmallet1 Posts: 872- Member
    I'm going to be honest: I don't believe your uncle affected your school performance. I think your looking for a cop out. A parent or even a close peer is one thing; but nobody gets that upset over an uncle. Sorry.
    stop making generalizations
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