The 8 Stages of Grief You’ll Go Through After Finishing University
Finishing university might seem like the biggest relief or the most daunting thing ever, having the rest of your life in front of you. But you’ll make it through, it just needs a little bit of time.
So you’ve finished, you’ve celebrated, maybe you’ve gone on a holiday or two in the summer to treat yourself after the months of hard work. The concept of moving out of your student house seems miles away but you’re due out of there in September. Your housemates are boxing up their stuff and finding random underwear behind radiators and underneath mattresses. The reality sets in. After doing the deep clean of the house, scrubbing the oven and the microwave, you realise that it’s over. All of the things that seriously annoyed you over the year of living together, you realise you’re going to miss. Being woken up by blind-drunk housemates stumbling up the stairs or having sex, waking up to strangers passed out on the sofas, these are all things that – all of a sudden – you won’t have in your life.
Unable to deal with the mundane reality of moving back home, you’ve taken on extra shifts at your part-time job, asking around for a spare room, clutching onto the independence and the spontaneous pub sessions with mates. If you got lucky, like I did, you stuck around for a little while afterwards. Carrying on with the part-time job, forgetting about the concept of a serious 9-5, pushing the ever-burning question of what to do with your BA in Humanities to the back of your mind. Ignorance is bliss.
This stage, I found, actually occurs alongside Denial, and is usually directed towards anyone that threatens to pop the beautifully crafted bubble of ignorance. The parents. The phone conversations, “So, what are you actually doing now?”, paired with the emphatic, “No but what are you actually doing? What’s the plan?”. Especially when you live in the South like I did. Coming to terms with how your uni lifestyle is unsustainable is tough. It’s easy to get angry in a time where everything just seems thrust upon you, to get a job, to have money for rent, to start building a career. Everyone else seems to have graduate schemes, a year abroad, or a master’s. The question of “What’s the plan?” expects you to have it all figured out. So it’s going to piss you off when you don’t know, and you could use a little help.
Being put on the spot is stressful, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing. At all. If you don’t have a family business to go into, or fantastic connections in the field you want to work, it’s tricky to find the perfect job or even know what you want to do. It’s very frustrating to have to come to terms with how your degree didn’t guarantee anything, and its difficult to get a job or even look for a job without moving back home.
Maybe I should do a Masters, maybe I could just carry on and go full-time in retail while I figure everything out? These suggestions start to form in your mind, and they’re all reasonable answers. But there’s a sense that you need to make a decision soon. You’re tired of being dirt-poor and something needs to change. You start wondering whether you’re cut out for sofa-surfing, whether you wouldn’t mind working in a bar on the weekends to have enough money for rent. I personally decided that I wanted to start earning and couldn’t hack the idea of taking out more student loads. The ominous ’50K’ looming around me, I didn’t want to make that ridiculously large number any bigger. There’s a temptation to torture yourself with ‘if only’s…’: if only you did more work experience, if only you had done a different degree, etc. Constantly asking yourself the question of how you got here, with no idea what to do, and why isn’t it easier? It gets easier. You just have to trust yourself.
I’m using the term ‘depression’ not in reference to the mental health condition, but the feeling of listlessness and apathy that can temporarily affect most individuals. After moving back home, the momentum of life seems to slow down. There’s less to do, less people to see, and it majorly disrupts the flow of your life. This can be extremely difficult, coupled alongside the growing pressure to build a career and form a life for yourself. Even more difficult if you’ve got parents breathing down your neck to get a job. Everyone’s situation will be different, but feeling isolated and alone is common for graduates moving home. You feel lost, even though you’re home, and it’s easy to feel depressed during this time.
The feeling that you have to make a new life for yourself away from your friends on your own can be incredibly daunting. Moving back with family is initially great, the luxuries of home that you’ve missed and your mum’s cooking. But, it’s the independence that I missed the most, the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want. It can feel claustrophobic at home, and that all too familiar feeling of everyone else but you having it better (Facebook and Instagram confirming these anxieties) can make you feel like shit. It’s difficult to feel motivated to compete and put yourself out there while you feel like this.
After a while, you seem to feel better about yourself. CVs get written, cover letters get made. There are some jobs that you’ve seen that really excite you, and the concept of working and forming a career doesn’t seem so distant and scary anymore. Maybe you read a book that you loved, or you’ve gotten into a routine of exercising or taken up a hobby. But you start to feel more like yourself and less heavy with anxieties. You’ve come to terms with how you’re not alone, how there are so many other graduates like you in a similar situation. There’s work experience, interviews and internships that are breaking down the barriers of the elusive formation of a ‘career’. One of the most important things I learnt as a graduate is accepting that this is part of a process. That everyone else might seem to have it better, but social media is nothing to presume with. Once you’ve reached the point of acceptance, the self-confidence will snowball. Opportunities will arise, and you’ll meet people and life will feel less static. Everything happens for a reason, and maybe you’ll feel like this is exactly where you ought to be right now.