Students gathered at the steps of the George S. Benson Auditorium for a vigil in honor of junior Mary Joy Uebelein on Tuesday, March 19, but the impact of her life still reaches across campus.
Grief is universal, but the same event will affect everyone differently based on the personal relationship with the person who died, according to university counselor Briana Cunningham. For those directly impacted, she suggests patience during the process of grief.
“It’s about learning a new normal that doesn’t include the physical presence of the person but honors the impact of their lives,” Cunningham said.
Sherry Pollard, assistant director of the Counseling Center, has worked for Harding for nearly 40 years, and she has seen a great gathering from the community during times of loss. She said cards, letters, concern and lots of hugs often accompany the wake.
“I just think that’s a beautiful thing that you don’t have to suffer alone,” Pollard said.
The ones more personally touched may not have started to grieve yet, according to Pollard, and each individual deals with it differently. She said they may go through the stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — in different orders or skipping steps.
For those who did not know Mary Joy personally, Pollard said they will probably remember her name for many years to come.
“They may think they need to say the perfect words, find the perfect phrase or take the perfect gift when there is no such thing, and many times, they just need to be a listening ear and a presence that’s available if needed,” Pollard said.
In the Bible, Job’s friends did the best thing during the first seven days of their visit when they said nothing, as Cunningham said. She also suggests praying with and for those grieving, offering small acts of kindness and avoiding cliche quick answers.
“It is important to realize that grief can’t be fixed or prayed away,” Cunningham said. “It takes time.”
Sophomore John Lim first learned of Mary Joy’s accident on his way to North Carolina for spring break. Throughout the week, he and his friends followed the story, and he said he noticed from others’ posts that Mary Joy was someone who had a huge Christ-like impact on people.
“What went through my head was, I want to offer a prayer,” Lim said. “I find I do that best when I put it into words and write it out.”
Lim wrote the blog post “Of Light and Joy: A Tribute to Mary Joy,” which offers what he calls a “stranger’s prayer” in honor of Mary Joy.
“As crushing as the situation is, Mary Joy brought people together, reminding us that we are not alone in these sufferings,” Lim wrote in the blog post.
Grief can be a rollercoaster, according to Cunningham. She said someone can cycle through denial, anger, guilt, acceptance and numbness, but with time, joy returns.Years later, grief might resurface, but she said this is all a part of the process.
“In time, with love and support of friends, family and sometimes counseling and support groups, there can be a full life that also celebrates their loved one,” Cunningham said.